I wrote the following poem when I was 16 years old. Some of my thoughts and ideas have changed. But not the knowledge that we are not all free. Do you remember when you were 16? Really coming into your own, your first real tastes of freedom. When you were given more trust to interact out in the “world” on your own? Making serious choices on your own? One of the most influential times of your life. I remember, and I remember the first thoughts formed when perceiving the world on my own terms.
Is this the way it should be?
Are all the people free?
We are all one,
What God’s done cannot be undone
This is not what he has planned
The prejudice, the hate, the destruction
We the people? In God we trust?
Is that not what was said?
Six million Jews dead
And more, with prejudice, ahead
The change just out of our reach
We must learn and you must teach
Who will be our future?
Does it not scare you? Him or her?
So many questions
Who will have the answer?
You leave us destruction
Where do you start construction?
The youth of today fights
To find what is right
Can our generation run our world?
More and more problems being unfurled
We’ve been given no chance
You dismiss us at first glance
Hear our thoughts or help us change them
We learn from you and what you have done
A child learns from what it sees
Think of our problems today,
Does history not repeat itself?
Can we change for the next generation?
Can we teach what needs to be taught?
Is there hope in this life?
Will there ever be true peace, love and happiness?
You may wonder, why I care about this? I’m white, I’m not Jewish… I don’t have to do much to pretend I’m like everyone else around here. I can blend in and turn a blind eye. I will tell you. Because I know the pain of being less than. I know through my own traumas what it’s like to believe you have no worth. I know what it’s like to be expected to keep my head down, be grateful for what has been given, and keep my mouth shut.
When I was 16, from the outside I looked just like all my friends. At home behind closed doors, a completely different story. My home life was filled with abuse. Physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse as well. I couldn’t have my own thoughts or ideas, I couldn’t choose my own interests, I had to uphold the view for the outside and never let anyone know what it was like. I will never be chained like that again. I will not allow my fellow humans to be chained that way either. Not in thought, word, or deed. That is what racism does, it refuses to allow people to be who they are and live their lives free from fear, based solely on the color of their skin. I care, because it matters. It matters so much.
Let’s set aside any guilt or shame, here. We don’t need it for this conversation. Not to foist it on anyone, or to take it from anyone, or to take it into our hearts ourselves. It won’t help, it won’t allow us to talk openly and honestly without judgement. If you are white, no matter what your life has been like, and no one is saying it’s been great or easy. You have benefitted from systemic racism. The United States of America has a legal system, that perpetuates racism. You didn’t ask for it, your birth was chance. Just like every single other human being on Earth.
If you are white, then there is a very high probability that your ancestors (again, chance – you didn’t choose them) were racists. Through sheer ignorance, willful and otherwise, they believed that white people were superior. We aren’t here to dissect why they believed this. It won’t change the past. We know it was partly religious, and partly something else insidious. It doesn’t matter, because we know they were wrong. We can’t change the past. It isn’t up to us to take responsibility for what our ancestors did, no matter how far back. However, it is our responsibility to change the present, and leave a better future for the next generations.
The fact that today, there are racists, walking around proud of their belief that they are superior based on the color of their skin – something that was gained entirely by chance, proves how much more work we must accomplish. We must do more. I must do more. This conversation has got to span generations. We can’t go up to our grandfathers, great grandfathers and blame them for beliefs that were so ingrained in them, they are too ashamed to talk about it and berate them. We have got to let go of that judgment, or denial and accept that racism is still a huge part of our world, and the only way we can change that is to talk about it. Openly. With our older relatives, with our children, holding space for each other to learn and grow. Approach your friends, and neighbors. Bridge the gap and talk about the hard stuff. It isn’t easy… and it’s not getting any easier. Do you really want to stay “color-blind” thinking if you ignore it and play nice it will just go away? We know what that does. Nothing. It is time to ally ourselves with our Black, Brown, and Indigenous fellow humans.
Please, from the heart of a 16-year-old kid, no different from so many other kids who see but don’t know how to make a change… be that change. I am that change. You are that change. Our children, our family, our friends, our community… need us. Sixteen year old kids, so impressionable, need us. We can be that change. You don’t know what to do, or where to start? That’s okay, neither do the rest of us, not really. All we must do, though, is start the conversation, turn out fear, and accept love and understanding into our hearts instead.
April is finally here, the sun is brighter the days are longer, and all things are growing. Get ready friends, it’s almost time to begin work in the community garden!!
As always, Little Free Library is stocked and open and Craft Gatherings are every other Wednesday, the next one is this week from 6-8pm,
Don’t forget, every Thursday the Domestic Violence Survivors Support Groups are held as follows, Women @10, Men @ 12 and LBGTQ @ 2. For questions contact River Valley Shelter for Battered Women and Children @ 479-219-5148.
|Our main event this month… is in honor of Earth Day!|
|Come join our Earth Day Celebration on April 20th from 2pm – 4pm. We’ve partnered up with Citizens’ Climate Lobby to share stories about what we love about our Earth. Enjoy the weather, while talking about real ways we can help to take care of her.We’ll do a little work in the Bee & Butterfly gardens, CCL will be providing light refreshments for all of us, and we’ll be sharing stories about the plants we grow at McElroy House. We can’t wait to celebrate with y’all!|
McElroy House Film
Last May Cornell grad student and film maker Bruno Seraphin came to help us make a short film about our work! It’s in process! Here’s a behind the scene shot from Bruno! We are so looking forward to the finished film! Thanks, Bruno!
Vision Board Gathering
Here’s a shot from our vision board gathering a few weeks ago! These are the words we brainstormed that embody our core values here at the McElroy House. Soon we’ll be scheduing another event to finish the artwork to go along with all the brainstorming! All are invited, stay tuned!
ATU Electrical Engineering
… Study Group/Workshop
worked on and finished their group project right before spring break. The group built an Inductance Meter. Pictured are Chris Hunter & Francisco Cruz.
Sharon, has created a beautiful space in the garden for all of us. Of this space she says “I had been thinking for sometimes now I could show my love and respect to all of our family who have passed on. I dearly loved them all and they were all a large happy part of my childhood. I miss them all but still carry each one in my heart. This little memory garden is just my way of remembering and loving them all. Anyone please feel free to sit and reflect and enjoy the love that was put into putting it all together. Much love and Joy.” Sharon we are so grateful for all that you bring to the McElroy House!
How White Supremacy Relies on Covert Racism
One of the many ways we can stop White Supremacy is by understanding how they operate and recruit members. Then educating ourselves with facts, and talking to our youth, so they also have the education and knowledge not to be manipulated. Racism is a hard topic, with so much more to it than I had ever thought. We need non-judgmental spaces to learn in and to assist each other in that process. The McElroy House is such a space, and we invite everyone to join the conversation.
Saying we are “colorblind” or don’t see race, is not addressing race and racism. Not talking about racism leaves our youth to make their own decisions. By watching their peers, government leaders, and prominent people in their lives. They can come to conclusions that uphold racism, unbeknownst to us, leaving them open to being preyed upon by white supremacists.
The biggest tools by far in recruiting new members into white supremacy are fear based. The fear that white people are under attack and will be erased. For example, how many times have you heard, “White men are now a minority”?
Personally, I can remember being told that as fact and passing it along as fact as early as 1990, when I was just starting High School. I can admit this. I bought into this mentality for a short time in my adolescence. The fact that it was so easy to believe is terrifying. To be clear I was not part of a white supremacist group, but I perpetuated convert racism.
At that time in my life, all I had to do was question these ideas. Instead this phrase played into my confirmation bias, a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms your previously existing beliefs or biases. Having been raised in a rural, heavily white town, with underlying racism… why would I question it? My grandparents were openly racist. My Parents were racist, but covertly of course. So were all my friends’ parents. No one spoke to me about race or racism, so I formed my own erroneous opinion that white people were better.
The thought of my kids becoming white supremacists, is utterly horrifying. Yet, how can I be sure they are safe from the recruitment efforts of white supremacists if we never discuss race or racism in a world where covert racism is commonplace? By discussing race and racism openly and honestly, we can address all the ways in which we pass along racism to the next generation without even understanding what we do. Covert racism is a form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public and obvious. If we don’t notice it’s been passed down to us, then how do we stop passing it on to our kids?
We educate ourselves. We talk about race and racism. We do the work that needs to be done, and then we educate our kids. You are all invited to take part in a living room conversation in regard to race, racism, convert racism, and white supremacy.
Our garden has been greatly in need of some work! We gathered Thursday for some fun and digging!
Our garden is a community project and open to all. We’d love to have you!
If you have any plants you’d like to see in the garden, please let us know! And please consider becoming a member by donating hours or money! Members drive our programming and decision making.
Come join us this Thursday for a garden work evening! Free food, garden education and lots of fun and community!
Kids are always welcome!
Thanks to your support, we are open every Friday 9-3!!!
Here are a few photo updates. Come see us!
Thanks to all your support we’re getting organized here at the McElroy House! And we’re going to start using this blog again! It will connect to our Weekly Seedling newsletter. Haven’t signed up for our weekly (super short) newsletter? Go here!
This week we are dividing yarrow, harvesting daisy seeds, and we’re getting our first tomatoes from the veggie garden!
We’re open every Friday from I:00-3:00. Or by appointment. Come see us! 420 s. 2nd in Dardanelle. We work by membership model. Please join us!!! Click here to sign up/learn more!
A few more photos from the garden!
Every year we host our Harvest Run & Walk 5K. This is our only major fundraiser and it makes all of our programing possible.
It’s fun! Previous years’ Harvest Runs have been held at Bona Dea Trail in Russellville but this year it’s coming home to downtown Dardanelle! The route starts at the Latham’s Furniture Store and ends at the US Post Office, both on Front Street.
Read more about this year’s event below!
Participants get an awesome t-shirt designed by artist Bryan Moats. We offer awards in each division and a chance to learn more about the community!
When you become a sponsor or sign up for the run you are automatically entered into this year’s raffle.
Raffle items include
- Homemade cinnamon rolls from Bakers Gonna Bake in Dardanelle
- Handcrafted signs for your home from Rebekah Avila
- Hen Pins and a hand drawn vegetable calendar from Azul Home
- Posters and stickers from Bash-O-Bash
- and more!
Be a virtual runner!
If you don’t live near or are unable to participate and still want to support our work, you can run “virtually” in your own hometown or you can sign up as a sponsor of the run. Donations of ten dollars or more get your name or organizational name on the back of the shirt.
We’ll be hosting an open house and art reception at the McElroy House after the run.
- Art from Kim Doughty-McCannon and others
- Free art lessons by Susana Torres in the kids room
- Art historian Gayle Seymour is coming to talk to us about the significance of our town’s WPA mural
- Muralist at work painting with Arkansas artist Larissa Gudino
- Artisan baked goods from local panaderías and pie makers
- Bring your legal questions to Law to Go during and after the race! Attorney and owner Stephanie Harris will answer your questions and talk about her low cost law firm
Why We Especially Need Your Support in 2017
In the past, proceeds from the Harvest Run have gone solely to the McElroy House gardens and programming, while the bills for the space were paid for by a few key members. Now that we are open more hours and offering more gatherings, our utilities are going up. Individual members can no longer afford to pay out of pocket to keep our doors open. We really want to be open every week and whenever there is a need! But to do that we need YOUR HELP!
Individual runners and walkers
Groups of 10+
Sign up (at $15 each. 25% discount!)
Sponsors or monthly sustaining members
Where Your Money Goes
We have to raise around $3,000.00 to keep the building operational for our programing and diaper bank. This includes the utilities, the water bill for the food and flower gardens, and the property taxes. Anything we raise on top of that—whether through the Harvest Run or through our soon-to-be unveiled membership model—goes straight to our programing. (We’ll be unveiling our membership plans after the first of the year!)
One thing we know how to do is s-t-r-e-t-c-h a dollar. Whenever we can, we trade or re-use. This past year we received a $5,000 grant from Alternate ROOTS, which allowed us to put all that money back into local artists, artisans, and businesses as well as purchase some higher quality recording equipment we can now use to document local stories and histories. When you come to the Harvest Run After Party you’ll get to learn all about what we did with this grant!
But we simply can’t trade anything for the water bill or the electric company or the tax collectors. So when you sign up for the Harvest Run—as a runner, walker, or sponsor—your donation makes everything else happen. This operational funding is the backbone of our work. It allows us to keep the lights on so we can offer these art workshops. It allows us to grow the food that goes to the community. It allows us to open up our doors to the community so we can plan big events, like we’ve hosted at Dog Ear Books and at Fall Fest this past year.
Take a Look at Your Support
Click through the photos below to see just a few of the things your support makes possible!
This past year we have hosted workshops on wild foods, ethical hunting, workshops on early childhood education, conversations about cooperatives, art workshops, and knitting circles. We grow food and flowers for food banks and offer a butterfly garden for the community. We are building a place to come together across differences to build community support. And it all begins in our living room. Help us make this work possible! Every single dollar really does matter.
Ready to sign up?
Individual runners and walkers
Groups of 10+
Sign up (at $15 each. 25% discount!)
Sponsors or monthly sustaining members
People in the community have been talking about how they want to know more about the basics of getting involved at the local level in both local politics and organizing.
This interactive panel and workshop is hosted in partnership with VOTV ~ Voices of the Valley ~ and Dog Ear Books is a bit like 5th grade civics for grown folks with some action elements thrown in.
Panelists will cover some of the basics of local duties and structures, but also touch on how to get involved in the work that matters most to you. They’ll tackle questions like: How do you get started? How do you make decisions about using your energy? Where do you turn for analysis to stregthen your efforts? Most importantly, and perhaps most challenging, how do we learn work with others to create real and lasting change for those that will come long after we’re gone?
We antcipate this to be the first in a series of similar workshops/discussions. This is part of our yearlong series focusing on the concept of HOME and sponsored by Alternate ROOTS.
Irvin Camacho is a native of California who moved to Arkansas at the age of 10. His parents were both farm workers and members of the United Farm Workers Union created by Legendary Activist, Cesar Chavez. Irvin is currently pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism and is currently a mortgage specialist at Arvest Bank. He is also a community activist. Irvin has served as NWA Coordinator for Arkansas Coalition for Dream. He was also the State Wide Coordinator for the Arkansas Natural Dreamers now known as LUCHA, a youth led organization to empower and educate Immigrant Communities. He has been involved in the Immigrant Rights Movement for 7 years in Arkansas and is also a former candidate for State Representative for District 89 in Springdale.
Mayra Esquivel is native of Mexico. She was brought to the USA at the age of 3 years old and has been a resident of Fort Smith since then. She is currently 26 years and is a Cum Laude Graduate from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology. She works as a navigator for Arkansas United Community Coalition, a non-profit organization that aims to empower immigrants across the state. Mayra has spent the last 5 years advocating for immigrant rights, undocumented youth, and social justice and has found an interest for mental health along the way. She discovered her passion for advocacy work in 2012 after learning about her own undocumented status and how it had the potential to limit her in various aspects of her life. She believes her personal struggles have taught her to be aware and more understanding of the various injustices found in society.”
Stephanie Harris is the founder of Women Lead Arkansas, a non-partisan nonprofit, whose mission is to empower women and girls to engage in politics, policy, and leadership. She also started her law firm, Law to Go, in January. They offer low-cost, flat-fee services to people who represent themselves or who need stand-alone legal services.
Chris Housenick: Christopher Housenick is a tenured assistant professor of political science at Arkansas Tech University, where he has taught since 2009. He teaches World Politics, International Relations, and American Politics, which gives him a unique perspective on the political events of the last few years both within the United States and abroad. He hopes to provide greater perspective on how the current president, the forces that led to his election, and the crises that surround his administration, fit into longer historical trends and into larger global movements.
Anika Whitfield: Anika Whitfield is a Little Rock native. She is a proud graduate of the Little Rock School District where her parents and all of maternal and paternal aunts and uncles graduated as well. She is an active human rights and social justice advocate. As an ordained Baptist minister and a licensed, private practice Podiatrist, she enjoys the opportunity to minister to and with her patients and community in navigating through choices that help lead to healthier living. She has been enjoying serving as a volunteer in the Little Rock School District for over two decades. And, for the last four years, she and a few of her friends and neighbors, known as the Team of Neighbors that Love, have helped develop the Promise Garden Park where neighbors and community members enjoy learning about more about each other while learning to garden and share the healthy fruits of their labors with others. Recently, as an organizer with the Save Our Schools Campaign and the Citizens Against Taxation without Representation Campaign, she and several other community organizers and supporters of the LRSD enjoyed a few victories in their efforts to restore and revitalize democracy in their school district, city and in our state. One of those victories was gained through the power of the vote when 65% of the LRSD that voted in the May 9th LRSD millage tax extension stood up as a very diverse group of united citizens (age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, faith/religion, politics, and class) to protect our students, parents, teachers and schools from being further oppressed by big business politics.
Marie Williams is currently working on her PhD at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Marie is a native of Russellville, where she lives with her two children. She is an adjunct professor at Arkansas Tech University and the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. Marie’s fields of study include, American and Arkansas history. Her dissertation focuses on Arkansas politician Jim Johnson and his segregationist, anti-Communist influence on Arkansas politics during the 1950s, as well as how Johnson and Arkansas fit into the larger Cold War political narrative. Marie has studied both American and Southern political history extensively.
What: Creating Child Friendly Learning Spaces and Flower Pressing with Montessori educator Razan Abdin
Where: McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources 420 S. 2nd Street Dardanelle, AR 72834
When: Saturday May 20th 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m.
It’s almost summer break! Come join us for an interactive workshop on Montessori and Reggio education methods and ways to incorporate them into your home or classroom.
Razan Abdin, a Montessori educator from North Little Rock, will be leading the workshop on the basics of these child-friendly learning methods, and will be helping us design our children’s playroom to be interactive, nature-focused, and full of learning opportunities for kids in the community.
You may be familiar with these methods or you may have never even heard of them. Either way, you’re welcome!!!! Let’s learn together!
During this time period we will also have an activity for kids! Lauren Palmer will be helping children make pressed flowers from our garden.
I learned how to press flowers at a young age using flowers from my grandma’s garden. This Saturday I’ll be showing you how to press flowers and we will be making bookmarks, cards, and wall decorations! I will provide the supplies, but you can also bring your own if you’d like.
This is open to everyone, and is part of our yearly series focusing on the concept of HOME and funded by Alternate ROOTS.
More on our workshop leader: Razan Abdin is an Educator, Doula, Writer, and Consultant from Little Rock, Arkansas. She holds a Master of Education degree from Loyola University Maryland, an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Primary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute, and is a DONA-trained Postpartum Doula. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking and eating delicious food, live music, learning more about equity literacy and designing social justice curriculums and, most importantly, doing absolutely nothing at all.
When: Saturday April 8th 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Where: Dog Ear Books, 301 West Main Street, Russellville, AR 72801
What: Breaking Into the News: Media Literacy in the Digital Age, a Community Skill Share
Join Dog Ear Books, Voices of the Valley, and McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources for an interactive community forum discussing media literacy in the digital age.The panel will feature local print, radio and television journalists discussing how to identify reputable news sources versus clickbait and fake news; the importance of identifying opinion pieces versus new stories, and resources for finding and supporting responsible investigative reporting. Panelists will also touch on the ethics of journalism and share their own personal stories of why they are dedicated to this work at the local level. Participants will leave with information on importance of supporting ethical reporting and specific ways to do so. While we tend to think of media in terms of national networks, panelists will outline why local journalism is equally essential. An open community discussion will follow the panelists remarks.
This Community Skill Share is supported by funding from Alternate ROOTS and is part of our year long series of events focusing on what it means to call a place home.
Drew Brent is the owner of Brent Media Properties and the Local Rundown. His career has spanned twelve years, with stops in print, television, and radio.
Drew began his career in Russellville at River Valley Radio in 2005 as a producer. He moved quickly, taking on co-host duties for “GSC Gameplan” on 103.7 The Buzz, and providing play-by-play for statewide high school football broadcasts.
Drew was hired as a sports producer by KATV in 2007. He would fill a variety of roles at KATV, including producing news and sports, editing, and spearheading www.fridaynighttouchdowns.com. He moved back to sports radio in 2009, hosting “The Sports Guys on KUOA 105.3 in Fayetteville.
He would continue in sports play-by-play as the lead commentator for the Arkansas and Oklahoma state football championships, commentator for the Great American Conference, and has been on the Heartland Conference Championship broadcast crew the last two years, this year being promoted to lead analyst.
Drew has been published in Arkansas Sports 360 (Arkansas Business), has appeared for 40/29 ABC in Fayetteville, and has freelanced video for major networks including CNN and ESPN. He has hosted radio shows on the Arkansas Radio Network, contributed for the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network, and currently owns and serves as the operations manager of The Local Rundown.
Billy Reeder has worked in broadcast news, served as a municipal public information officer, consulted on national advertising campaigns and served as the state director of communication for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he resides as a tenured assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Arkansas Tech University where he teaches multimedia journalism, visual storytelling, and documentary film making. He continues to travel extensively consulting on social media and branding. Billy holds a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and an M.A. in Multimedia Communication.
Melissa Lea Simpson is an award winning crime reporter formally with The Morning News of Rogers. She also worked over three years in circulation with The Northwest Arkansas Edition of the Democrat Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. She has also freelanced for several local publications. She holds a dual BA in political science and journalism from The University of West Florida. She currently works for a local nonprofit, the mother to a 2 year old and native of Arkansas.
Travis Simpson is an award-winning journalist and photographer. He has worked for The Courier in Russellville for almost five years and has nearly a decade of professional writing experience.
Moderator: Meredith Martin-Moats works with the McElroy House and is a former radio journalist and freelance writer.