A city in crisis
We can heal our community
(As published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on July 6, 2017)
The city of Little Rock has risen from deep segregation and racial conflict to become a progressive state capital with a rich culture and diversity across the various layers of society. In my 2.5 years here, I have come to know those at the helm of city leadership as men and women who are willing to work toward harmony through serious evaluation and courageous conversations regarding the city's shortcomings.
No doubt, Little Rock has made progress; but, as it happens, progress can come with its share of setbacks. We are experiencing a serious period of regression today as we watch with dismay what appears to be a cycle of violent activities, ranging from chilling homicides and gang violence to drug abuse and other felonious acts.
Most recently, alleged gang-related violence erupted at the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock, with reports that as many as 28 people were injured, and the cause and/or target is still unknown. The incident hit close to home. A young female Philander Smith College student was celebrating her birthday at the lounge, joined by several sorority sisters and friends. Fortunately, they all escaped without injury, but we recognize that the outcome could have been drastically different.
While we promote a zero-tolerance policy with respect to violence in the Philander Smith community, it is unrealistic to think that when our students step outside our campus that they will not encounter some level of risk. These circumstances and other prevailing social challenges have caused Philander Smith to rethink how we execute our justice-based mission. Just as Philander Smith College was a refuge for those strategizing to overthrow desegregation in Little Rock in the 1950s, the college must continue to be fertile ground for bravery in the face of modern-day crises.
Simply put, Philander Smith wants to do something about not only the proliferation of violence in our city, but also the prevalence of injustice in our society.