Flash Point Race, fire, police and a new mayor. BY LINDSEY MILLAR
ENRICHING THE RICH AT THE STATE LEGISLATURE: AN OVERVIEW
2 FEBRUARY 2019
FEBRUARY 2019 3
9 THE FRONT
By Lindsey Millar
Q&A: Denise Garner The Inconsequential News Quiz: Legislative nuttiness The Big Picture: E-Scooterin' Orval: Rescued from hell
31 READERS CHOICE
17 NEWS & POLITICS
22 THROUGH THE FIRE Race relations, public safety and the new mayor.
Our annual restaurant awards.
The legislative session to come. By Benjamin Hardy
32 THE LITTLE ROCK-
PARAGUAY CONNECTION Dos Rocas is a family affair.
By Bryan Borland and Seth Pennington
38 HOT SPRINGS, PIZZA TOWN
Spa City is becoming pie heaven. By Stephanie Smittle
68 CULTURE Epic black art show.
By Leslie Newell Peacock
Frida in photos
By Stephanie Smittle
The quintessential guide to New Orleans. By David Ramsey
105 HISTORY By Guy Lancaster
109 CANNABIZ Still no medical marijuana. By Leslie Newell Peacock
By Leslie Newell Peacock
The legacy of Velvatex
By Syd Hayman
Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, "The Book of Mormon," superhero art at Crystal Bridges and more. ON THE COVER: Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Photo by Joshua Asante. ARKANSAS TIMES
Naaman's smokes in Texarkana.
Black and white history.
82 THE TO-DO LIST
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90 FOOD & DRINK
114 THE OBSERVER New era
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Denise Garner Wants Campuses to be Able to Say ‘No’ to Concealed Carry Your race against incumbent state Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) got national attention because of his bill putting guns on college campuses. How do you use that attention to benefit District 84? The problem was not guns. It was not a Second Amendment issue. He did something that his constituents didn’t want him to do. I tried really to talk about listening and making sure we were representing our constituents.
a common goal and don’t have any idea whether they are Republicans or Democrats. I’m hoping if we start talking about the issues, and not hyperpartisan kinds of problems, that we can do that. … [F]or the most part, the folks that are there want to govern. Compromise is not a bad word. We may not get there in a straight line.
Do you support going back to the opt-in and opt-out for allowing guns on college campuses? Absolutely. It just became so much more than campus carry. It was pushed through without really thinking about the unintended consequences. That is something that I want to look at. If we could repeal Act 562, I would love that. … If we can’t repeal it, I certainly want to look at local control over some issues that people didn’t think about. You can have a gun in the dorm, but you can’t store it. So what do you do with it? Do you take it to the bathroom with you? Do you sleep with it under your pillow? Those kind of things. Did you ever live in a dorm? I did. I know how crazy it can be. I went to Baylor and we had some pretty strict rules about curfew and when people could come in and when they couldn’t. Now there is so much leeway on some of those kinds of things that we should be giving students an option for those who don’t want a roommate or guests of a roommate with guns. They ought to have control over personal living spaces. … I have visited the schools around here. I haven’t had anyone say they feel like they need guns in our schools … . I can’t say in rural Arkansas, where they don’t have security officers or police departments close by, that they shouldn't train a teacher to carry. I think that we ought to have local control. What is your best hope for what you can accomplish as a member of the minority party in the House of Representatives? In our everyday lives we work with people toward
Name: Denise Garner of Fayetteville, Democrat representing District 84 in the state House Birthplace: Dallas Age: 62 Job: Retired advance practice nurse Volunteer jobs: Founder of Feed Fayetteville/Feed Communities and Role Call (a civic engagement organization) Hobby: Grandbabies (Jack, 3 1/2, and Emma, 1), reading and painting
Can you repeat the experience you told as a candidate about your patient who had to choose between her life and her unborn child’s? I [as an oncology nurse practitioner] had a patient that came in with abdominal cancer and was also pregnant. This is really before the government got involved. We had a chaplain, we had all of these folks trying to help her and her family try to make the decision about what to do. I was involved in some of those discussions. We are spending a lot of time with her and her husband discussing it really like it was just them. I walked in on the third day and she was in tears. She loved the baby and wanted the baby, but wondered who would take care of her five children at home. It still gives me goosebumps because she was schooling and taking care of her children and her husband worked at night. At that point in time, I thought, I cannot make that decision for her. It just struck home how no one can make that decision for them. She and her husband and her clergy and her God have to make that decision. … I just don’t think the government needs to get between a woman and her health care. If you were able to wave a magic wand and pass one piece of legislation, what would it be? I think because of who I am and who elected me, it would be a repeal of 562. It is a bad bill. It is not written well. ... I would love for Arkansas to be the first state to ratify the ERA. Everything else, I’m willing to compromise and negotiate.
— Autumn Tolbert Read a longer version of this interview at arktimes.com/garner. ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 9
INCONSEQUENTIAL NEWS QUIZ
PLEASE HAMMER, DON’T HURT ’EM EDITION
PLAY WHILE YOU SCARF DOWN VOLCANO WINGS WITH SATAN'S MOTHER-IN-LAW
2) If Hammer’s bill becomes law, who among the following would, if invited by any student or organization, have an absolute right to appear and speak on an Arkansas college campus if they were available? A) Osama Bin Laden. B) Literally Hitler. C) Chef Jeffrey Dahmer. E) Mr. Hankey, the sentient turd from “South Park.” F) Satan’s mother-in-law. G) Those “God Hates Fags” rimjobs. H) The coven of witches that secretly runs North Little Rock. I) The cast of “Jersey Shore.” J) The Most High Exalted Grand Plushie of the Ku Klux Klan. K) The recruitment coordinator for the North American Man-Emu Love Association. L) Harvey Weinstein, with Kevin Spacey riding on his back like a tiny cowboy. D) All of the above. 3) Arkansas Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman recently wound up on the right side of history for a change, joining nine other Senate Republicans who voted with Democrats on a particular measure. What was the vote about? A) At Cotton’s weirdly frantic urging, the measure designates birthday cake as the official breakfast food of America. B) Legislation that would have made “hamberders” a word before other countries realized our idiot president actually wrote that on Twitter. C) Funding to build a crucially needed border protection wall around Texas. D) A failed attempt to keep the Trump administration from lifting U.S. sanctions on businesses associated with Russian oligarch and Vladimir Putin lackey Oleg Deripaska. 10 FEBRUARY 2019
4) Newly elected Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has announced he’ll be taking control of a process that could be crucial to the city’s future success. What’s Scott taking over? A) Judging for the smash hit game show “Little Rock’s Next Top Bureaucrat.” B) A pilot program that feeds Little Rock’s excess pigeons to starving federal employees furloughed by the Trump shutdown. C) Ongoing peace talks with the murderous troll that lurks under the Main Street Bridge. D) Selection of the next chief of the Little Rock Police Department. 5) State Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) recently introduced legislation that would expand the list of conditions that could qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card. Which of the following conditions would become a qualifying condition if House’s bill becomes law? A) Merkin rot. B) Pine Bluff jake leg. C) Late-stage Republicanism. D) Attention deficit disorder, asthma, chronic insomnia, anorexia, autism, migraine headaches, general anxiety disorder, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, COPD, traumatic brain injury and over 30 other debilitating conditions. 6) Speaking of medical marijuana, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) recently appointed Benton Police Capt. Kevin Russell to the state Medical Marijuana Commission. What’s weird about Russell’s appointment to the commission? A) Russell is a figment of Dismang’s imagination, conjured up while he was higher than giraffe balls. B) Russell is better known by his stage name, Tommy Chong. C) Russell is actually a mannequin made entirely of densely packed weed. D) Russell is a member of a group called Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana. 7) R Wings R Wild, a company that operates 16 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in Arkansas and Oklahoma, recently agreed to pay $30,000 and retrain its management staff to resolve a civil lawsuit. What was the lawsuit about? A) The landmark case of Volcano Wings v. Burns B. Hole. B) Employees’ allegations they were repeatedly exposed to toxic bro dudes. C) A janitor’s claim that being forced to swab out the johns after 25 Cent Wings and Pabst Blue Ribbon Night constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. D) A discrimination case that claimed the company refused to hire men as bartenders because of their sex.
ANSWERS: D, D, D, D, D, D, D, D, D, D
1) Recently, state Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) filed a bill that would regulate college campus behavior that seems to be occurring almost wholly in the minds of conservatives like Kim Hammer. What is the crux of Hammer’s bill? A) It would place Faber College’s Delta Tau Chi fraternity on double-secret probation. B) It would install a life-size bronze statue depicting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, mid-crotch-thrust, in the women’s shower of every university gym in the state. C) It would enshrine in state law Hammer’s view that you can’t touch this. D) It would prohibit campus free-speech zones, allow “all students and all faculty” to invite guest speakers to campus regardless of the invited speaker’s social or political views and prohibit a university from disinviting an invited speaker based on any of 26 listed categories, including the speaker's having a history of statements that are considered immoral, hateful, indecent, racist, demeaning of others, radical, fascist or “otherwise objectionable.”
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Inaugural Lecture Series February 2019
Free and open to the public
Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. 333 President Clinton Ave. Feb. 6
“Tales of A Wandering Microbiologist” UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson
“The Art of Positive Communication: How Small Behaviors Create Your Best Moments” Julien Mirivel, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Communication
“Poverty, Food, and Nutritionism” Don Willis, assistant professor of sociology
“Nonprofit Capacity Building Strategies” Kirk Leach, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs Visit ualr.edu/downtown or contact Director Ross Owyoung at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
THE FRONT THE BIG PICTURE
Little Rock became the latest city to get Lime pay-as-you-go e-scooters on Jan. 8. The city agreed to a six-month pilot project with San Francisco-based Lime, which was founded in 2017, is now doing business internationally and has been valued at $2 billion. The company has deals with more than 100 cities throughout the country, but, in at least one respect, Little Rock is unique: It’s the only Lime market where the scooters are forbidden on the street. City ordinance 32-463 prohibits “scooters” and other devices, such as roller skates, from being ridden on roads except at street crosswalks. The devices must be ridden on sidewalks at all times. (Bicycles, on the other hand, must be ridden on paved roads or tracts specifically designated for them.)
A COLLECTION OF THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH A LIME BUT PROBABLY SHOULDN'T: (To protect the identity of these rule breakers, we had them wear sunglasses and dark clothing.)
RIDING IN HEELS ON ONE LEG WITH NO HELMET
PRETENDING YOU'RE STILL 17 AND GETTING AIR OFF STEPS
SCOOT OR DIE, DUDE
USING VALET SERVICE AT THE CAPITAL HOTEL 14 FEBRUARY 2019
MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW: * You have to download the Lime phone app to start the scooter. * Lime’s terms-of-service agreement says you must be 18 or older and wear a helmet to ride, but in Arkansas only motorcycle passengers under the age of 21 are legally required to wear helmets. * Driver’s license verification on the app is required in some markets, but Little Rock is not one of them. * It takes a kick start to get going. * The scooters’ speed can reach nearly 15 miles per hour. * Fully charged, the scooters’ batteries can last for more than 20 miles. * Generally, “juicers,” or people who get paid to take the scooters home and charge them, have the scooters on the streets by 8 a.m. and have retrieved them by 9 p.m. * You can’t get a DWI on a Lime, but if you’re drunk and acting the fool on one, police could charge you with public intox.
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NEWS & POLITICS
SLASH NOW, PAY LATER TAX CUTS FOR THE RICHEST ARKANSANS TOP THE AGENDA FOR THE 92ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY. By BENJAMIN HARDY Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
n Jan. 14, the Arkansas legislature convened for the 2019 regular session, state government’s brief spasm of lawmaking, budget-making, wheeling and dealing. November’s blue wave sloshed its way into many statehouses — Democrats gained over 300 state legislative seats across the country in the midterms, including 14 in Texas — but it left Arkansas virtually untouched. The party’s pickup of two hard-fought House seats in Northwest Arkansas was offset by the loss of two rural districts in the eastern part of the state. The GOP continues to hold supermajorities in both the Senate (26 out of 35 seats) and the House of Representatives (76 out of 100 seats) — the same ratios as in the 2017 session. In short, Republicans can pretty much do whatever they want. Which is what, exactly? Governor Hutchinson has promised “one of the most historic and transformative sessions of the General Assembly that I know we’ve seen in my lifetime, if not longer,” as he modestly phrased it at an event hosted by the Associated Press and the Arkansas Press Association on Jan. 11. The governor has identified four priorities for 2019. They’re significant, if not exactly
soul-stirring: big tax cuts, a modest teacher pay hike, government reorganization and a plan to pay for roads and highways. As of mid-January, the first three seemed destined for passage. Transportation funding remained the big unknown. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Worse and wilder stuff is yet to come, along with a few positive initiatives that might actually have a shot. Expect conservatives to try to restrict access to abortion even further, especially in light of the new makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. Though voters approved an increase to the state minimum wage in November, one legislator, Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), is already trying to undo it for certain workers. If past sessions are any indication, enterprising lawmakers will aim darts at groups like undocumented immigrants or LGBTQ people. The legislature may try again on referring a so-called tort reform measure to voters, which would limit damages that may be awarded in a civil lawsuit. (Up to three constitutional amendments can be referred to voters for the 2020 ballot.) Legislators have promised a bipartisan ethics package, given the corruption scandals that have recently ensnared several of
their colleagues; Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) says “restoring trust in the institution” is his top priority. Hutchinson has asked for juvenile justice reform, including a bill that would require courts to use a “risk assessment tool” that should reduce the number of kids Arkansas locks away for criminal offenses. More will emerge in the coming weeks — much more. In the meantime, here’s what we know is on the menu:
TAXES: THE RICH GET RICHER
The governor’s proposed personal income tax cut would likely be phased in over a threeyear period and would reduce state revenue by at least $192 million when fully implemented. The majority of benefits would accrue to the richest Arkansans, with the state’s top marginal rate declining from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent. An analysis made by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found the top 1 percent of earners in the state — a group making over $436,000 annually — would reap 46 percent of the total tax cut, or an average windfall of $8,128 per taxpayer. The middle 20 percent of earners — those making $36,000 to $55,000 annually — would see an average cut of $52. The analysis also found the plan would ac-
FEBRUARY 2019 17
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tually raise taxes by a total of $33 million on some 200,000 Arkansans with low-to-middle incomes, due to the way it simplifies and flattens the rate structure. After the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that fact in January, the governor said he wanted a fix to ensure no taxpayers would see a tax increase. Hendren, who is also the governor’s nephew, said in January he thought the bill would “be determined in the first month of the session.” Whatever the final plan, there’s little doubt Republicans will rally around it. Bruno Showers, a senior policy analyst with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the tax cut “would make things more regressive” by shifting more of the cost of state government from the rich to the poor and middle class. Hutchinson previously championed $150 million in personal income tax cuts for low-to-middle income earners (those earning under $75,000) in 2015 and 2017. However, Showers said, such cuts tend to be of little help for poor families because those households pay most of their taxes in the form of sales and excise taxes, not income taxes. To truly benefit lower-income households, Showers said, the legislature should pass an earned income tax credit. Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock), the House minority leader, said Democrats will forward a tax package centered on a state-level EITC, as in past sessions. “I can’t sit here and say we’re going to oppose the governor’s tax bill, but we want people to see [the proposals] side by side,” Blake said. The personal income tax cut for the rich may be just the beginning. Republicans also hope to pass various corporate income tax cuts that would slice hundreds of millions more from the state budget, offset slightly by a new sales tax on online purchases. The net cost of all these changes, including the personal income tax cut, would be about $400 million over an eight-year period; Hendren, who chaired the task force that produced the plan, has said the state can afford it. Others disagree. “If you’re going to cut taxes that much, you have to either cut services or raise taxes elsewhere,” Showers said. “There’s less money to go to quality education, infrastructure, public safety, just basic things. Those are things that businesses care about, so if we’re not investing in those things … that could harm economic development.”
Over a four-year period, beginning this fall, the minimum amount a school district could pay a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree would rise from the current $31,800 to $36,000. Minimum pay for a new teacher with a master's degree would rise from $36,450 to $40,650. The current schedule also dictates minimum salaries for each subsequent year of experience up to 15, and the raise would apply to each. The estimated cost to the state would be an additional $60 million. (Legislators raised the minimum salary schedule in 2017, but only by $400 over the next two school years.) Does that mean every Arkansas teacher would get more money? Not quite. Though state law designates a floor, many school districts have higher starting pay. New teachers in Springdale last year earned $47,266, which is higher than the state’s minimum for a 15-year-veteran with a B.A. even at year four of Cozart’s proposal ($42,750). Out of 206 school districts listed in a 2018 report by the Bureau of Legislative Research, 61 already paid new teachers $36,000 or more. Still, thousands of teachers could see a raise if the bill passes. Republicans might be loathe to admit it, but the proposed increase may partly be a proactive response to the massive teacher walkouts in other red states last year over stagnant school funding. In Oklahoma, where budget deficits (fueled by tax cuts) led to many districts instituting four-day school weeks, protesting educators won a raise of about $6,000. Arkansas lawmakers may want to take steps to keep such unrest at bay. But public school advocates have more to worry about this session. In 2017, the legislature narrowly rejected a bill by Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) to establish a pilot “education savings account” program, a voucher-like scheme that would have diverted tax money from public schools to be used for private school tuition and other purposes. Dotson has indicated he’ll introduce legislation in 2019 to achieve similar aims. The governor supports such so-called “school choice” legislation, though he said it should be “small-scale” and target low-income families. “I don’t believe choice options undermines [traditional public education],” Hutchinson said in January. “I think it actually strengthens it, makes it better.” Democrats can be expected to oppose vouchers, but so will some Republicans, due in part to influential public school groups like the superintendents associ-
The personal income tax cut for the rich may be just the beginning. Republicans also hope to pass various corporate income tax cuts that would slice millions more from the state budget.
EDUCATION: MORE FOR TEACHERS. BUT LESS FOR SCHOOLS?
Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), the chairman of the House Education Committee, has introduced a bill that enacts the governor’s proposal to raise the minimum salary schedule for teachers statewide.
ation. Dems have also said they’ll push for additional investments in pre-K. Rep. Megan Godfrey (D-Springdale), a public school teacher who defeated a Republican incumbent last fall, said in January she was hopeful Democrats could work with the governor on such issues. "I know my Republican colleagues can agree that every child in Arkansas deserves to go to pre-K," Godfrey said.
Kellie Lehr and Danny Broadway
Opening Reception Saturday March 2nd 6 to 9 pm Show runs through March 23rd.
MEDICAID: ACCEPTING THE INEVITABLE
The annual Medicaid budget has been the source of endless drama in recent years, thanks to a small group of Republicans seeking to end Arkansas Works, the state’s name for Medicaid expansion. The program, which is funded by the Affordable Care Act, provides health insurance for some 230,000 low-income Arkansans. The governor’s decision to keep Medicaid expansion intact has led to repeated clashes with conservative legislators opposed to “Obamacare.” Year after year, a bloc of hardliners has held up passage of the entire state Medicaid budget. Those wanting to roll back expansion have always been in the minority, but they were able to block the annual appropriation because spending bills typically require a three-fourths supermajority in both chambers. Nonetheless, the standoffs have always ended the same way: After multiple votes and intense political pressure, a few conservatives defect to the “Yes” camp and the bill squeaks its way to passage. Last year’s fiscal session lacked the typical fireworks. The Medicaid appropriation passed the House and Senate on the first try by safe margins. The hardliners came around in part because the governor had just announced the state’s receipt of permission from the Trump administration to implement a first-of-its-kind work requirement for some Arkansas Works recipients. The work rule went into effect June 1. Seven months later, about 18,000 people had been kicked off Arkansas Works because of the requirement and tens of thousands more had been pared from the rolls for other reasons such as harsher administrative policies. (A strong economy has also helped, the governor argues.) Most health policy advocates say the work requirement is a disaster for the working poor. But the reduced enrollment figures will probably soothe opponents of Medicaid expansion and ease its reapproval this year. Also, divisions within the Republican caucus appear less pronounced than in previous years, with the Capitol’s more rebellious conservatives now marginalized, co-opted or defeated by primary opponents. “I don’t see a controversy over Arkansas Works,” Hutchinson said in January. “I think it’s settled in to our health care system.” However, a lawsuit seeking an end to the Arkansas work requirement is before a federal judge who struck down a similar rule in Kentucky last year. If the court invalidates the work rule in the next two months, might the
Kathy Bay and Jason McCann Opening Reception Saturday April 27th 6 to 9 pm Show runs through May 18th Jason McCann
Melissa Cowper-Smith and Yelena Petroukhina Opening Reception Saturday May 25th 6 to 9 pm Show runs through June 15th Melissa Cowper-Smith
Michael Warrick and Nancy Wilson Opening Reception Saturday June 22nd 6 to 9 pm Show runs through July 13th Michael Warrick
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FEBRUARY 2019 19
legislature try to end the entire program? Hendren said no. Members “know the turmoil that would throw our budget into and the turmoil it would throw the lives of over a quarter-million people in Arkansas into if we were to make such a dramatic change based on a court ruling,” he said. “I may be wrong … [but] I don’t see a lot of appetite out there to start playing shutdown politics over budgets.”
ROADS: DESPERATELY SEEKING A FREE LUNCH
States everywhere have struggled with transportation funding shortfalls for the same reason: Increased vehicle efficiency means drivers, on average, pay less today in fuel taxes for every mile of road traveled than they did a few decades ago. That, plus a shortage of federal funds and increased maintenance costs, has left gaping holes in both budgets and roads. Arkansas transportation officials have recently said they need between $300 million and $478 million more in annual revenue. The real problem is that too many legislators are afraid of the most obvious solution, which is to raise taxes on gas and diesel. Rather than raise taxes themselves, lawmakers may instead refer an initiative to the 2020 ballot — though asking voters for more money directly is always a tough sell, and a failed election would make it even harder politically to tackle the problem afterward. “Everybody wants the ice cream but nobody wants to get fat,” Hendren said. “It’s one thing to go to the ribbon-cutting of roads opening and highways being renovated. It’s another thing to vote for the revenue to make that happen.” That means legislators will be tempted by a third option, which is to filch money from other places in the state budget. House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) said in January that he prefers “trying to look internally first at what revenue might be available” before seeking new revenue. In 2016, the governor diverted general revenue and surplus funds to access federal matching grants then available for roads. His spokesman, J.R. Davis, said in January that was “a good short-term fix, but now we need a long-term fix.” Hutchinson opposes dipping further into general revenue, Davis said. Because highway funding has divided Republicans in past sessions, Democrats could have rare leverage on the issue. Rep. David Whitaker (D-Fayetteville), who sits on the House Transportation Committee, said there’s a broad consensus within his party that “some kind of tax revenue enhancement is going to be necessary” and noted that “there are members of the Republican caucus who see eye to eye with us.” Whitaker said he felt voters would approve a revenue increase in 2020 if it was presented to them candidly. “My experience in Arkansas
is that every time the government has honestly gone to people and said, ‘This is what this is going to pay for’ and provided specifics … they vote yes,” he said.
TRANSFORMATION: SHUFFLING THE DEEP STATE
The governor is fond of noting that his “transformation” proposal would be the first major reorganization of state government agencies since 1973, under Democrat Dale Bumpers. About 20 years ago, Republican Mike Huckabee attempted a large-scale reorganization but failed to convince the legislature to go along with his plan. Hutchinson has a better chance at success, given that his party has an iron grip on the Capitol. (Both chambers were firmly controlled by Democrats during the Huckabee era.) Hutchinson proposes assigning most state agencies, boards and commissions to 15 umbrella Cabinet-level departments that would report to the governor, as opposed to 42 today. Among the myriad changes: The Department of Correction (state prisons) and the Department of Community Correction (probation and parole) would merge into one. So would the Department of Parks and Tourism and the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The departments of Education (K-12 schools) and Higher Education would also become a single department, though state colleges and universities would remain independent. A new Department of Commerce would include functions such as insurance regulation, economic development and workforce services. A new Department of Public Safety would group together the State Police, the Department of Emergency Management and much more. Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, said successful reorganizations of state government often coincide with big partisan shifts of the kind that’s occurred in Arkansas over the past decade. The new party in power “wants to put their own stamp on government,” she said. Arkansas has also been undergoing a “wave of institutional reforms” since around 2000, Parry said, from attempts to standardize the structure of local courts and end partisan judicial elections to increases in pay for elected officials. “Essentially, it all amounts to professionalization of our institutions,” Parry said. Many other states undertook such reforms decades ago. It’s another question entirely whether a reorganization proposal is actually beneficial. The governor has said his plan will meet certain objectives, like “improving transparency and access.” But, Parry said, “those are buzzwords. How do you measure that? I don’t know. … The devil’s in the details.” Sponsors of the legislation say they expect the omnibus transformation bill to be around 1,500 pages. That’s an awful lot of devils to keep an eye on. ♦
‘Everybody wants the ice cream but nobody wants to get fat.’
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20 FEBRUARY 2019
FIRE AT FOREST PLACE: The LRFD unites to battle a 2013 blaze, but race relations within the department smolder. 22 FEBRUARY 2019
Can Little Rock’s first elected black mayor heal the racial divisions that have long plagued the city’s fire and police departments? By LINDSEY MILLAR Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
n October, Little Rock Fire Department Capt. Richard Hudson took the stage in the auditorium of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. He was there to apologize for using a racial slur, as required by a Pulaski County judge in order to regain his rank. Hudson, a veteran of nearly 24 years in the department, is white. The audience of around 50 people waiting quietly for him to speak was almost entirely black. Most were firefighters or retired firefighters who were members of F.L.A.M.E. (Fire Leaders Actively Maintaining Equality), an association of black firefighters that works with the community and attempts to recruit more minorities to join the department. That latter mission was a particular passion and source of frustration for many in the audience. Though Little Rock has a minority population of 52 percent — 42 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic and 3 percent Asian — the Little Rock Fire Department is 74 percent white. Fire Chief Delphone Hubbard, who has held the position since January 2018, and his predecessor, Gregory Summers, are both black, but white men have long dominated the leadership of the operations division, and the department has historically been slow to recruit and promote minority firefighters. At a rear table, retired Capt. Floyd Burns, 78, sat as a living reminder of that history. The city hired its first black police officers after the Civil War, but it took the fire department until 1969 to hire Burns as its first black firefighter. It did so only at the urging of Charles Bussey, who was elected in 1968
as Little Rock’s first black city director since Reconstruction (and who later served by appointment as Little Rock’s first black mayor, from 1981 to 1982). Onstage at the Mosaic Templars center, Hudson wore a tight polo shirt that showed off his barrel chest. He had a shiny bald head and a face that rested in a frown. Behind a podium, he began his apology: “September 2016, we were sitting around the fire station, and I told a story.” Most everyone in attendance was familiar with Hudson’s story, as the fallout from it had ratcheted up already pronounced racial tensions within the department. The story went that, some years earlier, while Hudson was working as the volunteer fire chief for the Lake Maumelle Fire Department, he’d responded to a trailer fire. When he arrived, a white female resident admitted she’d set the fire on purpose. Her black husband had been unfaithful, and on the side of the trailer, she’d spray-painted “cheating n-----,” spelling out the racial slur. Hudson, in 2016, told this tale in front of a white firefighter and a black firefighter. The latter, Jonathan Wilkins, said that when Hudson used the actual n-word, he looked at Wilkins and laughed. Hudson also told Wilkins a story about a black firefighter’s wife coming to a station to confront her husband about his infidelity. Wilkins said in court in August that, in telling the story and imitating the aggrieved wife, Hudson changed his voice in a way that was “Jolson-esque” and “like the crows in ‘Dumbo.’ ” Asked by a city attorney how the
story and the way Hudson told it made him feel, Wilkins said, “I felt like I was working for a captain who felt like he was entitled to demean me.” Wilkins filed a complaint to then-Fire Chief Gregory Summers and the director of human resources for the city only after Hudson, some weeks later, confronted Wilkins in front of another firefighter with a printout of an email purported to be from Wilkins to Hudson with the subject line “Transfer.” It read, “I want out of here. I am tired of fighting fire. The smoke is to [sic] much. You guys go to [sic] far in.” Hudson had himself sent the email from Wilkins’ account. He told Wilkins he sent it to teach Wilkins the importance of logging out of a shared computer at the fire station and, in appeal hearings, defended the episode as a training exercise. Wilkins later testified that he considered it an attack on his reputation. “I believe its sole purpose was to humiliate and intimidate me,” he said. Wilkins filed his complaint Dec. 1, 2016. A long internal investigation culminated in Hudson being demoted from captain to engineer, which meant not just a loss of rank, but a significant pay cut. After unsuccessfully petitioning the Little Rock Civil Service Commission to restore his rank, Hudson appealed to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch, who reinstated Hudson on the condition that he apologize to Wilkins and to members of F.L.A.M.E. “I spoke what the n-word was,” Hudson told the assembled members of F.L.A.M.E. at Mosaic Templars. “For that I am terribly sorry. I do not use that terminology. I am em-
FEBRUARY 2019 23
barrassed about it. I embarrassed the department. I’m embarrassed having to sit here and go over this again. I find the word very offensive. However, I did not realize it was just as offensive when I told a story about a fact that transpired. I realize now that I offended a lot of people, and I’m terribly sorry for that.” When he wrapped up, there was a long pause followed by a smattering of clapping. Minutes later, as a smooth jazz soundtrack of instrumental music kicked in and an emcee began to honor black firefighters of note, I overheard Hudson whispering to his attorney, “They said we could leave.”
THE FIRST BLACK FIREFIGHTER: Floyd Burns, 78, joined the Little Rock Fire Department in 1969.
24 FEBRUARY 2019
_______________________ Three months after Hudson delivered his public apology, Frank Scott Jr., 35, became the first popularly elected black mayor in Little Rock. Unlike municipal inaugurations of the past, which happened in City Hall or the Pulaski County Courthouse, Scott was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1 at Robinson Center Performance Hall, before a largely black crowd of more than a thousand people. “This ceremony marks a new beginning, a new day and a new era in Little Rock and at City Hall,” Scott said in his inaugural address. In an election where the candidates were often in agreement on policy matters, Scott, a banker, associate pastor and former state highway commissioner, had distinguished himself by talking often of his personal history. He’d lived all of his life, save his time at the University of Memphis, in Southwest Little Rock, which is home to much of the city’s minority, low-income population. As a black man, he talked about how many of the folks he’d grown up with were dead or in jail, and how those ends could have easily been his. A first-generation college graduate, his second job out of school was as a policy adviser in the administration of then-Gov. Mike Beebe. Meeting other governor’s office staff after work in Hillcrest was the first time he’d
ever ventured into that white, liberal enclave. He’d often say that, as a banker, his daily route from his home off Chicot Road, along Interstate 430, to the western wealthy reaches of Cantrell Road served as a daily reminder of Little Rock’s inequities. That history and experience provided the theme of Scott’s campaign: In a city long divided by race, he promised to be a unifier. But Scott also campaigned on creating change and pledged to restructure city government. He proposed to give the mayor complete authority over municipal government and remove the three at-large city board positions to ensure that the board reflects the diversity of the city. Should the city board not approve his changes, he pledged he would take the proposals to voters. In the meantime, Scott told me, he would begin taking charge of key municipal functions in a way that outgoing mayor Mark Stodola never did. Scott cited a 2007 ordinance approved by voters that made the mayor the city’s chief executive and the city manager, Bruce Moore, the chief administrative officer. That law gave powers to the office of mayor that Stodola had simply failed to exercise, Scott argued. He speculated that “a lot of community and political realities” held Stodola back, but did not elaborate further. In his first weeks in office, Scott had taken on direct supervision of six departments, including the Little Rock Police Department and the Little Rock Fire Department, which together represent a majority of both the city’s personnel and general fund budget. Scott’s unity message likely resonated with voters in part because racial tensions, and outright racism, continue to haunt Little Rock. Sixty years after white mobs tried to block black students from attending Central High, most schools remain de facto segregated, the result of decades of white flight from the Little Rock School District. Residential patterns have also long been dictated by race: For many white residents, the neighborhoods south of Interstate 630 are as unfamiliar as a foreign country. Poverty in Little Rock is overwhelmingly concentrated in minority neighborhoods. Black and brown men and women remain woefully underrepresented among business leaders and professionals in most sectors. No mayor could truly fix such systemic problems, but Scott’s campaign put forth an optimistic, ambitious vision of change. He pledged to expand economic opportunities for minorities and bring a new wave of job
growth to the city. He promised to advocate for the Little Rock School District to be returned to local control after years of a state takeover fraught with racial politics. But, those are complicated matters that involve decision-makers outside of city government. By taking over supervision of the fire and police departments, Scott put himself in charge of two of Little Rock’s most racially troubled institutions — which he has the power to change. _______________________ In October, two months before Scott was elected mayor and a few days after Hudson delivered his apology to members of the black firefighters association, Scott joined journalists in the auditorium of a nonprofit counseling center off 40th Street in Little Rock. He was attending a press conference held by attorneys Mike Laux and Benjamin Crump to discuss a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Little Rock and city police officers over the department’s dangerous and likely unconstitutional over-reliance on no-knock warrants in drug cases, which have overwhelmingly targeted black residents. A Washington Post story published in October found that the LRPD drug unit was serving nearly all of its warrants “no-knock,” without demonstrating why that tactic was necessary, as required by law. It also found that the department was regularly using explosives to break down doors in the raids, which experts told the Post should only be used in extreme and emergency situations. Crump, of Tallahassee, Fla., has a national reputation. He’s represented the families of many of the highest-profile black victims of police shootings in recent years: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Terrence Crutcher. Though Laux does not live in Little Rock — he splits time between Chicago and California — he’d become perhaps Little Rock’s best known attorney since he won a civil rights settlement from the city of Little Rock in response to a lawsuit he’d filed over the shooting death of Eugene Ellison, a 67-year-old black man who was shot to death inside his apartment by a white off-duty Little Rock police officer. Laux quickly followed that case with a number of lawsuits over the killings of black people at the hands of the LRPD. They included a federal civil rights claim against Josh Hastings, a former Little Rock police officer who in 2012 shot and killed Bobby Moore, a black 15-year-old. In 2017, an allwhite federal jury found Hastings personally liable for Moore’s death, but a federal district judge had rejected Laux’s claim that LRPD
was liable because of a pattern of unconstitutional supervision and actions — a complaint known as a Monell claim. Laux appealed that decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule soon. At the October press conference, the attorneys appeared with their client, Roderick Talley, 31, a barber who had been the subject of the Post expose on the LRPD published the day before. In the summer of 2017, Talley awoke to the sound of an explosion that launched the front door of his apartment on top of him on the couch where he was sleeping. Eleven LRPD SWAT team officers stormed into the apartment. According to an LRPD detective’s affidavit, as reported by the Post, the department’s drug division had used an informant to make a drug buy from Talley. The affidavit said that police had observed the informant having a conversation with someone, who the informant confirmed was Talley after detectives showed the informant a picture of him. The informant told police he’d purchased $100 worth of cocaine from Talley and another
new about ‘no knock’ raids and what’s described in the article,” his statement read. He also called for an investigation into the LRPD by the U.S. Justice Department, later sharing his letter to the federal agency with the press. The Post story made alleged LRPD abuses an issue in the mayoral race. But it was only after the Nov. 6 general election led to a runoff between Scott and former Little Rock School Superintendent Baker Kurrus that things heated up. On Nov. 15, the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police posted on its Facebook page a picture from the October press conference of Scott with his hand on Talley’s shoulder. At the event, Scott had asked Talley if he could pray with him. But since then, Talley had gotten himself in trouble: After Cross County sheriff’s deputies tried to arrest him for being late for a court appearance, he’d fled the courthouse in his car and allegedly hit a deputy with the vehicle. (In a statement, Laux denied that Talley hit the deputy and asserted that he may have been treated harshly by Cross County officials because of his federal lawsuit, but con-
'GRACE AND MERCY' FORGIVEN THE FOP man inside the apartment. But Talley had proof none of that had happened. Concerned about crime in his apartment complex, he’d previously installed security cameras inside and outside his apartment. On the day the affidavit said the informant was supposed to have purchased cocaine, Talley’s footage showed a shifty looking man knock on his door and then leave after a moment. Prosecutors declined to proceed with charges against Talley, but Talley’s efforts to get the police department to initiate an Internal Affairs investigation went nowhere. Standing beside Talley at the press conference, Crump called him a “hero.” “When we use the word hero, you all may not understand the scope of this,” the attorney said. “Think about America and times where poor people of color are accused of things, and there’s nobody to help them expose the truth. Well, Roderick Talley is an example of that, and that’s why this is so important.” Scott quickly released a forceful condemnation of the no-knock practices. “[As] a black man and lifelong resident of Southwest Little Rock, I can tell you that there’s nothing
ceded that Talley’s actions were “unlawful, ill-advised and reckless.”) The FOP, which had endorsed Kurrus, tried to taint Scott with the story and photograph: “The Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police want the citizens of Little Rock to know that candidates who align themselves with fleeing felons fail the qualifications for any public office,” the police union wrote. Scott condemned the post as a “divisive smear” and Kurrus publicly asked the FOP to take it down. The police union complied, but didn’t offer a public apology. The FOP has long been considered the bastion of a white good ol’ boys culture within the police department. Black officers started their own association in the 1970s and have frequently complained that the FOP doesn't represent their interests in labor negotiations with the city. The LRPD has some 570 officers. Sixty-four percent are white. Among those, only 25 percent live in the city of Little Rock. Perhaps for political reasons, Kenton Buckner, the former black police chief, had aligned himself with the FOP, pushing the Black Police Association to merge with the FOP. Buckner left the department in November for the chief’s job in Syracuse, N.Y., ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 25
shortly after a second Washington Post investigation was published that revealed the department’s lengthy history of institutional failure to address officer misconduct. Scott campaigned on increasing the number of police officers on the force by as many as 100 to expand community policing efforts. In an interview a few weeks after he was sworn into office, he said he remained committed to that plan, though he was open to staggering the expansion over four years and wanted to do a personnel study of the department. People within and outside the city perceive Little Rock to have a safety problem, he said. “Increasing the number of patrol officers on the beat will help reduce that type of perception, which will also help increase our economic development in the city.” He said he also wanted the department to have a culture of community policing, where cultural competency and de-escalation tactics were second nature to Little Rock officers. Scott’s call for a federal investigation into the department’s use of no-knock warrants seems likely to fall on deaf ears: The Trump Justice Department has so far been unwilling to intervene in local governments over civil rights matters. Scott said he would learn more about how the Justice Department works with cities when he visits Washington, D.C., for a mayoral conference in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Scott said he wanted to know more about why the LRPD had employed no-knock warrants so often and how it could curb that practice, which he believes to be unconstitutional. He said he’d “been extended a lot of grace and mercy” throughout his life and had forgiven the FOP for its campaign attack. He planned to meet jointly with the FOP and the Black Police Association. But he also said he remained committed to his campaign pledge to create an independent citizens committee to review police misconduct, which would likely reignite the ire of the union. _______________________ The racial tensions within the Little Rock Fire Department are less well known. Scott may not have made it part of his campaign platform, but he’s intimately familiar with the department’s history of division. His father and namesake, Frank Scott Sr., became a Little Rock firefighter at age 20 in 1984, when Scott Jr. was 1, and stayed on with the department until 2004, when a knee replacement forced him into retirement. It wasn’t the culmination of a childhood dream, Frank Sr. told me. “Money was tight, and they were hiring,” he said. For people without college degrees, firefighting is a profession that’s long been a path to middle-class wages. Base pay for a Little Rock firefighter is around $40,000. For an engineer, it’s more than $60,000. The base salary for a captain approaches $70,000. All firefighter positions receive established annual step raises and a retirement pension. In the hierarchy of firefighting, in order of ascending rank, there’s a firefighter; an engineer; a captain who supervises two to four 26 FEBRUARY 2019
firefighters or engineers; battalion chiefs who oversee four to seven captains; an assistant chief who supervises operations and another who oversees administrations; and the fire chief. When Scott Sr. joined the department in 1984, Burns, the trailblazing firefighter, and one other black man were the only minority fire captains in the department, Scott Sr. said. Among Scott Sr.’s colleagues and friends was DeArthur Jordan, who joined the department in 1986. At that time, Jordan said, there was an unwritten policy of not letting black firefighters work together. Jordan took the promotional exam to become a captain around 2000. He scored third among those eligible for promotion, but the white fire chief at the time, Phil Johnston, instead promoted a white firefighter who had scored lower on the exam. Jordan filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging in part that Johnston had blocked him for promotion because Jordan was an outspoken member of the black firefighters association (an earlier incarnation of F.L.A.M.E.) and had refused to join the firefighters union. (The same tensions that exist between black police officers and the FOP also have been long at play between Little Rock Firefighters Local 34, which represents all firefighters in negotiations with the city, and minority firefighters.) A federal jury ruled in favor of Jordan and a judge ordered the department to install him as a captain. Frank Scott Sr. and Jordan had also worked alongside Antar Baaree, the department’s first black battalion chief, and Gregory Summers, who became the first black Little Rock Fire Department chief in 2009. Baaree filed a lawsuit in the wake of Jordan’s suit after Baaree was passed over being promoted to assistant chief. (He settled the suit with the department and eventually became the first black assistant chief.). Multiple firefighters told me that it’s standard, but unwritten, policy in the department to treat the scenes of fires in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods more carefully than those in poorer brown and black ones. In the likes of West Little Rock, Hillcrest and the Heights, after firefighters clear a house of people or pets, if they’re able, they’ll search for antique furniture, fine china or other valuables and do what they can to protect it from water or smoke damage by removing it or covering it with a tarp or visqueen. In poorer neighborhoods, belongings are more likely to get destroyed in the course of firefighting. Such disparities rarely attract public notice. Fires are rare. What citizen experiencing a tragedy for the first time is likely to say whether firefighters could have done more to salvage their belongings? Chief Hubbard said that he’d never heard any complaints from the community regarding firefighters not treating property with care in poorer neighborhoods, but made clear he wouldn’t tolerate disparate treatment if it came to his attention. “Under my watch, that behavior is not condoned and will be dealt with appropriately. … I don’t care what part of the city you live in, you should receive the
same professional care,” he said. One firefighter told me that he didn’t think the inequities within the department would be corrected without a federal consent decree overseeing departmental practices. Such orders have been implemented in Memphis; Austin, Texas; and other cities. Told of that contention, Hubbard said, “I could respect that opinion,” but added that he didn’t “have enough information and time in the seat to say, ‘yes, there needs to be something like that.’ ” Mayor Scott told me he hoped it wouldn’t come to federal intervention and was optimistic that Hubbard would be able to effect change within the department. Scott noted that Hubbard had started a diversity council within the department, the culmination of an effort that began soon after Hubbard started the job. It had involved surveying all the members of the department on issues of race and diversity and, around the time of the Hudson appeal hearing, diversity training classwork. As to the department recruiting more minority firefighters to better reflect the demographics of the city, Scott said he needed to take the lead in recruiting and making sure “people understand those are honorable careers” and “make sure people know that we’re going to promote within and create career ladders.” _______________________ The F.L.A.M.E. gathering where Hudson made his apology doubled as a celebration of the careers of recently retired firefighters, like Jordan. The setting hadn’t been picked at random. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center celebrates the black experience in Arkansas, but its history is also fraught with painful reminders of the city’s past. In 1927, the last lynching in Arkansas reached its grisly conclusion immediately outside, on the corner of Ninth and Broadway, where a white mob that eventually grew to as large as 5,000 people burned the body of the black victim. The building itself is a recreation of the 1913 Mosaic Templars Grand Temple, which was destroyed by a fire in 2005. The original structure was once the cornerstone of a thriving black business and entertainment district along Little Rock’s Ninth Street that was decimated by so-called urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s. For many black firefighters in the crowd, Hudson was emblematic of a good ol’ boys culture that’s long dominated the department. They attributed the culture in part to the fact that so many white firefighters live outside of Little Rock — of the 296 white LRFD firefighters, only 32 live in the city — and because so many of them have family members in the same line of work. Captain Hudson checked both boxes: He lived outside of Little Rock and was a legacy firefighter. His
SHIFTING POWER: New Mayor Frank Scott Jr. (left) and longtime City Manager Bruce Moore talk at a recent city Board of Directors meeting under the portraits of past mayors. Scott, Little Rock's first elected black mayor, has taken control from Moore of six city departments, including fire and police. Scott says he will select the next police chief.
father, Richard Hudson Sr., had retired from the department as a captain after 44 years. His grandfather on his mother's side and four great uncles had also been firemen. White supervisors spoke highly of Hudson during his appeal hearing. “He’s someone who’s got a lot of knowledge and skills and abilities and he’s not shy about” putting
But Hudson had been burned. He’d been caught in a flashover, one of the most feared occurrences in firefighting. Hudson had paused from exiting a building to make sure a baby crib was empty when the radiant heat in the room rose to a point that all the combustible material inside instantly ignited. He managed to push a fellow firefighter mostly
dedication. Newcomb tried to show the fire department had meted out punishments less severe than demotion for offenses at least as serious as Hudson’s use of the racial slur. He questioned another battalion chief who had been suspended following the election of Donald Trump for posting on Facebook, “I’m grabbing every woman by the pussy. If
them to work, a battalion chief said of him. But the same chief, who also called Hudson one of the “best captains in the department,” conceded, “Some people think he can be too aggressive in terms of fighting fire.” Other firefighters told me he had a reputation for being reckless. But even some of his critics had a grudging respect for Hudson. A firefighter who worked with him and didn’t like him personally still had praise for him: “He’s an incredibly tough son of a bitch. He can take heat from a fire, just stand there and soak it up.”
out of harm’s way, but Hudson sustained second- and third-degree burns on his back and his helmet was completely destroyed. In both the appeal before the Civil Service Commission and the one in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Hudson’s attorney Robert Newcomb had made Hudson’s bravery part of his case. Like the civil service hearing, the gallery at the appeal hearing was mostly filled with firefighters. Black firefighters sat on one side, white on the other. Newcomb called four battalion chiefs who defended Hudson’s reputation and praised his knowledge and
women thought that being grabbed by the pussy was bad, their votes and mine would have solidified Clinton’s win.” Near the end of the day, Newcomb called Assistant Chief Doug Coney, who supervises the fire department’s operations division and, according to multiple firefighters, controls the true levers of power within the department. Asked whether he had heard anyone in the department use the n-word, Coney said he’d overheard Summers, his retired former boss, use it at the fire station while talking to another high-ranking black firefighter. AlARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 27
SUCCESSFUL APPEAL: A Pulaski County judge overturned the demotion of Little Rock Fire Captain Richard Hudson (center) for using a racial slur. He stands between his father, Richard Hudson Sr. (left), a retired Little Rock firefighter, and his attorney Robert Newcomb.
though most people would concede that it is wholly different for black people to claim the word as their own than for a white person to use it, the city has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to saying the word. Newcomb asked Coney whether Summers had been hypocritical in using the n-word himself — and in demoting Hudson for using racially offensive language while merely suspending the battalion chief for making the misogynistic Facebook post. Yes, Coney said. Summers, who retired January 2018, was clearly livid when he took the stand for the city. He said Coney was “flat-out lying” and that he had never used the n-word on the job. Judge Welch said in his ruling from the bench that it sounded like the department, in handing down discipline, had been more sensitive to racism than women’s rights. He agreed that it had a history of uneven punishment and restored Hudson’s rank, but suspended him for 30 days in addition to requiring him to apologize to Wilkins and publicly to F.L.A.M.E. Wilkins resigned from the department in June 2018. In his resignation letter, he said, “I have been witness to the most vile of racial epithets bandied about with callous disre28 FEBRUARY 2019
gard for the affects [sic] that the use of such terms would have on me and others … Outright lies about me and my family have been intentionally spread around the department while I have had little to no opportunity to defend myself or those that I love. Attempting to stand up for myself by saying I was being mistreated has heightened and intensified the impunement [sic] of my character throughout the department. The negative effect that this series of events has had on me and my family is difficult for me to quantify in words.” He declined comment for this article. I tried to interview Hudson after his apology to F.L.A.M.E., but Newcomb told me it was department policy that firefighters receive permission from the chief to participate in an interview. After the chief granted me permission to interview Hudson in January, I reached Hudson, who said he wanted to check with the chief himself and would call back. He didn’t respond to a subsequent phone message. _______________________ Hudson’s appeal hearing received only cursory coverage in the media. KATV, Channel 7 broadcast a short item the day before
that began, “If you are ever in a room with a doctor, a police officer, a firefighter, even a journalist, there is a chance you will hear some really good stories. But tonight we report on how one fire captain shared a tale he wishes he could take back.” In follow-up reporting, KATV called the ordeal the “ABC trial” because of frequent reference to the n-word along with “the ‘P’ word and the ‘C’ word.” Local media also barely acknowledged The Washington Post’s reporting on the Little Rock Police Department’s dangerous overreliance on no-knock warrants and other misconduct, or made efforts to follow it. But there had been plenty of coverage of a cascade of controversies surrounding the use of the n-word by police recruits. The Black Police Officers Association had sent a letter to Chief Buckner in November 2017 complaining that a white recruit, Brandon Schiefelbein, had used the n-word in a Facebook post. Attorney Robert Newcomb also represented Schiefelbein, and he soon pointed out that Brandon Gurley, a black recruit who had complained about the post directly to Schiefelbein, had also used the n-word in social media. Buckner fired both recruits and later fired another black recruit, Katina Jones, when it was revealed that she’d used the word quoting the lyrics to a Lil Wayne song on Facebook when she was 16. Buckner also suspended Sgt. Willie Davis, then an officer in the black police association, reportedly for initiating the original complaint about Schiefelbein rather than taking the matter up the chain of command. Each of the fired recruits sued over wrongful termination, and in the course of the backand-forth litigation, Buckner conceded in a deposition that he had used the n-word since becoming police chief. _______________________ It will be no easy task for the new mayor to reform institutions such as the police and fire departments. Inevitably, other racial flash points will emerge in the months and years ahead around issues of language, discrimination and much more. To succeed, Scott must chart a course that substantively addresses the many well-founded grievances of Little Rock’s black community while maintaining enough political support from the city’s ex-
FIGHTING BACK: Roderick Talley (right), with attorney Benjamin Crump, says he was the target of a dangerous and illegal no-knock warrant; he's suing the city and LRPD officers in federal court.
'WHEN WE USE THE WORD HERO, YOU ALL MAY NOT UNDERSTAND THE SCOPE OF THIS. THINK ABOUT AMERICA AND TIMES WHERE POOR PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE ACCUSED OF THINGS, AND THERE’S NOBODY TO HELP THEM EXPOSE THE TRUTH.' isting power structures to enact his agenda. Scott told me during the campaign that he’d heard from a white supporter that his white friends in the Heights liked him, but were wary of the idea of a city with a black city manager, a black police chief (before Buckner left), a black fire chief and a black mayor. I heard the same concern relayed by someone in touch with downtown business leaders. In the end, Scott won over a significant number of white voters. Yes, the neighborhoods won by Scott and those won by Kurrus (who is white) largely matched up with the city’s racial breakdown. Scott took every precinct south of Interstate 630 as well as those in downtown and the Capitol View/Stifft Station neighborhoods. But with 58 percent of the citywide vote, he also found substantial support in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods, including Hillcrest, midtown and the Heights. Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott, a longtime Little Rock resident, former teacher and advocate for racial and educational equity, publicly supported Scott during the campaign and serves on Scott’s transition board working with him
to develop a plan for implementing his agenda. “Because I can’t afford not to, I do take the election of Frank as a really hopeful sign that there are people in the city that absolutely want us to do better, to come together, to try to make the city better,” Elliott said, adding that she’d been heartened by the diversity of those who’d come out to support Scott. “What really worries me — and there’s all sorts of history that suggests that one should be worried — is that when it comes to the point of actually carrying out desires, we have to become uncomfortable. When we have to make sacrifices ourselves, for the future and greater unity, that’s when it gets really tough. … I always wish people would appreciate how long and diligently institutions have worked and people with power have worked to maintain [Little Rock] as it is,” she said. In an interview after the election, Scott told me he knew change would be difficult and referenced a quote from Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli he only partially remembered. The full quote: “There is nothing more difficult to
take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” During the campaign, Scott wrapped much of his calls for changing the city in the hope of unity. After he was elected, he said, “The reason I ran was because I got frustrated when I worked hard to be at the table to help others who weren’t at the table, but realized that I was just at the table to check a box.” City leaders hadn’t listened to what he had to say, which was all about preventing “more division” in our city. Little Rock hasn’t grown economically because of a “power structure that only keeps a few in power, only keeps a few connected,” Scott said, talking of how wealth and power have gotten passed among families and cliques for so long. It’s time for that to stop, he said. “This is something I always say,” he said. “ ‘The voices of the voiceless will eventually be heard, loud and clear.’ ” ♦ ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 29
Be s t Ov e r a l l Be s t Wi n eLi s t
1 6 2 0Ma r k e t St . 5 01 3 1 9 7 6 7 5 30 FEBRUARY 2019
Be s t Ch e f , Be s t Bu r g e r , Mo s t Fu n , Be s t De s s e r t s , Be s t Ou t d o o r Di n i n g , Be s t Se a f o o d , Be s t St e a k
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PHOTOGRAPHY: BRIAN CHILSON/STYLING: MANDY KEENER
OUR READERS CHOOSE THE BEST IN EATING IN ARKANSAS. The readers of the Arkansas Times have once again pushed their plates away, belched politely and named the best restaurants, chefs and dishes and other categorical superlatives for our Readers Choice issue. They sent in their nominations, we added them up and the Times, trusting in their palates, now serve up the results for your dining pleasure. For the second year in row, readers named Petit & Keet in West Little Rock the top restaurant and gave it the best wine list award, too. The “around the state” winner for overall best was DeLuca’s Pizzeria Napoletano in Hot Springs, inspiring our feature on the face of pie in the Spa City. Scott McGehee (of Big Orange, Heights Taco & Tamale and more) added to his many Readers Choice trophies with another best chef nod. Dos Rocas, the Mexican street food and bar in SoMa, won best new restaurant in Little Rock; read more about the restaurant in a feature here. Along with eatery and chef winners, you'll find here a list of the places our readers say you should give a shot when you’ve got a hankering for baked goods, barbecue, brunch, buffet, burgers and beyond.
Try all seven varieties of street tacos at Dos Rocas!
FEBRUARY 2019 31
DOS ROCAS, E’A!
A CULINARY WINNER IN SOMA GIVES A NOD TO PARAGUAY. By BRYAN BORLAND and SETH PENNINGTON Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
CESAR BORDóN: Bringing the flavors of Itá to South Main Street.
he two couples sat at the kitchen table and agreed they’d start small. One of those couples, Jack Sundell and Corri Bristow Sundell, had been through it before. In 2011, they opened The Root Cafe, the popular eatery whose claim to fame is a championing of local farmers, producers and vendors. They’d watched over time as it grew into its buzz with lines out the door of the small former dairy bar. After several years in business, the couple expanded The Root with converted shipping containers and added nighttime service. Now, they believed, with cautious optimism and a little bit of pride, the business had reached the stage when it could stand on its own and thrive. So, it was time for a new project: When the beast of entrepreneurship bites once, it often bites again. For the other couple, Cesar Bordón and Adelia Kittrell, it would be a new experience, though Bordón had worked with Sundell for years in The Root’s kitchen, cultivating a mutual respect and a friendship that brought the couples to this kitchen table, where they, both with children under 5 at home, added another child to the mix: Dos 32 FEBRUARY 2019
Rocas, the new beer and tacos joint at 1220 S. Main St. The idea was simple. Sundell and Bordón liked grabbing a beer together. They wanted a place to hang out, and Bordón missed food from Paraguay, particularly the street food, the kind that would go perfectly with a Modelo or a margarita after their shifts at The Root. The concept they developed was sort of an indoor food truck that served flavors from Bordón’s native country with a respect for the integrity of ingredients. It would be a spot with the cool, easy comfort of Midtown Billiards and the culinary quality of South on Main. Meaning it would be a perfect fit on the vibrant South Main strip that just keeps growing. As dreams do, the plan grew into much more than an indoor food truck. Dos Rocas is a restaurant with a full bar, and from the moment the doors opened, the place has been packed. Their journey here: Sundell’s epiphany came during a college trip to Missoula, Mont., when he found himself a repeat visitor to a cafe. He realized that many of his best times when traveling were centered on some sort
of restaurant; restaurant as gathering place, restaurant as microcosm of a city, restaurant as memory-maker. It was one of those moments when a seed was planted, a seed that ultimately changed the course of his life. Because of that light-bulb moment, Sundell ended up in the restaurant business. Corri Bristow-Sundell grew up around her grandparents’ homestead in East Texas, where they grew much of what went on the table between their huge garden and a variety of fruit and nut trees. She and her cousins would sell potatoes by the roadside. She eventually met Jack, not through OkCupid or Tinder, but through the Arkansas Sustainability Network, now known as the Arkansas Local Food Network. Kittrell works for Heifer International and has a passion for nonprofits. She grew up in the Ozarks on the family dairy farm. The Peace Corps took her to Paraguay, where she met Bordón. At the time, Bordón was working as a tomato harvester at his sister’s farm in the semi-rural town of Itá. His family also grew beans and mandioca (cassava); they had chickens and a milk cow. When the work was done, they would sip vino con coca in the
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11 CLEARWATER DR. LITTLE ROCK, AR 72204
501. 376. 2903 ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 33
Thanks for the Compliments!
CAKES · PASTRIES DESSERTS BREADS · COFFEE
Downtown 1200 Main (I-630 & Main) 375-6418 West Little Rock 270 S. Shackleford 224-1656
BEST DELI/GOURMET TO GO
DeLuca’s ’s Arkansas
831 Central Avenue • Hot Springs (501) 609-9002 • delucashotsprings.com DeLuca’s Pizzeria Napoletana
BEST CHEF AROUND THE STATE, BEST OVERALL RESTAURANT AROUND THE STATE, BEST PIZZA AROUND THE STATE, BEST RESTAURANT IN HOT SPRINGS
BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE.
“no skinny steaks.”
Best Steak in arkansas In The River Market District 501.324.2999 sonnywilliamssteakroom.com
Free Valet Parking 34 FEBRUARY 2019
shade of mango trees and chase that shade as it moved later into nightfall. Vino con coca is something of a miracle of place: While Paraguay cultivates yerba mate, a delicious caffeinated tea you can find in many grocery stores, it’s not exactly known for its wine. This 50/50 mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola over ice was dreamt up to elevate an ingredient, to make something exceptional out of something that was not. At Dos Rocas, it comes mixed with Mexican Coke and is garnished with lemon. Its uniqueness lies in this unlikely marriage of flavors. If you imagine it syrupy and overly sweet or highly acidic, you’d be wrong. Instead, it’s why you’ll want to go back, especially as the weather warms. It’s something like a sangria but more savory, more refreshing. It tastes like that first sip of something cold after a day of working up a sweat in the backyard. What Bordón brings to the table at Dos Rocas is what makes the restaurant unique: pastel de mandioca. Like an empanada or pupusa, this is a meat pie. The difference is in the dough. Instead of flour or corn masa cakes, it is made of yucca and is all the better for it. Yucca is gluten-free, but rich in starch, which could easily make for a very dense crust. Instead, the handhelds have a thin top and bottom crust holding a cooked-down concoction of ground beef, green peppers, onion, egg and plenty of cumin. Dos Rocas also offers vegan chorizo and cheese pasteles. If you aren't vegan, order them regardless; the cheese stretches like a good Havarti and the flavor remains incredible. Pickled onions are on the side; layer them between bites of your pastel for a punch of brightness. Bordón says this food is a tradition for him. His family would
best fries & best burger
Thank you Arkansas Times Readers for voting us BEST BURGER IN THE STATE, BEST BURGER, BEST FRIES, AND MOST FUN!
and finalist for
BEST CHEF, MOST FUN, & BEST GLUTEN FREE
Thank you Arkansas Times Readers
A PLACE FOR CERVEZAS AND PASTELES: Co-owner Corri Bristow-Sundell (standing) chats with a couple at Dos Rocas.
go to the market on Sundays and always grab one or two. No matter your order, whether you delve into the nopales (cactus) salad with avocado and a vinaigrette made from a beautiful chimichurri sauce or if you build a plate from the seven varieties of tacos offered with a side of simmering red beans, the food at Dos Rocas is classic street fare done remarkably well. And don’t miss dessert. Churros explode with cinnamon and sugar in every bite; the tres leches cake comes topped with delicious maraschino cherries made by Loblolly Creamery and is fit for a wedding. Bordón and Sundell were thinking cerveza when they came up with the Dos Rocas idea, and the restaurant comes through with 15 taps devoted to a rotation of local beers and a 16th tap devoted to Modelo Especial. There is also an array of Mexican and craft canned beers and a good selection of wines, predominantly from Chile and Argentina. The full bar maintains an impressive list of spirits and includes several types of rum, tequila, mezcal (made from oven-cooked agave), sotol (made from Desert Spoon, a cousin to agave prepared similarly to mezcal) and raicilla (a fermented agave spirit). Different flights are available for each. If cocktails are more your speed, try a caipirinha, a Brazilian classic. There’s no sour mix to be found. Only fresh juices are used for their margaritas and mojitos. The name Dos Rocas translates as “two rocks” and is an homage to Bordón because his life bridges two distinct places, Itá, Paraguay (which means “rock” in the native Guarani) and Little Rock. Cesar is still attached to his birthplace, and he takes his wife and
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FEBRUARY 2019 35
BEST HEALTHY BEST VEGETARIAN/ VEGAN
Building Community Through Local Food
1500 S. Main St. at 15th & Main Downtown 501.414.0423 therootcafe.com
BEST BURGER BEST DOG FRIENDLY BEST GLUTEN-FREE BEST BRUNCH
THINGS GO BETTER WITH: Vino con coca (upper left), which you can find along with tres leches cake, churros and pasteles at Dos Rocas.
36 FEBRUARY 2019
daughters to visit, to reconcile with that land, and so that they know their history more intimately; one of six children, he’s the only member of his family that no longer lives there. But that’s only part of the story of this place. The name tells another story, one about the two rocks that made this place a reality: two families connected through work and the foods that sustain all of us. This is the story of how food brings us all together, to the same table, and helps break apart those ideas that divide us. There’s a circular graphic at the back of the restaurant near the kitchen. Printed inside it is the word “E’a.” In Paraguay, it can mean a lot of things depending on the context and the inflection of the speaker. The intention at Dos Rocas is “wow,” and that’s just what the owners hope you’ll say when you walk out the door. ♦
How Sweet It Is! (To Be Loved By You)
AND THE WINNERS ARE... OVERALL
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Petit & Keet Finalists: Big Orange, The Pantry, Samantha’s Tap Room, South on Main
E AT S & S W E E T S
(501) 842-2123 · 290 MAIN STREET · KEO
BEST PIE AROUND THE STATE
AROUND THE STATE Winner: DeLuca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), Local Lime (Rogers), Mike’s Place (Conway), Wunderhaus (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Dos Rocas Finalists: Cathead’s Diner, Poke Hula, Sauce(d), Watercolor in the Park AROUND THE STATE Winner: Local Lime (Rogers) Finalists: 501 Prime (Hot Springs), Grateful Head Pizza (Hot Springs), Katmandu Momo (Conway), SQZBX (Hot Springs)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Scott McGehee (Big Orange, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., Local Lime, Lost Forty, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.) Finalists: Matthew Bell (South on Main), Steven Binotti (Petit & Keet), Peter Brave (Brave New Restaurant), Payne Harding (Cache) AROUND THE STATE Winner: Anthony Valinoti (DeLuca’s Pizzeria, Hot Springs) Finalists: Matthew Cooper (The Preacher’s Son, Bentonville), Michael Dampier (The Ohio Club, Hot Springs), Matthew McClure (The Hive, Bentonville), Jacqueline Smith (WunderHaus, Conway)
We Have The #1 Customers In The State!
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Community Bakery Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Dempsey Bakery, Honey Pies, Rosalia’s Family Bakery AROUND THE STATE Winner: PattiCakes Bakery (Conway) Finalists: Ambrosia Bakery (Hot Springs), Julie’s Sweet Shoppe & Bakery (Conway), Rick’s Bakery (Fayetteville), Serenity Farm Bread (Leslie)
Continued on page 42
AROUND THE STATE:
Open Daily at 11am 7 Days A Week 210 Central Ave. Hot Springs 501.318.6054
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH BEST DESSERTS BEST DOG FRIENDLY BEST GLUTEN FREE BEST HEALTHY BEST OTHER ETHNIC, BEST WINE LIST BEST RESTAURANT IN HOT SPRINGS
AROUND THE STATE: BEST VEGETARIAN
FEBRUARY 2019 37
GRATEFUL HEAD: It's a long, strange trip through the labyrinthian courtyard, gazebo and stairways of this pizzeria and beer garden. Shown here: The Psychedelic Supreme.
THE MILE-PIE CLUB HOT SPRINGS IS SWIFTLY BECOMING A POLESTAR FOR PIZZA.
By STEPHANIE SMITTLE Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
xactly 3 miles along state Highway 7 separate Rod’s Pizza Cellar and Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Beer Garden. If you were to walk that line — about an hour on foot on mostly flat terrain, Google Maps tells us — you’d pass Rocky’s Corner, SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint and DeLuca’s Pizzeria along the way. Those five joints are adding another identity to the Spa City’s multiple personality: as a pizza town.
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DOE’S KNOWS LUNCH & DINNER. Lunch: Mon- Fri 11am-2pm Dinner: Mon-Thur 5-9pm • Fri & Sat 5-10pm FULL BAR & PRIVATE PARTY ROOM BEST STEAK
LIKE THE OLD COUNTRY: Anthony Valinoti's creations at DeLuca's, like the Mozzarella di Buffala, are the closest you'll get to Naples on Hot Springs' Bathhouse Row.
1023 West Markham • Downtown Little Rock 501-376-1195 • www.doeseatplace.net
Same Great Restaurant, Same Great Chefs, Same Great Food...2 new team members! DAVE BISCEGLIA, General Manager • RICARDO RINCON, Chef de Cuisine HAIDAR ASSEGAF, Sushi Chef • GILBERT ALAQUINEZ, Executive Chef
DELUCA’S PIZZERIA 831 CENTRAL AVE. | 501-609-9002
Pizza dough can be as volatile as the stock market, and nobody knows that better than Anthony Valinoti. Fueled by wanderlust both personal and professional, the boisterous former Wall Street broker took some onsite training in Naples and opened a pizzeria in the Park Avenue District of Hot Springs. Valinoti fashioned his recipes after his memories of Brooklyn’s Di Fara Pizza, a spot in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood he visited as a child. It caught on — big. Since last fall, Valinoti’s Napoletana charred-crust pies, antipasto, cannoli and salads have taken up residence in a primo spot on Central Avenue. It’s not the cheapest pie in town, and it’s sold a scant four days a week, but some things are worth going to a little trouble for.
GRATEFUL HEAD PIZZA OVEN & BEER GARDEN 100 EXCHANGE ST. | 501-781-3405
This offshoot of Grateful Head’s original location in Hochatown, Okla., would be worth seeing even if you didn’t eat a bite. Just off Bathhouse Row on Exchange Street, a labyrinthian courtyard networks a web of pavilions and pathways alongside the wooded cliffs of Hot Springs National Park. Inside, the building is similarly maze-like; tiny rooms with low ceilings and winding stairways link the upstairs bar and dining room to a lower floor that feels as much a speakeasy as a pizzeria, with sections of tiled wall, a lusty mural of barely clad women among nests of ferns, stained glass light fixtures and decorative nods to both Captain Trips and old Hot Springs. Craft beers from Spa City breweries like Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Bubba’s Brews are routinely on tap rotation, and the pizza is solid, brawny bar fare.
2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. • Little Rock, AR 72205 • (501) 660-4100 KemuriRestaurant.com
Serving THE BEST steaks and hot tamales in the Arkansas Delta.
Come visit our charming location nestled in the Eldridge barn located on Highway 33 in Gregory, Arkansas just south of Augusta.
BEST STEAK AROUND THE STATE
Tamale Factory Southern Restaurant • Steakhouse
19751 Highway 33 • Augusta, Arkansas • (870) 347-1350
FEBRUARY 2019 39
TKO: Rocky's Corner's spot across from Oaklawn makes for top-notch people-watching. Here: the Undisputed Rocky's Corner Champ pizza.
k n a h T You! Thank you Arkansas! We are here for you and are ALWAYS 100% Gluten, Wheat, Soy and Nut-Free!
BEST GLUTEN FREE
CENTRAL AVENUE WARHORSE: Rod's Pizza Cellar is a relic and a family affair, serving up such favorites as the BBQ pie.
323Thank S Cross Little Rock youSt, Arkansas! (501) 375-2257 ∙ dempseybakery.com We are here for you and are ALWAYS 100% Gluten, Wheat, Soy and Nut-Free! 323 Cross St., Little Rock Phone: 501.375.2257 dempseybakery.com
FROM OUR TEAM! We look forward to seeing you at our brand new location on Chenal across from Kroger.
27 Rahling Circle | (501) 821-1838 www.arthursprimesteakhouse.com
WEST LITTLE ROCK’S FAVORITE HOT SPOT
Guests love the fresh seafood and inspiring sushi that is known throughout the city as Chef Alex’s Sushi.
40 FEBRUARY 2019
PIANO SHOP TURNED PIZZERIA: Zac Smith and Cheryl Roorda's SQZBX Pizza Joint & Brewery is a labor of love. The Meathead pie is at right.
ROCKY’S CORNER 2300 CENTRAL AVE. | 501-624-0199
Rocky’s Corner is about as unpretentious as they come, and the fact that it sits directly across Central Avenue from Oaklawn Racing & Gaming — and has since 1982 — makes for some first-rate people-watching. Sunburned daytrippers in flip-flops and quick-dry swim trunks stagger in the front door from Lake Hamilton. Oaklawn-burned gamblers sidle up to the bar in the back, their winnings more commensurate with a celebratory pitcher of Bud than a cucumber martini at The Waters Hotel. (On a recent visit, our basket of chicken wings — don’t knock ’em ’til you try ’em — were consumed to the shrill soundtrack of day-drunk, giggling barflies, one of whom had evidently scored some portable source of helium.) The beer at Rocky’s is consistently a perfect icy cold, and the Italian beef sandwiches come piping hot, served with hot or sweet peppers and named, like the pizzas, after boxing moves: “The Jab,” “The Upper Cut,” The Right Cross,” “The TKO.”
