Though the Little Rock team has not done any specific anti-oppression work yet, issues of race and class have begun to surface. In particular, our plans for community events and fundraisers have sparked some interesting conversations. After our March meeting, a few folks stuck around to talk informally. One participant posed a question regarding an upcoming door knocking session: how will the majority Black, low-income community where we work respond to the diversity of our group? Several people told vivid and fresh stories illustrating a lack of acceptance for racial mixing from both white and Black people in our community. Little Rock, like the rest of the South (and the rest of the U.S., for that matter), has not found its way to racial healing or equity despite incessant talk about our role in the civil rights era with the Little Rock Nine, Daisy Bates, the Freedom Riders, etc.
Currently, the Little Rock team is a little over half Black, with the rest white and Hispanic. The majority of us are college students, graduates, or have advanced degrees. We all have a strong connection of some sort to Central Arkansas, but not all of us grew up in the area or have family here. Is there a chance we might encounter prejudice due to our age, education levels, class backgrounds, or willingness to work together across the racial divide? If so, how should we prepare ourselves? How can we begin to break down any barriers that might arise due to the context of race and class inequities that surround us? Ultimately, how do we show true respect for the residents of the neighborhoods in our target area? Hmm, this may need to be a workshop for the next confluence call! We would love to get feedback from other teams about these questions.
In other news, our outreach and fundraising activities are really gearing up. Today, we participated in the grand opening of the Little Rock Children’s Library, a state-of-the-art facility that just opened up in the 12th Street Corridor. We doubled our email listserv and met a lot of community members who seemed energized by our concept and plans. Tabling next to some of our partnering organizations also helped to deepen relationships. One such partner is Verve Solutions, a youth-run energy services business that will work closely with us for our Health Homes initiative to weatherize 8 low-income homes.
Here are some photos from our recent garden and partnership building activities: