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Retracing Charles Portis’s

In Arkansas


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On the value of art In response to an Arkansas Blog post on state Sen. Bart Hester’s tweeted question of UA Little Rock’s decision to advertise its dance program, “They lease a sign to encourage computer science degrees or math teachers? No they push for dance majors? Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this. Not ok.”: “It shouldn’t be necessary to ask why the arts are worth fighting for, nor should it be necessary to answer such a question. The answer should be selfevident, making the question redundant. It is distressing, to put it mildly, to have reached a moment in the decline of the West at which the question is being asked and needs to be answered. “Art can afford us exaltation … the emotional force of great music, the profound effect of great words, the new ways of seeing we are shown by great images. It brings the extraordinary into ordinary life and nurtures and lifts up our spirits. “It is telling that authoritarians and fanatics make the arts their first targets. Dictators the world over imprison writers; the Taliban banned song, dance, and theater; terrorist bombers attack music venues. Censorship and persecution are tyrants’ ways of saying they know how important the arts are, how closely connected to liberty. “Those of us lucky to live in free societies should value and support what the enemies of freedom fear. Without adequate funding, theaters close, orchestras disband, films are not made. The arts are strong and will endure, but artists need and deserve our support. “Nourish the arts, and they will nourish us right back.” — Salman Rushdie John Gaudin North Little Rock

of possibilities. The world needs these a blind woman ballet and will be starting creative minds just as much as we need to work with students at the Arkansas our scientists, physicians, lawyers, etc. School for the Blind. I love that I can Several years ago, if the university had share my passion for dance with my have had a dance program at the time, home state and give back to a community I probably would have stayed in Little that I grew up in. Those dance majors Rock for my college career, but instead I are the artists performing at Robinson went to school out of state where I could Performance Hall, the actors/actresses get a degree in dance. And now I am on the stages of the Arkansas Repertory proud to be back in Little Rock sharing Theatre, The Weekend Theatre, the my love for dance with my students Children’s Theatre and dancers who and audiences. Dance has helped me grace the stage at The Nutcracker each to not limit myself and has given me so December. All of these things bring many wonderful opportunities in and revenue to our state. Why limit that? out of Arkansas. I am currently teaching Mccartylauren1

“A Family Affair” Dennis McCann, Connie McCann and Jason McCann Dennis McCann

Connie McCann

Jason McCann

I have a cousin who majored in dance. He flies Vipers for the Marines. Vanessa As a dancer, artist and dance teacher, Sen. Hester’s comments about the UALR dance program do not sit lightly with me. The sign itself says “Unlimited Pathways.” I think that is one of the greatest things about the arts. Dancers, musicians, artists, writers ... are always trying to push the limits and create new things. In the arts, we are always told to “think outside the box” and look at things in a different light to see the vast amount 4

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


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If the “dance” was the “Two Step” and at the Electric Cowboy he’d be for it. Where seldom are minorities found he’d be for it. Tucker Max Oh, he’s beyond backwoods. In fact he makes primitive Neanderthals look like a tribe of Einsteins. No, Bart, like President Trump, revels in his own truth. So what if it is diametrically opposed to fact? Bringing another reality to replace the present one is heaven on earth for these folks. Maxifer Coming from a Baptist background I know that all dancing leads right to mouth gasping, hair pulling, clothes- sofa- car seat smeary hot sex! Hot, hot, hot, hot sex! And in the mind of Bart Hester, prayer, blood-letting and leeches are the only medical treatment needed. He no doubt wishes white people could still own black slaves and believes that wife beating is recommended in order to promote a good Christian home. Jesus says, don’t you know? I hope to die in Arkansas in the 21st century, but first the state needs to move out of the 19th century. Electing and re-electing assholes like Hester and Jason Rapert and Denny Altes will prevent that from ever happening. This country laughs at Arkansas, and it’s not very hard to understand why. One must wonder if Mrs. Hester was forced to undergo a clitoridectomy before the wedding? DeathbyInches Now, this Mr. Hester may be onto something, re wasteful expenditures!  As noted above, legislator per diem? Gee, don’t think too many Waldrones get money to travel to the place of their employment. CUT!  Home office tax-credit? They turned what was otherwise likely a little-used room in their house into an office. CUT! $40k a year for part-time work? In the interest of a living wage, how’s about $15 per hour during the workday hours that the legislature is in session? CUT! He’s right about ONE thing: “Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this! Not ok.” tsallenarng

Hester is the kind of guy that probably gets all weird feeling when he sees anything slightly artistic. He’d probably see the statue of David and make a penis joke. RYD

In response to the Times’ Feb. 8 feature on the new Windgate Center for Art and Design at UA Little Rock: Sen. Bart Hester demands it shut down because he doesn’t understand it. TuckerMax In response to the Arkansas Blog’s post on Donald Trump’s tweet that “lives were being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” apparently in defense of his former aide who was accused of abuse by two former spouses: MAGA = back to the days when husbands can beat their wives with impunity. Rush Lemming In response to the Feb. 8 review of The Avenue restaurant in Hot Springs: The duck confit might have been as good or even better than what you had in Paris. It also cost about twice as much. I’m in Paris now and just had duck confit at our favorite cafe, just a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. It was 12 Euros. And it was a larger piece than what’s pictured here. Remember, this is freakin’ Paris, not Hot Springs. Been to the Avenue once —and enjoyed the food. But thought the prices were nuts, especially for a midsized town in Arkansas. $26 duck? $28 halibut? Apparently that hasn’t changed. Big Fun

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I do not hold with fruit and meat. Or fruit and fish. Fruit and fruit is fine. Or just fruit. But it’s this degenerate mixing of the foodstuffs that is destroying America. Carrick Patterson In response to the Arkansas Blog post musings about the upcoming action on Medicaid expansion by the state legislature: If A$a! thinks that failure to continue Medicaid expansion will blow a hole in the budget, wait till he gets a load of Drumpf ’s infrastructure plan that shifts costs to the states, bigly. tsallenarng

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Quote of the week

“ Y ’a l l h ave s ome f u n a nd everybody enjoys it. We have to be careful not to be too politically correct. I think everybody knows the good spirit that it is in.” — Governor Hutchinson on KABZ-FM, 103.7, “The Buzz,” talking about the radio station’s annual “Babe Bracket,” where female TV journalists advance in a tournament bracket based on listener calls. The bracket has been in the spotlight after Austin Kellerman, news director for KARK-TV, Channel 4, and KLRT-TV, Fox 16, called on the station to end the sexist relic. Hutchinson later issued a clarifying comment: “I believe the hosts of the show are well-intentioned and their long-running contest was always done without any malicious intent. My comment this morning wasn’t an endorsement of any contest that is based upon looks. All women should be treated with respect, and any measurement of workplace success should be based upon talent and performance.”

Guv wants to cut taxes more

The governor opened the 2018 legislative fiscal session with a State of the State speech, where to applause he announced his desire to cut the top marginal income tax rate in 2019 from 6.9 to 6 percent. That rate kicks in at $35,000 (the same as a couple making $70,000 filing separately on the same return.) He said it would be a $180 million tax cut, the biggest ever, something approaching a 3 percent cut in state revenues. The tax cut, if approved, would be an enormous windfall to a tiny handful of the rich while giving nothing to anyone reporting taxable income below $35,000. In 2013, the most recent year the Arkansas Times has been able to get from DFA, about 670 returns reported taxable income of $1 million or more. They paid cumulative state income taxes of about $170 million. 6

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


Reduce the top tax rate to 6 percent on those earnings, and you’re talking a savings of $22 million for those 670 people, or about $32,000 each. Less than 1 percent of taxpayers would get 12 percent of the tax cut. Something like $100 million in tax cuts would go to those making more than $100,000 — though they account for only about 39,000 of more than 1 million tax returns. Middle income? Not exactly.

Mo., to participating in a conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from a nonprofit health care agency. Cooper had been identif ied in December as a n uncha rged co-conspirator. In the plea deal, Cooper admitted that he conspired with executives of Preferred Family Healthcare to use its money for unlawful political contributions and lobbying, as well as benefit the executives. Cooper received at least $387,501 from a lobbying firm and $63,000 in kickbacks. He must forfeit that money. Cooper served in the legislature from 2006 through 2011, and then became a registered lobbyist. In 2009, he was hired as regional director for Preferred Fa mily Healthcare and worked there until April 26, 2017.

Big bills at the court

Another former legislator pleads guilty

Eddie Wayne Cooper, 51, who served three terms as a Democratic state representative from Melbourne, has pleaded guilty in Springfield,

The justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court have racked up almost $136,000 in pending legal bills in defending a suit against them by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen over his removal by the court from all cases related to the death penalty,

wh ich Gr if fen contend s i s a violation of his constitutional rights. Chief Justice Dan Kemp wrote the Joint Budget Committee to say the court had used a $25,000 budget allotment for professional services and had $135,000 in additional bills outstanding. He asked, too, for $250,000 in spending authority for each of two years. He said it might not be needed. A recap of the billing: Cooper and Kirk, a Washington, D.C., law firm, represents Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson. Its bills so far: $86,610. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, a Denver law f irm, represents Justice Rhonda Wood. Its bill so far: $39,862.26. The Barber Law Firm of Little Rock represents Justice Josephine Hart. Its bills: $1,150. Hart also was represented by Murphy, Thompson, Skinner, Arnold and Castleberry of Batesville, which charged $19,176.65 at rates of $250 an hour. The Center for Constitutional Litigation, based in New York, represents the court as a whole and Justices Kemp, Robin Wynne and Shawn Womack. Its billings so far: $11,798.21. Tim Dudley, a Little Rock lawyer, represents Justice Karen Baker. His billing so far: $2,140.

Love, Ark Blog


hings you might have missed if you don’t read the Arkansas Blog: • If you thought Indianapolis was a sleepy Midwest capital city, think again. It’s on the list of finalists for Amazon HQ 2, has a booming population, bike trails that can be used for commuting and a mayor who thinks the highway department is wrong in proposing to spend hundreds of millions to widen a downtown freeway. Instead, the Indianapolis mayor would prefer a grade-level route for the road and redevelopment of adjacent land, with former through-town traffic diverted to loop roads. This is an item worth mailing to the Arkansas Department of Transportation and City Hall. How to sign it? Well, let’s take a page from the publicity stunt Little Rock officials pulled instead of competing for Amazon: Love, Little Rock. • The city of Little Rock is again planning to send $300,000 in taxpayer


money to the Little Rock Reg ional Chamber of C om mer ce t o subsidize salaries for people who: MAX support t h e BRANTLEY concrete g ulch f r e e w a y pl a n ; oppose being able to sue for medical malpractice and nursing home abuse; supported the state takeover of the Little Rock School District; oppose allowing the Quapaw Tribe to have the same control over their land enjoyed by rich white men because there’s a rich casino owner that doesn’t want Indian competition. If you’d prefer not to pay for this lobbying, you might send City Hall a letter. Love, Little Rock. • The four women on the Arkansas Supreme Court decided that a single law firm that specializes in such litigation wasn’t sufficient defense for a lawsuit by

Conley’s plea


ven with his facial stubble, That is the story Garrard Conley looks and acts he tells in “Boy like a diffident teenager, not Erased: A Memoir a 33-year-old man who is a leading of Identity, Faith, exponent of the “gay agenda,” as right- and Family,” an ERNEST wingers refer to the movement to gain account of the DUMAS equal treatment for sexual minorities. mental ordeals Conley probably objects to being of his youth upon the realization that called a champion of the gay agenda. All he was a homosexual. It also is a loving he wants is for young people, no matter hymn to his parents, both of them — the which of the infinite variety of sexual mother who became a sturdy and public personalities their bodies and brains champion of his being proud of who and handed them, to feel good about who what he was and the missionary father they are. who could not relinquish his love for his Conley grew up in Cherokee Village, son no matter the harsh doctrines of his the son of a salesman-cum-Missionary church and his own ministry. Baptist preacher and a doting mother, Conley’s book — he is a professional and he was outed by another gay student writer and teacher in New York City — when he was a freshman at Lyon College has gotten high literary praise and he at Batesville. His father prayed about has become something of an icon in the it and told him that he either had to — what should we call it, the gay-rights enter gay-conversion therapy and or the gay-liberation movement? This exorcise whatever evil attracted him September, the movie based on the book to men or else leave their house and will be released. It is directed by Joel companionship forever. He was more Edgerton and stars Lucas Hedges as than agreeable and spent some time Garrard, Nicole Kidman as his mother in the crazy gay-conversion program and Russell Crowe as his dad. called Love in Action at Memphis until, The premise of the Love in Action realizing that he was on the verge of program was that gay men were the suicide, his mother said, “We’re stopping product of abuse or neglect by their all of this now.” parents, probably the father, and that you

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell than dance. It’s a full-fledged research Griffen over the Supreme Court’s order institution around which a city could that he hear no death penalty cases. They market itself. Yet it got rolled a few years hired extra lawyers at rates up to $975 ago by the Walton billions, which have an hour for Justice Courtney Goodson’s been used to stick a disruptive charter D.C. talent. If you’d prefer the state cut its high school on campus. It has taxed traffic, losses and stop abridging Griffen’s free library, classroom and eating facilities speech rights in the name of politics, write in addition to dropping rambunctious them a letter. 15-year-olds into a population of serious Love, Arkansas. students in their 20s. In return, UA Little • Republican Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Rock gets nothing from the Waltons Springs) went on a tear against UA Little except destruction of a democratically run Rock because its billboard advertising school district. No “civic leader” dares included one touting its one-of-a-kind-in- utter criticism. Write Kathy Smith at the Arkansas major in dance. Hester thinks Walton Foundation and say thanks for the state should just spend its money on nothing. Sign it: manly majors like computers and stuff. Love, Little Rock public school He apparently thinks the arts have no supporters. economic benefit. Perhaps a person who • Governor Hutchinson opened the lives near him could write him a letter. legislative session with a promise, post Love, Alice Walton. re-election, to cut income taxes by $180 • Via Airlines is going to start a nonstop million on people making more than flight to Austin, a capital city booming $77,400 ($154,800 for a married couple with privately financed tech development filing separately on same return). Almost and thriving despite a troglodytic state 60 percent of the windfall will go to about legislature. A one-way ticket will cost $99. 10 percent of tax filers, with more than Send them a thank-you note. 10 percent going to about 600 people. Love, Little Rock. Another thank you note. • UA Little Rock is a treasure for more Love, millionaires.

had to be forced to come to terms with it to end your gayness. Conley’s tenure ended with a group session where the leader and the students shouted at him to proclaim his hatred for his father. He said he did not hate his father but loved him, which angered them. He finally fled the room and called his mother. That was in 2004. In January, Conley and his mother told their stories at the David and Barbara Pryor Center Center for Oral and Visual History at the University of Arkansas. One hopes that Garrard Conley’s coming out years later in such a boldly public way, from the deepest fundamentalist precincts of Dixie, marks the last phase of the most successful social and political movement of the past century. It was “Justice Jim” Johnson, in my last conversation with him, who made that assessment. Johnson, once the state’s most virulent segregationist but an astute observer, marveled that the strategy of outing conservative political leaders who were gay and then of encouraging young people to come out to their parents and friends rather than living in the shadows had transformed public opinion in only a few years. The American Psycholog ical Association in 1973 declassified homosexuality as a mental illness or even as an aberration. It was a natural human condition, the product of genetics

and the natural variation of organisms. Once their own sons and daughters, their relatives and friends revealed their peculiar sexual distinctions, people tended to no longer view it as abhorrent, although many parents still cast their children out. Johnson said he had even been convinced that gay and lesbian people had a right under the Constitution to be married, though he wasn’t particularly happy about it. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with him soon afterward. Since Gallup first polled on the subject in 1977, public acceptance of sexual minorities has steadily risen. Last September, Gallup showed that 60 percent of Americans supported samesex marriages and the numbers outside the South are much higher. Garrard Conley’s book is not so much a screed against bigotry or a polemic for gay rights as it is a plea for people to feel good about themselves. It does add a timely dimension to the debate, which has narrowed, as with all prejudices, to the religious aspect. Deviation from straight heterosexuality may be natural and it may be protected by law but the Bible and the Koran say it’s wrong. Some Christians reject scores of other biblical injunctions, like stoning rebellious children or not eating shellfish, but take homosexual sin and marriage as an article of faith. “Boy Erased” could shake that faith.

Follow Arkansas Blog on Twitter: @ArkansasBlog FEBRUARY 15, 2018


Out of control


nlike now infamous White House ship so different from his own. We met in aide Rob Porter, I didn’t have a graduate school, not the parish hall. We Harvard professor and presiden- were drawn together as individuals far tial confidant for a father. My old man was a from home, a comNew Jersey Irish working stiff, who taught munity of two. me most of what I know about being a man. She never had to Among the enduring lessons he’d learned say it, but I always during his service as an artillery sergeant understood that if was that ethnic tribalism could be a trap. I raised my hand Of course that’s not exactly how he put it. to Diane even one GENE LYONS “You’re no better than anybody else,” time, she’d be gone. he’d growl. “And NOBODY’S BETTER But then how could THAN YOU.” I hit her and face myself? I’m roughly twice To him, that was bedrock American- her size. It would be like punching a child. ism. A powerful, athletic man, he had perWhich brings us back to the cowardly, sonal charisma and a lot invested in his 6-foot-5 wife-beater in the White House. I ideas of masculinity. My uncle Tommy wonder if Rob Porter has a secret drinking once confided that facing down my moth- problem. To my knowledge, neither of his er’s stepfather had been a key moment in ex-wives has said so, but it fits the pattern: their courtship. According to her youngest courtly, gentlemanly, affectionate, and then brother — Tommy used to babysit me in abruptly violent, abusive and controlling. neighborhood bars after he got out of the A Rhodes Scholar who blackens his wife’s Army — Pop made a coarse suggestion one eye and punches out windows. night as my father brought her home from Researching a column a couple of weeks a date, and it took three of her brothers to ago, I happened upon this explanation of restrain him. the psychology of domestic abuse from the Whether this actually happened, I’ve no terrific country singer Martina McBride: idea. My father never talked about it, and “A lot of teenage girls will be first dating Uncle Tommy was a storyteller. But it’s and they’ll think, ‘Oh he doesn’t want me definitely consistent with both men’s per- to see my friends. He just wants me all to sonalities. Pop was a foul-mouthed, hard- himself. Isn’t that sweet?’ Or ‘Oh, he’s just drinking man and once my father’s Irish being protective. Isn’t that sweet?’ And then was up, it would have taken three men to it turns into something else. … They don’t hold him. recognize that until it’s too late.” Tommy’s attitude was that the old man Of course, neither Colbie Holderness had it coming. nor Jennifer Willoughby, the two ex-wives Something else my father impressed who told the FBI about Porter’s violent proon me was that only drunks and cowards clivities, qualifies as a naive young girl. Nor, raised their hands against women. He had for that matter, does everybody’s White as little use for the one as the other. Regard- House sweetheart, Hope Hicks. less of provocation, a man simply could not Nevertheless, hope abides in the female punch or manhandle a woman. It was con- heart, at least until it doesn’t. “I walked temptible, signifying a weakling. away from that relationship a shell of the Believe me, this was not out of some sen- person I was when I went into it,” Holdtimental idealization of womanhood. Noth- erness has written, “but it took me a long ing like White House chief of staff John time to realize the toll that his behavior Kelly’s invocation of women as “sacred,” for was taking on me.” example. My mother could be an extremely A Golden Boy who needs absolute condifficult person, with a habit of fierce invec- trol and who lies as glibly as any TV evantive. So could a couple of his sisters. In my gelist. A weakling filled with rage and with experience, Irish women are rarely shy crippling ego problems. It’s not just a foible, and retiring. it’s a deep personality defect. Clearly vulAnother of my father’s oft-repeated nerable to blackmail: a walking security risk. slogans, which drove my wife crazy, was: As for the whole Who-Shot-John nar“You can’t live with them, and you can’t live rative about which White House officials without them.” Women, that is. As if they were informed of FBI doubts about Porter’s were different species, incomprehensible security clearance, who cares? This White and dangerous. But he was always kind House is filled with vassals for whom Porto Diane, and she eventually understood ter’s character faults are minor personal more or less where he was coming from. issues. Fealty to Trump is the only thing Matriarchal Ireland, basically. that counts. I think he was always a little wistful If they thought otherwise, they couldn’t about our marriage, a passionate friend- work for the man. 8

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


The crisis


n American history, it has been rare that life expectancies have dropped year to year. Even during wartime, when premature deaths occurred at high rates, medical advances have nudged this key marker of progress upward. Last year, however, for the second year in a row, American life expectancy dropped in the United States. While a variety of systemic forces related to diet, the omnipresence of guns and the patchwork of health care access are explainers of the flattening life expectancy rate, the distinctive force in driving down the number in recent years is deaths from drug overdoses fueled by the opioid epidemic. That epidemic is, of course, hitting different parts of the country at different rates. Deaths by overdose has hit rural areas hardest because of the pervasiveness of the epidemic among white rural Americans and their lack of access to emergency treatments that can stop overdoses and ongoing services that combat addictions. Now, average life expectancies differ by as much as 20 years across America’s counties. With just over 400 overdoses recorded in 2016, Arkansas has not experienced the same impact as states in the eastern half of the United States. Partly this is because those parts of the state where that component of the epidemic fueled by heroin is most pronounced are sparsely populated. There are anecdotal signs, however, that the deadlier expressions of the epidemic are moving toward the state’s population centers. Moreover, Arkansas faces a particular challenge with prescription opioids. While overprescription rates have dropped nationally in recent years, little change has shown itself in Arkansas. In 2016, Arkansas was second among states in the prescribed rate of opioid pain relievers, with 115 prescriptions per 100 persons, nearly double the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Some argue, however, that the easy availability of prescription opioids in Arkansas actually slows the emergence of deadlier drugs, such as heroin.) In his State of the State Address on Monday, Governor Hutchinson gave only a nod to the opioid crisis in the state. It merited part of a sentence listing challenges facing the state that will not be dealt with in the fiscal session starting this week. The reality is that the state budget could be altered during the session to shift resources to attack the boiling public health crisis. State leaders’

choice appears to be otherwise. To be clear, under Hutchinson, Arkansas has taken clear, positive steps when it comes to opioids. The state allows pharmacists to provide naloxone, an antidote to overdoses, without a prescription; proJAY vides training and BARTH access of naloxone to State Police and other first responders; makes victims of overdoses immune from prosecution if they seek help; enhances the use of “drug courts” that provide access to treatment rather than imprisonment for drug offenders; and allows the state’s Department of Health to track problematic patterns in the dispensing of prescription opioids. Still, while some new dollars for tackling opioids has come through federal grants in recent years, these projects have represented minimal new investment in state dollars to address the crisis. What a best practices model would look like, however, does require new dollars. The work of Rhode Island, a small state hit particularly hard by the crisis, provides a strong guide. Particularly costly are investments in treatment and recovery programs that are a crucial component of any comprehensive opioid plan. For instance, Rhode Island has made a distinctive investment in “recovery coaches” who are certified and work with the addicted in communities across that state to support them in their recovery and help prevent relapses. In a budget released this week that generally makes deep cuts across social services, the Trump administration would genuinely commit new resources to the opioid crisis, mostly by pushing federal dollars down to the states. (To be certain, other proposed cuts in the health care budget would counter these proposals, because so many individuals dealing with opioid addictions are Medicaid-eligible.) Still, even though it is an area of a great deal of bipartisan consensus, we do not know when, if ever, a major new federal investment in the crisis will actually come to be. On the crisis burgeoning right before our eyes, Arkansas should not wait on Washington to make a major investment in programs known to work in attacking the opioid epidemic. Any additional delay puts more lives at risk and destroys the families of the thousands of Arkansans dealing with opioid addiction.


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rkansas’s hyper-frustrating degree of this to be expected in most games, basketball team sorely needed a Arkansas has a fairly brutal back-end week with two home games against schedule that likely won’t accommodate lesser teams to get out of a potentially its worst tendencies. season-killing swoon. Dutifully, both Home games South Carolina and Vanderbilt obliged, r e m a i n i n g o n and permitted the Razorbacks to press the slate include back to a .500 SEC record with the Hogs Ke n t u c k y a n d rolling to by far their easiest two wins of rematches against calendar year 2018. surprising Auburn That is not to suggest that thumping and surging Texas BEAU the ’Cocks and slamming the ’Dores is A&M; the Hogs WILCOX a sufficient remedy for all that still very travel to Alabama much ails the Hogs. Arkansas wasn’t an and Missouri, after this week’s Tuesday tilt overly efficient machine in either win, at faltering Ole Miss. If the Razorbacks the first being a Tuesday night throttling only split these six contests, then they’ll be of Frank Martin’s mostly inexperienced a rather staid 20-11, middling seed in the team that has had to rebuild a bit after SEC tourney. That won’t get them out of surging to the school’s first Final Four the dreaded bubble conversation because last year. The Gamecocks outrebounded some of those impressive early wins have Arkansas and seemed to distribute the lost their shine, and nobody’s going to be ball better, but they simply struggled to crowing about those two nasty losses to make baskets and the Hogs got a 49-point an NIT-at-best LSU squad. shot in the arm from senior guards Daryl This was the juncture of the 2016-17 Macon and Jaylen Barford. When those season where the Hogs got right, and two have clicked to that extent, this has they’ve got such a strong nucleus of been a fun season at times, and Barford in seniors that the precedent set by team particular seemed to regain a measure of should resonate. Daniel Gafford is a more confidence in his on-and-off three-point naturally gifted offensive player than stroke, sinking a season-best five from Moses Kingsley was, at least at this stage beyond the arc. of his career, so he is the cliched “x factor” The Hogs’ defense in the second half down the stretch. The freshman post has was also brilliant and that carried over been a living, breathing highlight reel — his to the Vandy rout four nights later. After authoritative windmill dunk at the end of a clamping down on Carolina’s talented post, fast break against Vanderbilt was arguably Chris Silva, holding him to a meager five the best such play by a Hog in a few years shot attempts and eight total points in the — but he’s also erratic at the line and too first contest, the Hogs just plain smothered foul-prone to be genuinely dependable. the scoring-deprived Commodores. Even With that in mind, the likes of C.J. Jones as the Razorbacks scuffled their way to and Darious Hall have to contribute more. five turnovers in their first five possessions, When the Hogs have slumped this season, they still clearly had a decisive advantage it’s been because no one is there to pick up in talent and everything else. the slack if Barford or Macon is stumbling. No Vanderbilt player scored in double And it isn’t fair to expect those two to figures — senior gunners Jeff Roberson combine for 40-plus points every time and Riley LaChance each notched only they hit the court. Hall has had some nice eight points, and were harassed into moments in SEC play but the coaching a combined 1-for-11 from three-point staff seems unusually averse to extending range. Vandy has regressed quite a bit his minutes; Jones has been too quick to from its overachieving 2016-17 campaign, panic and try to shoot his way into more and Coach Bryce Drew watched fairly meaningful minutes. helplessly as his squad tossed up 15 bricks Twenty-plus games into a season out of its final 16 attempts of the first half. seems awfully late to sort things out. Thanks to Arkansas being just barely more But Mike Anderson’s two NCAA tourney accurate in the first half, though, it was a teams adopted this same maddening seven-point game at halftime. formula. It is a curious thing why these And this is why it is so damned difficult squads seem to only respond and play to get excited about a team with such a to their capabilities when the chips are paucity of consistency. The first halves of down, but that script is playing out again, games have generally been a mixed bag and we have to sit back, chew our nails of extended lapses and impressive spurts, and hope late-game, late-season good regardless of venue, and while there’s some fortune continues.


The Talk By the time you read this, apartment with a mattress in it and a Valentine’s Day will be receding into sex drive. The problem, The Observer the rearview for another 360-plus days, sees now, is that we’re all still a little much to our satisfaction. The Observer cloudy on that ourself, and especially has nothing against love, having been on any wisdom we might give to a in it for over 20 years with a wonderful young man just walking into the room woman we met several professions for which we, at some point in the next both of us ago. But we do have a bone to 20 years or so, will be checking out of. pick with Valentine’s Day, that holiday What is there to say? that seems to be designed to make Here’s something: Ask questions everybody making an attempt feel both on a first date, but not so many that financially poorer and a bit inadequate. the datee starts to feel like they’re Love and romance have always taking the LSAT. That’s a good one, been a trial by combat for The we suppose. Be yourself, but chew Observer if you want to know the truth, with your mouth closed. Being able from the moment of our first teenage to make a lover laugh is worth any kiss late one night, leaned against the amount of ripped abs and cut pecs. hood of a threadbare 1963 Chevrolet Be less “John Wayne” and work convertible slumbering in dust in one toward “Han Soloesque.” Listen wing of Pa’s 1,000-bale hay barn — a for the “Oooooohhhh,” and then do scene straight out of a Bob Seger song. what caused it more. Buy condoms The Observer’s love ’em and leave ’em well before you need them, but don’t days are behind us, thank God, but it is spend extra on the superthin realfeel all back on our mind because of Junior, with extra sensitivity lube, because of course, 18 now and soon headed off they’re all terrible, as is the act of to college, where he will surely make putting one on, like skinning a rabbit the mistakes in romance, commerce in reverse. That said: If you’re gonna and culinary excellence his Dear Ol’ love, wear the glove. Sex in cars sounds Pa has been warning him against since fun, but actually isn’t, because clothes. pretty much the day he began to grasp Call her, because there’s always the language. Plentiful folly lays ahead for chance she’s waiting for your call and that child, we fear, as it does for every if not, you took the initiative. Here’s a child. Plentiful victories, as well, but biggie: A person who is too intoxicated those are always tempered a bit by to drive is too intoxicated to give the mistakes we made to reach them, enthusiastic, informed consent, and aren’t they? that includes you. There are scumbags Junior’s Dear Ol’ Pa has been in the world who are always willing puzzling over what to say to him about to take advantage of those who are amour ever since a few weeks before momentarily more vulnerable or his 18th birthday last summer. We gave temporarily weaker than them. Don’t him The Talk when he was 13, the one be a scumbag. Oppose all scumbags, we wished we’d received when we violently if necessary, because the were that age, telling him he wasn’t damage they do can last a lifetime. weird; that he hadn’t, in fact, invented Three solid positions is all anybody new ways to sin in the eyes of God; really needs. Any more than that, and that bad things wouldn’t happen to you’re just showing off, not to mention him if he didn’t cut that shit out, if, testing your partner’s patience. Don’t indeed, he was getting up to that shit, listen to Cosmo magazine sex tips. which was none of my business. At 18, That’s all the advice we’ve got on The Observer figures, we should have that point. Beyond that, we’re still at a corresponding bit of advice about a loss. You’ll figure it out — probably all the other stuff that usually comes — so happy trails, pilgrim. Or should with being an adult with a license, an that be: May the force be with you?

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Unpopular Trump


resident Trump is historically unpopular — even in Arkansas. My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president’s waning popularity isn’t limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president’s approval rating is waning. Using a statistical method known as multilevel regression with poststratification (more on it below), we estimate that Trump’s approval is now below 50 percent is nearly half of Arkansas’s 135 state legislative districts. In the House of Representatives, he is underwater in 42 districts — 20 of which are held by a Republican lawmaker. Fourteen seats in the state Senate are also below the 50 percent threshold, though none of those held by the GOP will appear on the 2018 ballot. Several of these winnable, Republicanoccupied legislative districts also appeared to be vulnerable in our first, demographicbased modeling run: House Districts 7 (El Dorado), 18 (Arkadelphia), 25 (Hot Springs), 26 (Malvern), 38 (North Little Rock), 39 (Maumelle), 41 (Sherwood), 49 (Brinkley), 59 (Jonesboro), 65 (Morrilton) and 84 (Fayetteville). These 11 districts are the most obvious targets for Arkansas Democrats this year.

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SLIPPING: President Trump’s approval rating in the Arkansas House’s 100 districts.

Nine new target districts arose from our analysis of the president’s approval rating. They include House Districts 1 (Texarkana), 3 (Hope), 4 (De Queen), 6 (Camden), 8 (Warren), 13 (Stuttgart), 14 (Lonoke), 19 (Nashville) and 32 (Little Rock). It appears as if the toxicity and stunning ability of Trump to repel the

very voters who carried him into office knows few, if any, bounds. To produce these district-level estimates, we began by taking statewide data on the president’s approval rating, 2016 voting breakdowns and demographic data from University of BILLY FLEMING Arkansas professor Guest Columnist Janine Parry’s Arkansas Poll. We then linked that information to district-level demographic data from the census, a process that involved significant computing power and some educated guesswork to properly calibrate. Like our previous work in the Arkansas Times, it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the nonexistent status quo. Because we’re nerds, we used the same method to approximate the ClintonTrump vote share by legislative district as well. Though this information will eventually be available without the need for estimates like ours, the outlets that typically assemble and make it publicly available are struggling to navigate the byzantine county election commission reporting structure in Arkansas. We found that Clinton broke the 50 percent threshold in only 17 state house districts, only one of which — HD 49 — is under water in its Trump approval rating. So what does this mean for Arkansas’s 2018 elections? The most important takeaway from this analysis is that the state’s legislative races could be far more competitive than conventional wisdom suggests. Arkansas regularly ranks low in measures of electoral competitiveness, as many of its candidates go unchallenged. We suspect that this has less to do with a dearth of good candidates in Arkansas and more to do with the proclivity of its chattering class to assert that they alone know which districts are winnable, which candidates are viable and which campaign strategies are optimal. If nothing else, these results tell us that Arkansas is not the uniformly red, politically unsalvageable state that the national parties tend to paint it as. The state’s Democratic Party is already capitalizing on the quiet competitiveness of Arkansas’s state legislature. It’s fielding candidates in 45 districts — including 21 districts held by Republicans — for 100 seats in the House of Representatives with nearly three weeks left until filing closes.


Cannabis study


o gauge the perceived public drugs. That’s why the study could be so health benefits of medical important, Fantegrossi said. marijuana, researchers at the The Food and Drug Administration University of Arkansas for Medical does not approve medical cannabis, the Sciences Department of Pharmacology chemical varieties are not studied widely and Toxicolog y will conduct a and it is not standardized. Different groundbreaking 5-year-long survey that growers can create plants with varied could pave the way for understanding combinations of the chemicals. cannabis’ effect on health. Payakachat is especially interested in The survey — which can be found the outsized role that pharmacists play at — is a in the market. “Physicians will not have a voluntary questionnaire that will take 30 clear recommendation” when someone to 40 minutes to complete. Baseline data is approved for cannabis. The survey data is being collected now, before medical could “provide some guidance.” cannabis is available. Participants will Most medical studies of cannabis are be surveyed again six, 12 and 18 months too small and don’t show actual cannabis after availability. After that the survey use, Fantegrossi said. will be yearly. “In addition to having small sample sizes, While other scientists have collected they also have crummy cannabis,” he said. data about perceived health benefits in The cannabis tested in laboratories comes states where medical cannabis is legal, from the National Institutes of Health. none have gotten in on the ground floor “Its THC concentration is incredibly low,” before the medical cannabis program Fantegrossi said. “It’s not even close to began, Dr. Bill Fantegrossi, told the Times. what people smoke recreationally. … What “It just kind of jumped out at me that we’re looking at is extending findings — here in Arkansas we’re in this unique using products that [patients] use of their position,” he said. “We can be the first own free will, presumably landing on state to really get our act together quickly. something that they like.” … By the time [other researchers] started The survey is open for two months asking these questions [patients were] to get initial participants. Once baseline already using cannabis products.” data is in, UAMS will start publishing data. Fantegrossi began to think about the Fantegrossi said some data will be available research after talking with colleagues toward the end of April. “As soon as things at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and McGill come in we’ll start to be able to identify universities at a conference, who potentially interesting things with our noted the lack of comparative data on state,” Payakachat said. perceptions and attitudes. Fantegrossi The survey will also track changes said he returned to UAMS and asked: in attitude among non-medical “How do we actually do it?” cannabis users. Dr. Nalin Payakachat of the College of The study is being funded by 7Hybrid Pharmacy, who is experienced in surveys, Cultivation, an Arkansas-based company jumped in. Quickly, she and Fantegrossi applying for a cultivation license in worked to develop the research tools Van Buren County. The company is a and survey. Lauren Russell, a graduate partnership between Linda Joan Warren assistant, worked to put the model of Maumelle; her daughter, Jill Parodi, together. and her son-in-law, Daniel Parodi, CEO The aim is to get at least 1,000 of Web Systems Management in Austin, participants, Payakachat said. Texas. The Parodis were residents of Specific questions about the effect of Arkansas previously. cannabis on health conditions include, Cultivation center applicants for example, what is the best “route are given special points for making of administration” for those who got community investments. medical cannabis for post-traumatic Researchers say the survey is an stress disorder? Do respondents have a example of a huge benefit because the preference for smoking? Or do more folks private funding will not restrict the with PTSD use oils for taking medical data, which will belong to UAMS, or marijuana? Do those with PTSD use specifically help 7Hybrid. Researchers products from a grower that has a certain say the contract does not prevent them proportion of THC to CBD? from publishing their research, even if How health benefits correlate to the 7Hybrid disapproves of it. There will also strains and ingestion of cannabis is much be an external investigator “to make sure less well understood than with other we don’t have bias,” Payakachat said.


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eenagers confined to two state- on top of it.” run South Arkansas juvenile The systemic breakdowns alleged lockup facilities lived in unsafe by staff amount to neglect, said Tom and unsanitary conditions and saw many Masseau, executive director of Disability of their basic needs neglected for much Rights Arkansas, a nonprofit advocacy of 2017, an Arkansas Nonprofit News group that is federally designated Network investigation has found. to monitor state juvenile lockups. Nine current and former workers at DRA visited the Dermott facilities in the juvenile facilities, in Dermott, told December and noted that one dorm in the the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network correctional facility lacked heat, some that youths regularly lacked sufficient correctional residents were without hygiene supplies, including soap, jackets and correctional residents had shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and insufficient hygiene supplies. DRA laundry detergent throughout 2017. Air- additionally found standing water in conditioning only worked sporadically a residential building and cafeteria, in multiple dorms throughout the kitchen equipment in disrepair, dirty summer, when the outdoor temperature and moldy showers and shattered glass in often approached 100 degrees. The the entryways of two dorms. It detailed heating units in multiple dorms did not its findings in a Jan. 19 letter to Guhman. function for weeks in the winter, when Masseau said that if the state held temperatures dipped below freezing. juvenile lockups to the same standards as During the fall and winter, until Jan. 27, it does for long-term care facilities for the the youngest teenagers confined at the elderly and developmentally disabled, the facilities did not have coats. lockups would be forced to shut down. He Current and former staffers also said said if the DYS did not improve conditions teenagers frequently were not adequately at the Dermott facilities, DRA would supervised. Regularly in 2017, the number consider filing a lawsuit in federal court. of staff did not meet the American In January 2017, at Governor Correctional Association standard of one Hutchinson’s direction, the DYS took direct care staff member to eight youths. direct control of seven of the state’s On the many days the facilities were eight youth lockups, including the two understaffed last year, one teenager raped facilities at Dermott. The lockups had another, several youths attempted suicide been operated by two nonprofits, South and others attempted escape. Arkansas Youth Services and Consolidated The Dermott Juvenile Treatment Youth Services, for over 20 years; SAYS Center for 13- to 17-year-old boys is one ran the Dermott facilities (SAYS recently of seven juvenile lockups referred to filed for bankruptcy; the filing indicates as treatment centers by the Arkansas that the FBI and the Arkansas attorney Department of Human Services’ Division general are investigating the nonprofit). of Youth Services, which oversees them. As The unexpected takeover order came in the name suggests, treatment facilities are response to a political stalemate over the intended to be rehabilitative rather than DYS’ decision to switch to a new vendor. punitive. Youths committed to the facilities Legislators sympathetic to the ousted must complete treatment plans designed by nonprofits blocked the new vendor’s the DYS, rather than time-based sentences. contract in late 2016, which meant the Under state supervision, they are referred state would have entered the new year to as “clients” rather than “inmates.” The with no one to run the facilities at all. But nearby Dermott Juvenile Correctional Hutchinson directed the DYS to assume Facility houses 18- to 21-year-olds who direct management of the facilities, and, in were committed to a treatment center as a matter of days, some 300 staff members juveniles but have not yet completed their at the facilities were converted into state treatment plans. employees. The state had not directly Senior DYS staff said that their operated any of the treatment centers in records did not reflect chronic supply more than 20 years. shortages or extended outages of airShortly after the takeover, Disability conditioning and heating units. But Rights Arkansas said the DYS was DYS Director Betty Guhman conceded struggling to maintain day-to-day serious problems existed at the Dermott operations at the lockups. According to facilities, including a snag in the state’s a Jan. 26, 2017, letter to Guhman from procurement process that left teenagers the nonprofit advocacy group, mental at the treatment facility without coats health therapy had all but ceased at the until late January. facilities. The Dermott facilities were “That should never have happened,” chronically understaffed and residents Guhman said. More generally, Guhman were living in what the letter described said, “We realize that some things have as “deplorable conditions not conducive slipped between the cracks, and we don’t to rehabilitation.” want that to happen. We want to stay That conditions at the Dermott facility

have not improved after a year of state control is a sign that lawmakers need to take a closer look at the juvenile system, Masseau said. “I think the only way this is going to change is for the legislature to take a stand. We continue to pour money into the division with no increase for infrastructure and buildings are falling apart. There’s no one holding anyone accountable for these issues,” he said. *** K. Knuckles, 16, was committed to the Dermott Juvenile Treatment Center in April 2017 and released in October. (Because he is a juvenile, the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network is identifying him by his first initial only). He said that for most of his time in Dermott, the treatment center did not provide him with basic hygiene supplies, including soap, toothpaste and laundry detergent. He said direct care staff he was “cool with” would sometimes personally supply him with what he needed. K.’s father, Benjamin Knuckles, repeatedly called to complain and offer to provide toiletries for his son. “My son’s a very clean person. That stuff drove him crazy, not having hygiene stuff,” Benjamin Knuckles said. “They kept telling me, ‘No, you can’t do it,’ but I guess they finally had enough issues where they couldn’t provide the stuff.” In September, he said, “They finally started saying the parents could bring the kids like soap, toothpaste, things like that.” While K. was committed to the treatment facility, he said only one other youth, among the 32 housed there, received supplies from family. K. also said that for nearly his entire time at Dermott the facility only provided him with slip-on sandals. Benjamin Knuckles said he sent his son a new pair of shoes for which he paid a little more than $100. K. wore the shoes one time and then turned them over to his case manager because other teenagers had threatened to steal them. Jimmie Bynum, a former direct care staff member at the juvenile correctional center, echoed the Knuckleses’ accounts. Bynum said staff regularly bought the likes of toilet paper and soap out of their own pockets for clients before parents were allowed to send supplies. Tensions emerged when some youths received shoes and supplies while others did not, Bynum said. “Some of the kids wore Nikes and other kids had to wear lesser shoes. It caused a problem.” (Bynum was fired in November 2017 for using unnecessary physical force on a client. A Dermott Police Department

report said video of the incident showed the youth take a pen off Bynum’s desk. When Bynum demanded it back, the youth hit him in the face and a struggle ensued. In the course of the struggle, Bynum received a cut on his hand and the youth received a 4-inch cut to his stomach that required stitches. The Dermott police concluded the cuts came from the pen and cleared Bynum of any wrongdoing. Bynum said there was no way he could follow the state’s required protocol for subduing clients while being attacked.) For all of fall 2017 and much of this winter — including in the final weeks of December and first several weeks of January, when the average daily temperature was often below freezing and the temperature in Dermott dropped as low as 6 degrees — none of the nearly three-dozen teenage boys confined to the treatment center had coats or jackets to keep them warm as they moved between the buildings on campus and engaged in recreation time. Despite a procurement request made in September by facility staff, the state did not provide the children outerwear until Jan. 27. Antonio Willis worked as a direct care staffer in the correctional facility from May to September 2017. He quit, he said, because the stress of the job was negatively affecting his health. “They didn’t have hygiene supplies,” he said. “We were supposed to give them out every Monday, but I worked there for [almost] six months, and I can remember doing it like six or seven times. I remember kids would have to share the little bottle of soap that they would get from their parents, when their parents come visit them. They would share that little bottle of soap with the whole dorm room [of eight residents].” A current staffer at the correctional facility, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said clients “never have any hygiene products,” such as deodorant and toothpaste, and that supervisors had regularly purchased soap with their own money for clients. The staffer said some of the residents without shoes had been forced to wear slip-on sandals outside during rain and cold weather. The employee called the lack of proper shoes neglect. “What if the kid catches the flu or pneumonia or something like that?” the staffer asked. DYS Director Guhman said the abrupt state takeover of the lockups in January 2017 made it difficult to integrate the facilities into the state procurement process and led to supply shortages initially, but she said she believed those issues had largely been corrected. She said she could not find records indicating that Dermott facilities went without critical supplies for long periods. “Facility directors keep inventory, they FEBRUARY 15, 2018



submit their requests, and those are filled. … *** called immediately and repairs made the benches up against the cell doors” to I don’t know what to say about not having the same day.” keep them closed, one current staffer enough hygiene supplies at this point in Disability Rights Arkansas’s Jan. But current and former staff said said. The worker said some doors were time,” she said. “Yes, early on, that was an 19, 2018, letter to Guhman, after the multiple dorms were without heat for difficult to close, some were hard to open, issue, but we feel like that’s been addressed.” nonprofit’s December site visit to long periods earlier this year. and keys had been broken in some of But in an Oct. 30 email obtained through Dermott, painted a picture of squalid “The heat just got fixed,” one staffer the doors. Bynum said keys had broken the state Freedom of Information Act, conditions. at the correctional facility said in a Jan. off in doors, leaving residents trapped John Whaley, who was then the director DRA noted standing water and a 29 interview. “When we had that snow inside their rooms for as long as two or of both Dermott facilities, complained to frog in a residential building at the and stuff down this way, the kids were three hours. Guhman and another senior DYS official correctional facility. It said a large portion complaining because they didn’t want to In Disability Rights Arkansas’s Jan. that requisitions for clothing, shoes and of the cafeteria was also covered with stay in their dorms, because they were 19 letter, the advocacy group said that hygiene items were submitted July 13 standing water. It described the showers cold.” staffers had complained of rats in the and resubmitted Aug. 22. He said that a as extremely dirty with mold and mildew. Throughout the summer, K. kitchen. In her response, DYS Director requisition for a barber to cut residents’ One residential unit lacked hot water; Knuckles said, when temperatures Guhman said that “due to the location hair was submitted July 7 and not approved another lacked working heat. Two units regularly exceeded 90 degrees, the air- of the facility in a rural area surrounded until Sept. 7. “Numerous other requisitions had broken glass in their entryways. conditioning in the Alpha dorm, where by a field, field mice do get in buildings,” have been submitted and delayed for At the juvenile treatment center, he lived during his stay at the treatment but she said a pest contractor would put unknown reasons,” he wrote. DRA found a broken freezer, ice-maker center, did not work. locked bait boxes in the facilities and The DYS provided copies of purchase and griddle; one nonworking oven and Former staffer Bynum said the air- surrounding fields. Later, Guhman told orders for hygiene supplies and clothing another that had to be propped closed conditioning in all five of the dorms at a reporter unequivocally that there were from September 2017 and January 2018. by a chair; a clogged garbage disposal; the correctional facility only worked no rats at the facilities. On Feb. 12, a spokesperson for the division an industrial fryer that did not work sporadically throughout the summer. But former correctional facility staffers said the DYS had not been able to locate consistently; and a sink leaking hot Willis, the former direct care staffer Bynum and Willis said they regularly saw records related to July and August 2017 water. The letter also said that a source at the correctional facility, confirmed rats in the cafeteria and that rats would requisitions. at Dermott said some dorms lacked heat. Bynum’s account. often reach the trays left for guards in the Whaley submitted his resignation In a letter in response to DRA, “We had this one kid, where, he almost cafeteria before the guards could. Nov. 27. Reached by phone, he declined Guhman contested many of the advocacy fainted in his room from being so hot,” “They would make us trays and sit them comment. The DYS said he resigned ahead group’s findings and conceded others. Willis said, “so the lady in the cafeteria on the counter, and by the time we got our of termination. April Hannah, DYS deputy She said a plumber had been dispatched bought him a fan to plug up … and put in trays there would be … holes in our trays director for residential operations, said the to fix the standing water issues. (A DYS his room, but he couldn’t do it because [from the rats],” Willis said. Bynum said agency was seeking to institute a “culture spokesperson later told a reporter that a [a supervisor said it was] a fire hazard. staffers found food missing and rat feces shift” at the lockups now under its control. pipe had burst the day of the DRA visit But he threw his fit and [the supervisor] on their trays. He said rats were found “A change of leadership at the facilities and had been fixed the same day. On ended up letting him do it. But he was in the kitchen’s flour and sugar supplies. was necessary because of issues that a Feb. 12 visit to the treatment center, the only kid in the whole dorm room “When they get caught in there, you would were repeatedly noted as unsatisfactory a reporter observed a large puddle of with a fan. So you know how that made think they would dump the whole thing, and explicit expectations going unmet,” standing water in the bathroom of one the other seven kids feel who didn’t have but they wouldn’t,” he said. A current staff Hannah said in an email. “Those issues dorm.) Guhman said the griddle and the a fan, who had to sweat their asses off member said she had seen rats running in extended to management of staff, ovens worked, but the freezer and ice- at night.” and out of clients’ cells and that rats in the communications with supervisors maker needed to be replaced and delivery Bynum said during the day, staffers dining hall were “out of control.” regarding urgent needs, operational issues was expected by Feb. 9. (The replacement would open the outside doors to let in air, Willis said one of the clients he was that were ineffectively addressed. … We freezer and ice-maker had not arrived but that also let in mosquitoes. monitoring found a roach in his food needed to foster a culture of accountability, by Feb. 12.) The doors in multiple cells in the one day. He said a cafeteria worker was communication, and effective management. “All the dorms have adequate heat correctional facility were broken and unmoved. “It’s just a bug,” she told him, We felt like different leadership would …,” she wrote. “When furnaces did couldn’t be locked, current and former according to Willis. Bynum said he had better support those goals.” go out in one section of the Juvenile staffers said. seen a client served a plate with a dead Treatment Center, a repairman was “I’ve noticed that they’ve been sliding roach on it. 16

FEBRUARY 15, 2018



NEEDS UNMET: Outside the Juvenile Treatment Center for 13- to 17-year-olds (opposite page). Teenagers wait outside a dorm at the treatment center (top left). Benjamin Knuckles (right, at left) complained repeatedly about the care of his son, K. Director Betty Guhman (left) and Deputy Director April Hannah say they are working on improving the facilities.

Multiple current and former staffers also said toilets were regularly clogged in the correctional dorms and the showers in several dorms lacked hot water for weeks. Governor Hutchinson made an unannounced visit to the facilities Jan. 29 after reading the DRA letter. He made a similar visit to the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center early in his administration. After visiting Dermott, he said, “My impression is that we need to monitor the maintenance of the facility closely. Some of the damage is by the juveniles who are in custody and some of the damage is through ordinary wear and tear. In either circumstance, essential repairs need to be made in a timely fashion. The weather was cold on the day I was there, and I observed the juveniles wearing coats and the buildings were warm. There were previously unnecessary delays in purchasing some items, and the DYS leadership has indicated this problem has been addressed.” Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D-Crossett) and Rep. LeAnne Burch (D-Monticello)

also visited the facilities Jan. 29. In cleaned up.” an email, Burch said, “[M]y general impression was that the facility for *** the older juveniles seriously needs immediate attention. It was dreary as In his Oct. 30 email to top DYS a whole, and several areas needed real, officials, former facility Director Whaley concentrated effort for safety and simply also complained about state-mandated for general maintenance.” She said she staffing schedules that routinely left spoke with Guhman after the visit and him with too few staff to “provide was assured that DYS was working to essential safety of all youth.” American make repairs and upgrades. “I’m hoping Correctional Association standards, to see a measured improvement in very which the state follows, require one staff short order,” Burch said. member to be present for every eight Cheatham and Burch also toured clients. The juvenile treatment center the Delta Regional Unit of the Arkansas houses as many as 32 youths ages 13-17 Department of Correction, which in three dorms. The correctional facility, is across the street from the juvenile which contains five dorms or pods made correctional facility and within sight of up of locked cells, housed as many as 42 the treatment center. Prison-managed residents ages 18-21 last year until the fall, farmland surrounds both juvenile when the DYS limited the capacity to 40. facilities with little else on the horizon. Sometime after the state took over Cheatham said he found the adult the Dermott facilities, it instituted a new prison to be nicer than the juvenile schedule that assigned 12 staff members facilities. to each facility on shifts Tuesday through “It was a world of difference. [The Thursday, but assigned only six during prison] was clean, well-lit, orderly. … shifts Friday through Monday. Six was [The juvenile facilities] just need to be the fewest number of staff that could

meet the ACA-required staff-to-client ratio. According to Whaley’s email, staff turnover and absences were common enough that having only six staffers on schedule did not maintain enough cushion to consistently meet the staffing ratio required by ACA standards. Whaley said the schedule left the facility chronically understaffed Friday through Monday. Multiple current and former staffers said that both Dermott facilities regularly did not adhere to the required 8-to-1 ratio of clients to staff Friday through Monday. “It was Sundays and Mondays there was no control after first shift,” K. Knuckles said of his time at the treatment center. “That’s when they’re shortstaffed, and the staff they got there on that shift don’t give a crap about what goes on.” In December, on a Saturday when the 13- to 17-year-old facility was short on staff and one direct care staffer was monitoring a dorm of more than eight clients, one youth sexually assaulted another in the back of the dorm, according to two current staff members. The direct care staff member FEBRUARY 15, 2018


who was supervising the dorm was playing dominoes with clients and not preventing more than one youth from using the restroom at a time. The staffer was fired. The shift supervisor at the time was suspended for a week without pay for not immediately notifying his supervisor that a possible sexual assault had taken place, according to DYS assistant director Hannah. In the correctional facility, residents are often confined to locked rooms and direct care staffers are required to do a head count every 15 minutes. Friday through Monday, staffers often would be required to monitor two dorms, each containing as many as eight residents, by sitting in between them, multiple current and former staffers said. One current employee said being forced to watch two dorms at the same time puts staff in an impossible situation. “Say, for instance, if I’m sitting out and watching [dorms] Alpha and Bravo. I’ve got Bravo out for [recreation] — they give them three hours out. If I get up and walk over to Alpha to check those cells, well I’ve got a fight that’s broken out in Bravo because I’ve left them unattended. Then say, for instance, the three hours go by and I’ve got a client in Alpha dorm trying to hang himself, well, I’m going to get fired either way. The fight broke out in Bravo: ‘You left them unattended.’ ‘Well, the client in Alpha was trying to hang himself, and you waited a certain amount of time to get up and check him.’ It’s like you can’t win for losing.” During his time at the correctional facility, Bynum said there were two suicide attempts on days when staff did not meet the ACA ratio. Bynum also said one resident opened the broken door of his cell and entered another resident’s cell and assaulted him on a day when the facility was understaffed and a direct care staffer was monitoring two dorms. Before the state takeover of the Dermott facilities, when South Arkansas Youth Services ran the facilities on a contract from the DYS, staffers’ schedules rotated every pay period by one day, which kept staffing levels more uniform throughout the week, longtime current and former staff said. Hannah said the DYS standardized the schedule in the spring of 2017 because all 18

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


seven of the facilities taken over by the state were doing things differently. “We based the schedule on ensuring adequate client-staff ratio at all times. With that in mind, there is adequate staff to meet ratio on the weekends. There are additional staff during Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday because of the need to take youth off campus for court hearings, doctor and dental appointments, etc. A staffer must be present with the youth during these off-campus events. There aren’t court or medical appointments on the weekend.” She also said that the DYS expected the facility director to find a replacement for any absent staffers to ensure staff met the required ACA-mandated ratio. In response to specific troubling incidents — including the sexual assault allegation and suicide attempts — when the staff was out of ratio, Hannah said many such instances could have been prevented if staff did their job properly. “People like to throw ratio around as if that is what the contributing factor is, but in a lot of these cases, it wouldn’t have mattered if there were 17 extra people there.” “We have terminated a number of staff in relation to incidents,” Guhman said. “We have cameras that record everything.” Hannah said the Dermott facilities would move to 12-hour shifts March 11. In his Oct. 30 email to senior DYS officials, Whaley said he had systematically been denied permission to fill vacancies at the facilities. “It’s simply not true that we would not fill positions,” said Amy Webb, a spokeswoman for the division. But DYS officials acknowledged that it had sometimes been difficult to keep the juvenile treatment center fully staffed. Guhman said the starting pay rate for entry-level staff made it difficult to hire people. An entry-level direct care staffer is paid between $10.10 and $11.20 an hour, depending on what time a day the staffer works. Entry-level staffers were paid $8.50 per hour from Jan. 1, 2017, until July 1, when the state fiscal year began. *** After the conditions his son endured

in Dermott, including living without adequate hygiene supplies and sleeping in a dorm without air-conditioning throughout the summer, Benjamin Knuckles said he didn’t see the rehabilitative component of the Dermott lockup. “That wasn’t nothing but just a prison for kids,” he said. “It wasn’t a treatment facility.” Willis, the former correctional staffer who quit because of stress, said, “That place shouldn’t exist, unless it’s really gonna become a treatment center, and most of those people that work there shouldn’t work there. Because they’re not in the right mindset to give anybody treatment.” “We recognize there are problems,” Guhman said. “We absolutely do not want these kinds of things to happen. That’s not the way we do business. … I don’t want and nobody else wants to work for an agency that allows this kind of stuff. So our job is to put something in place that’s going to prevent this.” To that end, the DYS recently established a three-person facility review team that will make monthly inspection reports. The division previously conducted inspections semi-annually. Guhman also said senior DYS staff would be reviewing critical needs at the facilities. When necessary, she said, the agency can use an emergency procurement process to quickly obtain any urgently needed supplies. She said senior staff would be meeting weekly to discuss progress. In August, Governor Hutchinson and Guhman announced the lockups would be returned to private contractors as soon as the summer of 2018, with a request for proposals to be issued by the end of 2017. But the DYS recently said it would not ask for proposals until early next year, which would mean the youth division would retain control of the lockups until at least July 2019. In the meantime, the DYS said it would commission a study to determine how to better serve the youths committed to its supervision. Advocates have long pushed the state to close or reduce the number of residential lockups, which they argue are harmful and counterproductive for many youths, and invest more in community-

based alternatives. Guhman stopped short of explicitly saying there should be fewer secured beds, but she did say a reassessment was in order. “Maybe it would be better ... if we had four secure facilities and three less secure — group homes or transition homes or something like that. If you look at our stats, 90 percent of our kids have committed nonviolent offenses ... and yet we’re treating them all pretty much the same.” Hutchinson’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year would keep the DYS’ funding flat at $58.1 million. Just like the current fiscal year, $27.6 million would be allotted for residential treatment. The DYS annual per-resident cost at the Dermott treatment center was $52,925 in fiscal year 2016, according to its 2016 annual report, the most recent available. At the correctional facility, it was $54,750. Disability Rights Arkansas’s Masseau said that the Dermott facilities were troubled when they were operated by South Arkansas Youth Services under contract by the state. Disability Rights Arkansas has long relayed concerns about safety, lack of services and “horrible infrastructure” in Dermott, he said. The DYS should have been advocating the legislature for more money to improve conditions, he said. “At some point we have to put the youth as a priority,” Masseau said. “We form these coalitions and boards to look at long-term strategies, which are great. … But we’re doing nothing to address the immediate concerns that we have. That is, we have facilities that are falling apart. Kids are not safe. They’re not getting treatment. I think it’s time for the legislature to step up and say, ‘Do we need to allocate additional resources? Do we need to close them down?’ ” Benjamin Hardy also contributed to this article. This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans. Find out more at

Arkansas Reporter


Historian out

Another DAH defection.

DR. LISA SPEER: The former director of the Arkansas Archives is the latest in a number of employees who’ve quit or asked to leave the agency.



here was yet another shakeup in staff at the Department of Arkansas Heritage last week, prompting a former DAH director to call for the resignation of Director Stacy Hurst and causing members of the Black History Commission to wonder if they’re next on Hurst’s chopping block. State Historian Lisa Speer, director of the Arkansas Archives, resigned Feb. 6. “I felt like I had come to a point in my position where I was not able to function effectively as the leader anymore,” she told the Times. “I was not sure I had the confidence of the administration at Heritage to carry out my responsibilities without question and intervention and a lot of oversight. She said much the same thing in her letter of resignation to the department. “You cannot need and use people for the benefit of the department, while disrespecting and questioning their judgment at every turn,” she wrote Hurst and Deputy Director Rebecca Burkes. “With the 2016 transition to the Department of Heritage, there has been no guidance, no mentoring, and no support that ultimately did not benefit the agenda of promoting the Department of Heritage at the expense of the ‘divisions’ within it. The mass defections of staff over the last several years clearly illustrate the failure of leadership, as does the need to bring in outside consulting firms to conduct staff surveys and focus groups to diagnose the causes of internal dysfunction.” In a response to the letter released to the press, Hurst wrote, “I regret that Dr. Speer chose to abandon her post and her staff with no notice and in such an acrimonious way.” Hurst noted that the DAH had “experienced a great deal of change over the past three years including a new administration, a move to new offices after 25 years in one location, a new focus on managing for efficiencies, and the addition of a division. … Changes have been made to centralize administrative management in order to perform more efficiently. We have experienced typical staff turnover like any other agency, but

also enjoy many long-term, fantastic employees who are passionate about their work.” When Speer was hired in 2013, the Arkansas Archives operated as the Arkansas History Commission, under the aegis of the Department of Parks and Tourism. It was overseen by an independent commission, which hired Speer. (Like the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the agency itself was both titled a commission and governed by a commission). But in 2016, at the what her goals are for the future,” Dillard bidding of Governor Hutchinson, the said. “I think we’ve seen enough of Stacy agency was moved to the DAH and the Hurst. ... If the governor will not ask for History Commission was stripped of its her resignation, then we need legislation authority. The move came under fire from to transfer the History Commission back historians who were concerned about the to Parks and Tourism.” The University of Arkansas’s history effect the move would be on the archives, housed in special facilities in the Big Mac listserv has been buzzing with criticism building behind the Capitol. The DAH’s of the move and the job advertisement for new office building, which it moved into Speer’s successor. When Speer was hired, in 2017, was not designed to accommodate the Commission required that the State Historian “must demonstrate extensive the archives. Hurst said last week that because the knowledge of Arkansas history, archival archives were now at the DAH, it was management, principles, modern archival/ getting conservation tax revenue it had curatorial processes … . Requires earned not previously received. However, as doctorate in history from accredited an agency of the Department of Parks higher education institution or equivalent and Tourism, it would also have been as determined by the commission.” Speer supported by the conservation tax, a 1/8 has a Ph.D. in American history from cent divided by the DAH (9 percent), Parks the University of Mississippi, where she and Tourism (45 percent), Game and was curator of the Mississippi Collection Fish (45 percent) and the Keep Arkansas in the archives and special collections. Beautiful Commission (1 percent). Also, As the state historian, she was paid the archives did not receive conservation $89,636. The advertisement for Speer’s funding for fiscal year 2018, though the replacement lists no archival experience DAH did direct funds to a record salvage and says only that a doctorate in history is operation in Howard County. Department “preferred” but the only required degree spokeswoman Melissa Whitfield said is a bachelor’s in public administration, the DAH would ask the legislature for business administration or a related area $200,000 in conservation funds for the and five years’ experience in those areas. Knowledge and skills required are fiscal, archives in the coming fiscal year. Tom Dillard, the retired head of special management of personnel and fundcollections at the University of Arkansas raising. The pay is listed as $62,531 to and a former director of the heritage $90,670 a year. Speer is the most recent in a number department, said he wanted to meet with others in the history community of employees who have left under Hurst’s to discuss the archives situation and management. The DAH has also lost was calling for Hurst to resign. “Stacy longtime Historic Preservation Director Hurst has never enunciated any guiding Missy McSwain; McSwain’s successor, principles about how she sees her job or Interim Director Marian Boyd, who had

worked at the DAH for 25 years; Historic Preservation Deputy Director Patricia Blick; archeologist Bob Scoggin, who ran afoul of Hurst while working on an archeological site now beneath the DAH parking lot; Delta Cultural Center Director Katie Harrington; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Director Sericia Cole; and former deputy DAH directors Kathy Holt and Marynell Branch. Most had worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Members of the Black History Commission — an independent commission with a small budget that works with the state archives, awards grants under the Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program and hosts events — have been concerned that, like the Arkansas History Commission, they face a downgrade. Chairman Carla Coleman asked to meet with Governor Hutchinson last week to “let him know we are trying to be good stewards. We are not just an advisory board,” she said, though that is how Hurst has characterized the commission in talks with Coleman. Coleman and the commission have butt heads with Hurst twice: first, when Coleman complained that the DAH ordered the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which is overseen by the agency, to stop selling #blacklivesmatter T-shirts, and more recently, when Coleman took issue with the fact that Hurst insisted the Black History Commission logo be removed from the advertisement of a Feb. 3 workshop, “African Americans in Arkansas’s Rural History,” at Mosaic Templars. According to Coleman, Hurst said the logo made the poster too busy. It is perhaps telling of Hurst’s management style that she chose to be involved with an advertisement for a onetime event sponsored by the commission. It was at the Feb. 3 event that Coleman was told that Hurst was “coming after y’all; you need to pay attention,” Coleman said. Hurst told Coleman that was not the case after their meeting with the governor. FEBRUARY 15, 2018


Arts Entertainment AND

UNEARTHED CONCERTO: When U of A violin professor Er-Gene Kahng first saw Florence Price’s rediscovered concerto in the basement archives, she remarked that it would make “a great recording project for someone.” That someone turned out to be Kahng herself.

In the margins A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight. BY STEPHANIE SMITTLE


arly last Thursday evening, violinist Er-Gene Kahng and I squinted over a tiny note in red pencil on a score spread across the piano in her office on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “As if in a minor key?” Maybe. Probably not; it was hard to tell. The cursive was stately and neat, but deciphering it was still a fuzzy process. That note in the margins — one of the few revisions communicated in text rather than as a note head on the staff — was made by the hand of Florence Price, the 1903 valedictorian of Capitol Hill School in Little Rock and the first AfricanAmerican woman to pen a composition that would be played by a major orchestra. It appears in Price’s “Violin Concerto No. 2,” completed only a year before her death in 1953 and considered lost until 2009, when it turned up in an abandoned house in St. Anne, Ill. Kahng, who was invited to view the rediscovered manuscript in 2016, held in the David W. Mullins Library basement home of the university’s Special 20

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


Collections, said the first thing that struck her about Price’s score was that the composer was “very neat. Maybe that’s a very superficial observation,” Kahng said, “but one that could stem out into some imagined scenarios, such as ‘How does somebody compose?’ It’s possible that since this is very neat, it’s the third or fourth draft in which she’s worked out all of her initial sketches, but wants to see things more cleanly.” It’s also possible, Kahng said, that Price was a composer who’d have “done that mental manipulation in her mind first, and doesn’t really need to work it out on paper.” That, too, is hard to say; even for composers who pepper their scores with strategic instructions — a diminuendo here, a “dolcissimo” there — much of the task of interpreting a score can be left to the hands of the performer. And, Kahng got a chance to do just that, when she recorded the concerto with the Janacek Philharmonic on a project released by Albany Records earlier this month. She’ll play Price’s “Violin Concerto No. 2” again with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, the ensemble for which Kahng serves as concertmaster, Saturday evening,

Feb. 17, at Bentonville’s Arend Arts Center, and again in May with the Fort Smith Symphony. Kahng will also play Price’s music in the Great Hall of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Wednesday, Feb. 21, as part of the Trillium Salon Series. In rehearsal, Kahng has been playing from a standardized version created by notation software, as nearly all musicians do these days, but she’s kept a copy of that original manuscript close at hand for consultation. “In a way,” she said, “it’s almost like looking into somebody’s journal. There’s kind of that peering into the imagined private life of a composer. … Because my primary line of work is not dealing with primary sources, I would say there was a real thrill in viewing something that was one step closer to — I mean, I don’t wanna sound too mystical — but to someone’s presence. To someone’s soul.” The performances are part of a fullfledged resurgence of interest in Price’s work; a quick Google search will yield all sorts of commentary over the last several weeks on Price and her legacy: an Amazon listing for the Janacek Philharmonic recording, of course, as well as 2018 articles from The New Yorker, The New York Times and NPR. Understanding why Price’s legacy seems like a new phenomenon 65 years after her death goes a little deeper than the concerto’s 2009 rediscovery. The existence of Price’s

repertoire — 300-plus pieces overall — asks us to look more thoughtfully at the classical canon itself: how it came to be, and why it’s comprised of so many works from people who Price does not resemble. “To begin with, I have two handicaps — those of sex and race,” the composer wrote in July 1943 in a letter to the German-born conductor Serge Koussevitsky. Price, who’d been denied membership even in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race — had moved from Little Rock to Chicago some 16 years before, after racial tension and Jim Crow laws made life in the South untenable. She wrote to Koussevitsky again that November asking him to consider performing her works, saying, “Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility. Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.” Seventy-five years after that letter was written, Price’s place in the canon among the great composers — mostly white, mostly men — only now seems like a genuine possibility, and an accomplished Fayetteville-based violinist is grappling with her role as the musical vehicle for Price’s unearthed works — in the case of “Violin Concerto No. 2,” one that was buried long enough to make Kahng’s treatment among the first. “In a way, you could say that it’s very liberating, because then you have a lot more creative parameter to explore,” Kahng said. “But it’s also the exact opposite, because you’re kind of out there without a safety net. I found myself bouncing between the two feelings. I don’t have to be the 5000th person trying to say something fresh with the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, but at the same time, it’s also daunting that I’m the first person. … It inspires me to be a real advocate for music that, for whatever reason, has been marginalized. And it makes me curious what else we might be missing.” .

ROCK CANDY Check out the Times’ A&E blog

Find great events and buy tickets at

A&E NEWS RIVERFEST HAS BEEN REBORN as RiverFest, thanks to a relaunch by Universal Fairs of Memphis. It will return to the Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, as well. A local nonprofit ran the festival for four decades, but closed last year, citing financial concerns. Now, Universal Fairs is “very confident” it can steer RiverFest into a sustainable direction, not by abandoning all the traditions, said Jack Daniels, event director for Universal Fairs, but by shedding some of the “traditions you have to keep up” when running an institution. It’s not a change so much as a chance to “stop and reboot,” Daniels said. RiverFest will still pull in a mix of local, regional and national music — likely country and rock music, genres in which Universal Fairs can leverage relationships from the state fairs it runs (the Delta State Fair, the Virginia State Fair and the Georgia State Fair). Add to that a more fair-like atmosphere, including adult and kiddie rides and a Disney personality for children. Beer will continue, and you’ll be able to buy it and other things with cash or credit cards. No more River Bucks. President Clinton Avenue will also stay open for business. “[We’re still] debating the fireworks,” Daniels said. Advance tickets — $30 for the whole weekend — will be available starting in March. Prices for tickets at the gate have not yet been determined. The music will be announced the first week of April, with up to six national “names you know,” Daniels said. “Not a long list of sort-of known names.” Daniels said that if the festival got a crowd between 10,000 and 20,000 a day for the weekend, organizers would be happy. In years past, Riverfest totals have been put near 250,000 for the three days. UA LITTLE ROCK CHANCELLOR Andrew Rogerson says he’s aiming for a June opening of a facility going in the Central Arkansas Library System’s newish parking deck and office building on Clinton Avenue, immediately north of the main library. It will serve as a recruitment center and event space and will house a large mural, “The Struggle of the South,” painted at Commonwealth College in Northwest Arkansas in 1935 by the social realist painter Joe Jones. The university restored the mural with a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.


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Follow Rock Candy on Twitter: @RockCandies FEBRUARY 15, 2018









8 p.m. Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack. $5.

Think of each night of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase as a mini-festival: four or five bands, sometimes vastly different; beer; decent breaks between sets to chat. All for $5. In last week’s second round, the Couch Jackets, a funky, tight and melodically driving band out of Conway, won. In honor of their win, I’ve been listening more to their album “Sayonara Oblongata” (and a lot of the youthful song “Tear Stained Floral Shirt.”) In trying to come up with a way to define their sound (maybe Real Estate jamming before a set with better bass?) I found this definition on the band’s bandcamp page: “sounds like an alligator’s eating us,”

they write. OK, cool, that works. You can hear them when they join The Rios in the finals at The Rev Room on Friday, March 9. For this, the penultimate round, Sabine Valley, Fiyah Burnz, Crankbait, All the Way Korean and Deep Sequence will compete. Maybe the names give a hint to the sounds: Sabine Valley is a valley — specifically a river valley — in New Zealand covered in “tranquil beech forests,” according to the tourism website. Crankbait is the name for a lure, typically bass, used in shallow water. Fiyah Burnz also goes by Teddy Buckshot — making him both the hero and villain in the greatest Western movie never made. Deep Sequence is the name of some process — some deus ex machina — at the end of the next Transformer movie. And All the Way Korean: An Olympics reference. Band names are great. Hearing bands is even better. See you at the Showcase. JR



9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.

DEMO TAPE, the bandcamp demo tape for the band Dog Prison, begins with the song “Dumpster Dream Girl.” I can’t understand the lyrics to it, but I get the point. It’s loud, distorted, generally of the “sonic tornado of noise” variety, but still with that beautiful, almost snuck-in, punk-rock melody giving the song a spine. The band self-describes its composition as: “brie-bass/ woof, dylan-boom/bap, emily-screaming and moaning, elgin-shitty at guitar.” I disagree. Elgin is pretty good at guitar. Emily is screaming, moaning, but sometimes sings. Dylan’s motto should include some verb about cymbals (maybe “crashing?”). For Brie: dead on; sweet woofing and bassing. Overall, should be a fantastic live show. JR


5-8 p.m., downtown NLR. Free.

Greg Thompson Fine Art, 429 Main St., is busting out the bubbly Friday in celebration of its 23rd anniversary in Argenta for the monthly after-hours gallery walk. The gallery, which represents Southern artists, will show new work by artists in its stable, including Glennray Tutor, whose work “Heart Shaped Box — Light My Fire” will be on exhibit in celebration of Cupid’s week. Tutor is in good company: Painter (and Central High School art teacher) Rex DeLoney’s mixed media exploration of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the freed slaves hired to work in Pullman Cars, is on exhibit at the Argenta Gallery, 413 Main St., and StudioMAIN has the AIA Arkansas Design Award boards on display in the adjoining space. The Laman Library’s Argenta Branch, 420 Main, continues its exhibition of photographs by Gary Cawood. The Thea Foundation, 401 Main, continues its The Art Department show, “Yang Luo-Branch: The Art of Place in Arkansas.” Core Brewery, 411 Main St., has a sports-themed show, “The Games We Play,” and impressionist works by former Razorback defensive end Barry Thomas are on exhibit at his gallery at 711 Main St. Mugs Cafe continues Chris Massengill’s “Sock Monster Problems.” The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub (off the beaten path at 204 Broadway) will open its studios to the public. Your art-walking done, head to The Joint Theater & Coffee Shop for the two-act comedy, “Grandpa Hasn’t Moved in Days” ($24, curtain at 8 p.m.). LNP

FLUID: Ballet Arkansas performs at CHARTS; state Sen. Bart Hester is urged to attend.



7 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. UA Pulaski Technical College, Center for Humanities and Arts (CHARTS). $18-$35.


FEBRUARY 15, 2018


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It’s not as if you needed a political reason to come enjoy this mixed repertoire performance from the state’s premier ballet company. The dancers are incredibly disciplined and versatile, and the sequences from resident choreographer Kiyon Gaines look super flashy in the company’s promotional material for this show — dancers in pale, willowy gowns with dark rings around the hem, the sweeping motions of which accentuate the fluidity of extended fingers and calves. But, if you needed another reason, attending “Tour de Force” would be a hell of a fun way to join former Miss America Savvy Shields and a legion of others in sticking it to state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), who, last week, tweeted a photo of a UA Little Rock billboard advertising the school’s dance major, adding the following caption: “Why higher ed does NOT need increase funding. They lease a sign to encourage computer science degrees or math teachers? No they push for dance majors. Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this! Not ok, @UALR.” Not ok, @Bart Hester. And, since your re-election depends on the opinions of the constituency in a blossoming, increasingly diverse Cave Springs — now home to the hip new Cave Springs Coffee Co. and surrounded by bike trails, world-class art museums and a fancy chocolate shop — might we suggest some reading material to help you navigate your way among the forward thinkers? Legendary dancer Twyla Tharp’s 2009 book, “The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together,” should do nicely. SS





6:30 p.m. Argenta United Methodist Church, 421 Main St., NLR.

BROWN: At the Argenta Reading Series.

When asked by the Adroit Journal what, if anything, she fears writing, Molly McCully Brown replied that “the thing that seems scariest to me right now is writing very clearly and unblinkingly and directly into my own individual experience, and so that’s what I’m trying to do.” She’s made quick work toward that. Brown is in Little Rock as the inaugural Jeff Baskin Fellow at the Oxford American, working on her first book of nonfiction. She says the book “explores the relationship between the body and that intangible other we sometimes call the soul.” She’s also co-writing, with Susannah Nevison, a collection of new poems. Her poetry has been celebrated of late: Her book, “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: Poems,” was named among the best in 2017 by The New York Times. She received a United States Artist Fellowship — getting $50,000 in unrestricted funds — to continue writing. The fellowship excerpted, in the announcement of her award, her poem “Labor”: “You come back on a truck after sunset, raw and ragged, covered in flour, tobacco, or clay. You come / back bone tired and bruised, burned dead out and ready to be shut away. / You sleep. / I know all this from stories. I do not have the body for it.” JR




Amasa Hines, at the Rev

8:30 p.m. Rev Room. $12-$15.

Understandably, the hearts of many flutter at the words “new Amasa Hines album.” The band’s expansive, euphoric live shows and its 2014 record “All the World There Is” built those palpitations from scratch (and sweat) over the last seven or eight years, and it’s been teasing them out with murmurs of a new project in the works. Here, the “Psychedelic Afro-Futurism” sound, alternately trickling and tsunami-ish, fills the Rev Room ahead of the #newrecord the band’s Instagram feed portends. SS

FUTURISM’: The sound of Room on Saturday.

Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt team up for the Sounds in the Stacks series, 6:30 p.m., Central Arkansas Library System’s Oley Rooker Library, 11 Otter Creek Court, 6:30 p.m., free. Self-described “dirt rockers” The Lacs take the stage at the Rev Room, 8:30 p.m., $17-$20. Dazz & Brie charm at North Little Rock’s William F. Laman Library as part of the Live @ Laman series, 7 p.m. Constance Slaughter-Harvey, the first black woman to become a judge in Mississippi and the 2016 recipient of the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Civil Justice Award, speaks at the Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall, noon, free. Lance Daniels plays a happy hour set at Cajun’s Wharf, 5:30 p.m., free, and later, G-Force spins tunes, 9 p.m., $5. Mike Speenberg entertains at the Loony Bin, 7:30 p.m. Thu.Sat., 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $8-$12. Columnist and blogger Rex Nelson gives a lecture on media consumption titled “News and Fake News,” 6:30 p.m., CALS Ron Robinson Theater, free.

FRIDAY 2/16 Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass kick off the weekend with a set at Kings Live Music in Conway, with Amber Wilcox, 8:30 p.m., $5. Keyboard/EDM duo The Crystal Method is still creating in the big beat idiom, and it lands at the Rev Room this weekend, 9 p.m., $20-$25. TC Art Show 2018 pays tribute to the late T.C. Edwards with sets from Redrum, R.I.O.T.S., Josh the Devil & The Sinners, Junkbomb and an ad hoc supergroup called The Rock Freddies, 9 p.m. Mulehead takes its time-honored chronicles to Four Quarter Bar for a late-night rock set, 10 p.m., $7. Brian Nahlen plays a solo set at Skinny J’s in Argenta, 7 p.m. Granger Smith (or Earl Dibbles Jr., for fans of his country parody shtick) headlines the KSSN-FM, 95.7, St. Jude Benefit Jam at the Clear Channel Metroplex, 7 p.m., $10-$15. Colton Duty performs a set at Guillermo’s Coffee, Tea & Roastery, 6 p.m. A Year and A Day plays a set at Thirst N’ Howl Bar & Grill, 8:30 p.m., $5. Nashville-based Backup Planet brings a proggy funk mix to Stickyz, 9 p.m., $7. Arkansauce, a four-piece string band from Northwest Arkansas, performs at Maxine’s in Hot Springs, with Shreveportbased pedal steel-forward outfit The Wall Chargers, 9 p.m., $5. The Memphis Yahoos kick off the weekend with a set at Cajun’s, 9 p.m., $5. Smoke Signals, Rats At A Bar Grab At A Star, A Fate Foretold and MisManage share a bill at Vino’s, 8 p.m., $8. Apple Kahler takes the stage at Markham Street Grill and Pub, 8:30 p.m., $5. The Pink Piano Show goes up at Pops Lounge at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, 5 p.m. Fri.-Sat., and Mayday By Midnight holds down the late-night set over at Silks Bar & Grill, 10 p.m., Hot Springs, free. Levelle Davison performs at Gigi’s Soul Cafe & Lounge, 9 p.m., $15-$20.


Follow Rock Candy on Twitter: @RockCandies FEBRUARY 15, 2018










7 p.m. Riverdale 10 Cinema. $9.

9 p.m. White Water Tavern.

Maybe the name’s familiar, but it’s taken you a while to cross off “check out Cory Branan” on your list. Fret not; the clever songwriter’s latest, “Adios,” is as good a place as any to pick things up. “Imogene” is like a smarter cousin of a Van Morrison deep cut, and add “Another Nightmare in America” to the growing list of artistic rebellion against patterns of police brutality and gun worship: “We’ve hollowed out our bibles to hide our golden guns / We’ve raised a silver gallows in the jewelry of your sons … / Look away, hey you there — are you even supposed to be here? / We don’t need a reason, keep your dreams where we can see them.” SS PHOTO BY JOSHUA BLACK WILKINS

SURF’S UP: With heist film “Point Break.”

CORY BRANAN: Say hello to his “Adios” at White Water.


FEBRUARY 15, 2018


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Even if you haven’t seen “Point Break,” you’ve likely felt its outsized presence. You know the perfect action movie name Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reaves, with a fitting backstory of being a rookie FBI agent character and former quarterback at Ohio State University). Perhaps, when Kathryn Bigelow won the best director Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,” your friend nudged you and said: “Wait, the one from ‘Point Break’?” And you’ve certainly seen what’s now become a trope in other heist films, the gang of robbers wearing the masks of former presidents — in this 1991 classic they’re Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter. “Point Break” became a model. It’s not Oscar-excellent or art house excellent. It’s “I’m home at 2 p.m. on a weekend and some cable channel is playing ‘Point Break’ so I’m going to sit here and watch it and damn I love this movie” excellent. It’s a classic ’90s cable movie. And it spawned a generation of them. Which is fitting. The term “point break” refers to, in surfing, when waves hit against an object jutting out from the coastline. Waves break and collapse onto shore in various ways (there are dozens of “breaks”). The point break is special because a single fixed point (an object jutting from the coastline) is smashed by water and provides what is often considered the best waves for surfing: long, tunneling channels of water that multiple people can hop on again and again. And so, now ramping back up to my point here, the singular points of “Point Break” have been used often to create the same movie in its image: hot shot young law officer, rebellious gang of criminals who may have a point about our messed-up society (don’t miss the political point of those masks!), sexy men like Pat Swayze and Keanu Reeves, cool action sport plugged into action movie. As the Arkansas Times’ films series explores the “heist” film as a concept over these next months, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of “Point Break.” It’s a big mountain in the water, creating tons of incredible waves. JR








KA N SAS pre sen ts


A he






Four Quarter Bar celebrates its second anniversary with a show from Arkansauce, 10 p.m., $8. Fiscal Spliff, Couch Jackets, Unamused Dave and Only Sibling share a bill at The Sonic Temple, 4603 E. Broadway, NLR, 8 p.m., $5. Club Sway holds an audiencecurated drag show with Total Request Live, 9 p.m. Soul and jazz siren Bijoux charms at South on Main, 10 p.m., $15. The Dublin Irish Dance troupe puts Celtic cultural elements up on stage at the Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway, 7:30 p.m., $27-$40. Dallas rock trio Mothership melts the roof off the backroom at Vino’s, 7 p.m. Randall Shreve and The Devilles infuse their rock set with theater and circus elements at Stickyz, with Nathan Corsi, 9 p.m., $8-$10. Adam Faucett, The Gebharts and Molasses Disaster share a bill at Maxine’s, 9 p.m., $5. Akeem Kemp Band, Price The Poet, Dazz & Brie and Riddles Meyonsha perform for the Black & Gifted Awards, 7 p.m., Rialto Theater, Morrilton, $15. Hear Richie Johnson play a happy hour set at Cajun’s, 5:30 p.m., free, or pop in later for a set from the Buh Jones Band, 9 p.m., $5. Alex Summerlin entertains at Markham Street Grill and Pub, 8:30 p.m., $5. The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub hosts “Beer, Burgers & Bots,” its annual robotics tournament, 2 p.m., $10-$15. A staged version of “Dirty Dancing” goes up at Robinson Center Performance Hall, 3 p.m. Sat., 7:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m. Sun., $28-$77. The Karla Case Band performs at Thirst N’ Howl Bar & Grill, 8:30 p.m., $5.

FREE FESTIVAL Open to the Public!

SUNDAY 2/18 AT SOUTH MAIN ‘SESSIONS’ SERIES’: Bluesman Charles Woods.



8 p.m. South on Main. $10.

If you hang around blues jams at Thirst N’ Howl or the White Water Tavern long enough, Charles Woods is liable to turn up. People may lean in knowingly toward their neighbors, noting that he played with The Staple Singers and Freddie King. Like a handful of top-notch guitarists in the area — Greg Spradlin and John Davies come immediately to mind — Woods’ talent is bigger than the credit he gets for it. He’s front and center for this concert, one of fellow bluesman Trey Johnson’s picks for the February chapter of South on Main’s “Sessions” series. SS

The Salty Dogs play an early, all-ages show at the White Water Tavern, 6 p.m. Raheem DeVaughn and special guests perform at the Rev Room for “Love Land,” 8:30 p.m., $35. The Traditional Irish Music session kicks off at Hibernia Irish Tavern at 2:30 p.m., free.

TUESDAY 2/20 Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a group supporting refugees in NWA with resettlement and employment, shares its mission with a noontime talk at the Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall, free. The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History screens “Aftermath: The Remnants of War,” 6:30 p.m., free. The Ron Robinson Theater continues its February “Love Is Love” series with a screening of “Charade,” 6 p.m., $2.

WEDNESDAY 2/21 The Dead Deads return to Stickyz with “Sympathy Sex” and other heavy rockers, with The Martyrs, 8 p.m., $10.

The Crossroad Festival is a three-day event exploring Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas’s French, Quapaw Indian, and African American cultural heritage from its historic roots to contemporary iterations through the interpretive lens of film, music, dance, and living history. Visit WWW.ASC701.ORG for details.

870.536.3375 701 South Main Street Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71601 This advertising was paid with a combination of State Funds & Arkansas’ Land of Legends Travel Association Funds

Major Community Sponsors

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The festival supported in part by a Major Grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council & National Endowment for the Humanities. FEBRUARY 15, 2018



RIVER MARKET DISTRICT promoters have always hoped for a Beale Street feel, and it looks like they’re going to get one, when Gusano’s Pizzeria at 313 President Clinton Ave. morphs into THE SHACK, that beloved barbecue joint of yore, and brings in the blues, perhaps sometime in March. The original Shack was located at the corner of Third and Victory streets, where you could eat in or have your barbecue sandwich and a cold beer delivered to your car on a little metal tray that could hang from the car window. That was in the late 1950s, early ’60s. The Shack petered out in the 1980s, but is still remembered for its great barbecue and sauce. Jenny and Bruce Slaughter, descendant of the original Shack owners, still operate H.B.’s Barbecue in a tuckedaway place on Lancaster Road. Joe Finch, who sold frozen French fries to the Shack back in the day acquired the Slaughter family recipes and has now partnered with Gusano’s Tim Chappell to bring back the brand. It’s a dream Chappell has had in one form or fashion since 2013. Once he can get the approval of the building owners — Melton Properties — and the city for smoker placement, Chappell will begin the transformation. (Right now, the idea is to place the smokers in the room just to the right of the door, visible to pedestrians on Clinton, and vent to the roof: the aroma, along with new awnings, ought to be a good advertisement.) In addition to barbecue (and pizza; that’s not going away), Chappell hopes to bring in blues acts from Memphis and Little Rock, like Lucious Spiller and Texas Ricky D. “We want to bring the B.B. King feel and vibe to Clinton Avenue,” Chappell said, “authentic blues with authentic Shack.” The Shack will probably be open only for dinner on weekdays until it’s fully staffed, Chappell said. But that’s not all, as they say on the shopping channels: Finch and Chappell are opening HICKORY JOE’S takeout barbecue in the storefront once occupied by Hot Dog Mike’s, 402 E. Third St., “before April 1.” The menu will differ slightly from The Shack’s, though smoked meats will be the theme. Chappell said Hickory Joe’s might offer tamales and sub sandwiches. They’ll probably apply for a beer license in the future, and may eventually expand into a little patio. Here’s another new twist: Chappell said he’ll be “ramping up third party delivery” for barbecue and pizza with outfits like BITE SQUAD and UBER EATS, which he said is going to launch March 15. (Uber Eats had not confirmed that by press time.) He expects to get business from hotels and downtown condo residents who want to stay in for dinner. 26

FEBRUARY 15, 2018


OK WITH POKE: The Hawaiian raw fish and vegetables salad trend is taking Little Rock by storm.

Poke vs. poke A

Poke Hula and Ohia Poke open; everyone wins.

ll of a sudden, Little Rock is rich with poke. Not “poke,” like you might do with a sharp stick, but “PO-kay,” rhymes with OK — the trendy and endlessly customizable Hawaiian raw fish salad. This year, Poke Hula, at 415 E. Third St., and Ohia Poke, 220 W. Sixth St., opened within days of the other. We found both delicious and worthy of several repeat visits. Each has specific qualities to be recommended. More on that below. But first, a poke primer: Quite possibly the favorite dish of The Aloha State, by way of Japan and other Asian influences, poke is typically served in a bowl with a base of rice or mixed greens, topped with raw fish and assorted veggies, toppings and sauces. Think: sushi unwrapped and tossed. At both new Little Rock poke restaurants, you order at the counter and customize your bowls like you would at Chipotle or Subway. The staff at each restaurant explained the items that we didn’t recognize. The raw fish looked and tasted fresh. Follow Eat Arkansas on Twitter: @EatArkansas

Here’s an example of our go-to combination, available at each spot: sticky, sushi-style rice, raw tuna, Sriracha mayo, shelled edamame, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, green onion, wasabi, pickled ginger, masago (orange capelin fish eggs) and furikake (a delightful Japanese seasoning mix of sesame seeds, seaweed, sugar, salt and dried fish). Mixed all together, they make for a delicious, fairly nutritious, filling meal. Other toppings you’ll find at both poke spots: pineapple, corn, onion and carrots. The key difference between Poke Hula and Ohia Poke is that the latter is a small-to-medium-sized restaurant with a number of seats and tables and the former is more situated as a graband-go, with only a small u-shaped bar lining the walls and window with a few benches. In our half-dozen lunchtime trips, the seats at the bar were nearly always occupied. But there are other distinctions. Poke Hula offers kale and tortilla chips as

base options (a staffer told us people rarely order the tortilla chips, you’ll be happy to know, because, yes, apparently it sounds just as bad to everyone else as it does to us). It also offers several marinated proteins — tuna, spicy salmon and spicy tuna — along with plain tuna, salmon, shrimp, cooked chicken and octopus salad. A few toppings — avocado, crab salad and seaweed salad — cost an extra $1. A regular bowl comes with two large scoops of protein for $9.50; three scoops ($11.50) suit a big appetite. The “signature bowls” with all the ingredients pre-selected (though you can add additional toppings) all come with three scoops. Because we always like it spicy, we tried the Fire Bowl ($11.50), which comes with spicy salmon, spicy tuna, avocado, edamame, masago and Sriracha mayo. It was satisfyingly piquant, but not fiery. We also got the Hula House Bowl ($12.50) with tuna, salmon, shrimp, cucumber, green onion,


Check out the Times’ food blog, Eat Arkansas

Two Spoons Eat as One. OHIA POKE: The eatery on Sixth Street has tables for sit-down meals; Poke Hula has (always occupied) limited bar seating.

edamame, crab salad, seaweed salad and Sriracha mayo. It’s a better bet for those who like their fare on the milder side, though it can be heated up. At Ohia Poke, there are no preselected options. The base options are white rice, brown rice and salad (though, curiously, the menu says that salad is only available in the medium serving). The scoops of protein are smaller than those at Hula Poke. A large serving ($12.25) comes with five scoops, medium three ($8.75) and small two ($7). There are also more options and none of them are marinated: tuna, salmon, organic chicken, organic tofu, shrimp, crab and scallops. Ohia Poke doesn’t charge extra for avocado and seaweed salad (big plus for us). It also has fried scallions for a topping, which added a satisfyingly rich crunch. Poke Hula is just a quick walk away from Arkansas Times HQ, so we’ve been there more often. We’ve only been to Ohia Poke twice and both times we had a big appetite, so we’ve only gotten the large. It seemed to be about the same size as Hula Poke’s. In sum, you can’t wrong at either spot. We’ll be back to both often.

Poke Hula 419 E. Third St. 246-3368 Hours

10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Ohia Poke 220 W. Sixth St. 502-6330 Hours

10 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.

Quick bite

Ohia Poke may be the spot to take your finicky, vegetarian or vegan friends, as it has many more cooked and vegetarian options.







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FEBRUARY 15, 2018


After the storm A new collection listens to the trailblazers of desegregation. BY MATT BAKER


t might seem redunda nt to click or swipe to the next thing before remind ourselves that the people we even have a chance to fully grasp featured in video footage of what we’re seeing. Often, it takes a news stories — the black-and-white book like Dr. LaVerne Bell-Tolliver’s images capturing a precise moment “The First Twenty-Five: An Oral in our shared past — are actual History of the Desegregation of Little human beings, not simply a visual Rock’s Public Junior High Schools” complement. We forget this, though; to cut through the Hollywood sheen the images today move too quickly. of made-for-television history and The impressions are too fleeting, and punctuate the lives of those who there’s a future-seeking urgency to shaped and changed our world.

The 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness it would be difficult to find a U.S. citizen ignorant of the episode. Less known, though, and equally important, are the procedural steps and lawsuits that led to initiating Arkansas’s desegregation plan, and the stories behind the subsequent desegregation of four of the five junior high schools in Little Rock, starting in September 1961. Bell-Tolliver, an associate professor of social work at UA Little Rock, has compiled the memories of 18 of the first 25 African-American students to enroll in five junior high schools in Little Rock. And while there are similarities that stretch across all the narratives, the most meaningful are the uniquely personal details each participant shares, something their father said, an exchange with a teacher, or the loneliness of being the outsider, the “other.” The early chapters provide a detailed explanation of the desegregation plan, the subsequent delays and other stall tactics. While impressions of a gradually quieter and peaceful integration of the AfricanAmerican students found their way to the pages of newspapers, those students’ reported experiences are markedly different. Once the school doors closed, there were taunts and threats. The new students were spat at. Gum put in their hair. They were referred to by the n-word. If they weren’t being shunned, they were being ignored, whether they sat by themselves at lunch or raised their hand, never to be called on. “I’d bury myself in books to not have to deal with all of that,” Kathleen Bell notes. “That’s mostly what I did just to survive.” Most white teachers were helpful, but not all. Most student recollections in “The First Twenty-Five” address desegregation with concrete details: how they were “chosen,” what they were told to expect, how their families reacted. Most reflect on actual lived experiences from day one across entire tenures in Little Rock public schools. (Interestingly, every oral biography includes an exact memory of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.) What stands out the most is a common thread: All students except one were brought up in twoparent homes; most found support

in their religion and all held a firm faith in their abilities as both an individual and a student. Some had demonstratively supportive parents, but some did not; one persevered despite both parents suffering from severe mental illness. Dr. Kenneth Jones, who helped desegregate West Side Junior High, remarks: “One of the things we found in all of our research is that if a student has one adult that cares about them inside that system, that the likelihood of their academic success increases exponentially.” Looking back, most students who participated attribute some part of their success to their desegregation experiences. It toughened them, forced them to learn new skills and interact with different types of people. For some, it made integrating back into the black community more challenging. Alfreda Brown, who was assigned to attend and desegregate East Side Junior High School in 1961, wonders, “Are we segregated more based upon race/ethnicity than on economic status? And I’m beginning to wonder if the thing that is bridging us is the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And that’s regardless of what color you are.” Tolliver’s accounts are transcribed from interviews, and to read them is to eavesdrop on their stories. It’s to know them during this moment in their lives when they were the first to venture into an unknown world. “Children are the cruelest things on two legs,” Pinkie Thompson, who attended and desegregated Pulaski Heights Junior High School in 1962, says. “They say what they think. Their thinking has been formed by grandpa, great-grandma. All that the children are doing are spouting what they’ve been culturally taught. And they bring it with all of the energy their little young bodies can bring.” A panel discussion and book signing featuring members of those “first 25” will kick off the launch of Tolliver’s book at an event hosted by Tolliver and Alvin Terry, 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at the UA Little Rock Ottenheimer Library, Suite 202. The book will be featured at the “Black History Month Black Author’s Fair,” 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, at the ALLPS School of Innovation, 2350 Old Farmington Road in Fayetteville. Both events are free and open to the public, and copies of “The First Twenty-Five” will be available for purchase.


320W.7T HS T .-DOWNT OWNL I T T L EROCK f ol l ow usons oci al medi a@s t udi ot heat r el r




The Studio Theatre Breakfast at Tiffany’s


Friday, March 9th, 6:30 p.m.

The Studio Theatre FTW - Family Theatre Workshop



Four Quarter Bar Marbin @ Four Quarter Bar



Junior League of Little Rock Ballroom FOOD & DRINK


Weekend Theater Inherit the Wind


2-4 8-10

Genral Admission $75 Table of 8 $525



Tickets & Info



Statehouse Convention Center Easterseals Arkansas Fashion Event



iHeartMedia Metroplex Bollywood Night 2018



HARMONY HEALTH PRESENTS Proceeds from the event benefit Opera In The Rock which is a 501(c)(3) organization whose goal is to produce main stage professional opera in Central Arkansas.

Robinson Center Wolfe Street Red Carpet 2018



54th Annual Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour of Homes Preview Party



Junior League of Little Rock Ballroom Opera On The Rocks



Arkansas Times Bus Trips Soul of a Nation Bus Tour



Four Quarter Bar Green Jello @ Four Quarter Bar



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fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes conviction for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to a high school science class contrary to a Tennessee state law.


Please arrive promptly. There will be no late admission. The House opens 30 minutes prior to curtain. Box office opens one hour before curtain time. For more information contact us at 501.374.3761 or OUR 25TH SEASON IS SPONSORED BY PIANO KRAFT to purchase tickets and flex passes.

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TO SEE ‘SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER’ AT CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART In the 1960s, America was consumed by the civil rights and black power movements, turbulent times that inspired African-America artists to speak out through their art forms. Now, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art brings from London’s Tate Modern this exhibition of paintings, murals, photographs, fabric art and sculpture by such artists as Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas, Barkley L. Hendricks, Benny Andrews. In all, “Soul of a Nation” features work by 60 of America’s greatest African-American artists.

Art expertise: Garbo Hearne of Hearne Fine Art, who’s exhibited works by many of these artists in her Little Rock gallery, will lead the tour.

Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary (detail, 1972, saeen print an paper. Courtesy of Lusenhop Fine Art. Copyright Wadsworth Jarrell. Photography: David Lusenhop.

$119 per person

As always, the Arkansas Times Art Bus will provide food and drink. We will depart at 9am.

Round-trip bus transportation provided by Cline Tours.

Admission into Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is free. Like our Bus Trips page for details, updates and other perks! 32

FEBRUARY 15, 2018




Arkansas Times - February 15, 2018  
Arkansas Times - February 15, 2018