Come enjoy delicious culinary works while taking in great works of art.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Lunch: Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. • Sunday Brunch: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Located inside the breathtaking Arkansas Arts Center • 501 E. 9th Street www.watercolorlr.com • 501-396-0390
ROD’S PIZZA CELLAR 3350 CENTRAL AVE. | 501-321-2313
Like a mulish bastion of ’80s interior decor and wall-mounted televisions, Rod’s Pizza Cellar set up shop on the Fourth of July in 1975 and has maintained a family-friendly following for its “Godfather” deep-dish style pizza, along with meaty menu companions. Boutique pie it is not, but Rod’s fare is sturdy stuff, with small-batch sauces and cheese sliced in-house. This old warhorse’s lunch buffet fills the parking lot on weekdays, and the list of pie varieties — the Leonardo, the Taco Pizza, the Razorbaccio, the Godmother — recall a time when middle America needed their Italian food packaged in fun, recognizable terms, and when mom-and-pop pizza joints in Arkansas were few and far between.
SQZBX BREWERY & PIZZA JOINT 236 OUACHITA AVE. | 501-609-0609
In 2017, Cheryl Roorda and Zachary Smith — the two idiosyncratic halves of the polka duo Itinerant Locals — put aside their helicon and accordion for a few moments to prioritize a new venture: lovingly restoring an old piano shop on Ouachita Avenue and transforming it into a sleek pizzeria and brewery. Sandwiched between the other chapters of Roorda and Smith’s business portfolio — solar-powered community radio station KUHSFM, 102.5, and the newly spruced-up Starlite Club — SQZBX serves pies for vegans and carnivores alike, sub sandwiches, garlicky bread knots and tank-to-tap beers brewed by Smith in the purist German Reinheitsgebot style (no infusions, no additions). Architectural and stylistic details abound: Giant neon letters spell out SQZBX in the historic spot’s transom windows, offbeat custom glassware serves as brew vessel, and retired accordions and piano parts gesture warmly to the place’s origins. ♦
PRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PROFESSIONALS
BEST MEXICAN AROUND THE STATE
1209 Malvern Avenue • Hot Springs • (501) 624-6262 • www.tacomama.net ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 41
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2019 READERS CHOICE WINNERS FROM
Star of India Restaurant and Bar
Continued from page 37
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Whole Hog Cafe Finalists: Corky’s BBQ, H.B.’s Bar-B-Q, Lost 40, Sims Bar-B-Que AROUND THE STATE Winner: Fat Daddy’s Bar-B-Que (Conway) Finalists: Craig’s Bar-B-Q (DeValls Bluff), Hog Pen BBQ (Conway), Penguin Ed’s Bar-BQue (Fayetteville), Wright’s BBQ (Johnson)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: @ the Corner Finalists: Lost Forty Brewing, Raduno, Red Door, The Root Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Pressroom (Bentonville) Finalists: The Arlington Hotel (Hot Springs), Arsaga’s at the Depot (Fayetteville), WunderHaus (Conway), ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Star of India Restaurant and Bar Finalists: Cathead’s Diner, Franke’s Cafeteria, Golden Corral, Tokyo House
©2019 BEAM SUNTORY INC. CHICAGO, IL. ALL TRADEMARKS ARE THE PROPERTY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS. 42 FEBRUARY 2019
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Dondie’s White River Princess (Des Arc) Finalists: Abe’s Ole Feed House (Benton), Brown’s Catfish (Russellville), Golden Corral (Conway) Continued on page 44
Thanks For Voting For Us!
Thank You to Our Loyal Fans for Voting 2019 Arkansas Times Reader’s Choice Award Winner: Best Business Lunch around the State Best Steak around the State Best Restaurant in Conway
Finalist: Best Restaurant Overall around the State Best Seafood around the State Best Wine List around the State DELI/GOURMET TO GO
BEST CATERER Hours: 9-6 Mon-Fri • 10-5 Sat 8121 Cantrell Rd. • Across from Pavilion in the Park 501-614-9030
A Loyal US Foods® Customer | Proudly Sponsored by
GOOD OL’ ARKANSAS BBQ From Bar-B-Que to Burritos or Steaks to Salads...at any of Fat Daddy’s three locations, you’re sure to find what your family or friends are looking for.
LET US CATER YOUR NEXT EVENT!
BEST BARBECUE AROUND THE STATE (CONWAY)
LONDON,7206 U.S. 64, (479) 967-1273 • RUSSELLVILLE, 104 North Denver, (479) 967-0420 CONWAY • 1004 Oak Street • (501) 358-6363 • www.fatdaddysbarbque.com
FEBRUARY 2019 43
BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE
Open for Dinner 5 pm to 9pm Every Night
BEST RESTAURANT IN EUREKA SPRINGS
Thank you Arkansas for voting us the Best Restaurant in Eureka Springs! Award Winning Ermilio’s is family friendly, with dozens of authentic Italian choices served in a casual, comfortable, just-like-home atmosphere. No reservations are taken… Come as you are!
26 White Street • Eureka Springs Located on the upper Historic Loop, old Highway 62B, just a few short blocks from the Crescent Hotel. www.ermilios.com
Big Orange Continued from page 42
Finalists: Paul’s Meat Market (Fort Smith), Richard’s Meat Market (Fayetteville)
NOW PLAYING! LITTLE ROCK Winner: Big Orange Finalists: David’s Burgers, District Fare, Petit & Keet, The Root Cafe
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Big Orange (Rogers) Finalists: CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers (Russellville), David’s Burgers (Conway), Hugo’s (Fayetteville), The Ohio Club (Hot Springs)
EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY BUSINESS LUNCH 8P.M. AT
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Cache Restaurant Finalists: Brave New Restaurant, Capital Bar & Grill, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill, Three Fold Noodles & Dumpling Co.
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Eat My Catfish Finalists: Doe’s Eat Place, Flying Fish, Lassis Inn, Soul Fish Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Eat My Catfish (Benton) Finalists: Bubba’s Catfish (Hot Springs), The Catfish Hole (Fayetteville), Flying Fish (Bentonville), Woods Place (Camden)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Fantastic China Finalists: Chi’s Asian Cafe and Sushi Bar, Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking, Fu Lin Chinese Restaurant, Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.
IN ARGENTA THRU MARCH 30 Tickets: 372-0205 or
NOW PLAYING! EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY 8P.M. AT
IN ARGENTA THRU MARCH 30 Tickets: 372-0205 or TheJointArgenta.com 44 FEBRUARY 2019
AROUND THE STATE Winner:TheJointArgenta.com Mike’s Place (Conway) Finalists: Arsaga’s at the Depot (FayAROUND THE STATE etteville), Big Orange (Rogers), The Hive Winner: China Town (Conway) (Bentonville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Finalists: Mulan (Conway), Jade China Springs) Restaurant (Conway), Madame Wu’s Hunan Restaurant (Russellville), Oriental BUTCHER Gardens (El Dorado) LITTLE ROCK Winner: District Fare COFFEE Finalists: Edwards Food Giant, Fresh MarLITTLE ROCK ket, Hogg’s Meat Market Winner: River City Coffee Finalists: Blue Sail Coffee; Boulevard Bread AROUND THE STATE Co.; Guillermo’s Coffee, Tea & Roastery; Winner: Weldon’s Meat Market (Hot Mylo Coffee Co. Springs) Continued on page 46
Congratulations To All The 2019 Readers Choice Award Winners and Finalists. READERS
A ARDS SPONSOR 2019
FEBRUARY 2019 45
“…a classy, romantic restaurant and a must for all.” – Anazeteo, TripAdvisor
District Fare Continued from page 44
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Blue Sail Coffee (Conway), Finalists: Arsaga’s Fayetteville Coffee Roasters (Fayetteville), Jitterbug Coffeehouse (Heber Springs), Kollective Koffee (Hot Springs), Onyx Coffee Lab (Fayetteville)
DELI/GOURMET TO GO
LITTLE ROCK Winner: District Fare Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Catering to You, Community Bakery, Jason’s Deli
PASTAS • SEAFOOD • STEAKS
BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE BEST SEAFOOD AROUND THE STATE BEST RESTAURANT IN HOT SPRINGS
BEST WINE LIST AROUND THE STATE
We are proud to serve the finest authentic Indian food for the last 26 years. We think you’re the best!
46 FEBRUARY 2019
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Loblolly Creamery Finalists: Cache, Honey Pies, Petit & Keet, Trio’s
104 Grand Isle Way, Hot Springs www.lunabellahotsprings.com • 501-520-5862
301 N Shackleford Rd. Little Rock 501-227-9900 lrstarofindia.com
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs) Finalists: Cross Creek Sandwich Shop (Conway), Mean Bean Cafe (Conway), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot)
BEST BUFFET BEST INDIAN
AROUND THE STATE Winner: PattiCakes Bakery (Conway) Finalists: Arsaga’s at the Depot (Fayetteville), The Hive (Bentonville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), WunderHaus (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Bark Bar Finalists: Fassler Hall, The Fold: Botanas and Bar, The Root Cafe, U.S. Pizza Hillcrest AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Apple Blossom Brewery (Fayetteville), Crepes Paulette (Bentonville), The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs)
Continued on page 48
R A B B E T C U S E B EARS & COUNT E ING!
Y 8 1
Little Rock • West Little Rock • North Little Rock • Bryant • Conway Searcy • Fort Smith • Bentonville • Fayetteville
BEST BARBECUE ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 47
Continued from page 46
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Delta Biscuit Co. Finalists: Excaliburger, Katmandu MoMo, Loblolly Creamery, Samantha’s Taqueria II AROUND THE STATE Winner: Hot Rod Wieners (Austin) Finalists: Big D’s BBQ and Catfish (Russellville), Crepes Paulette (Bentonville), Truckin’ Delicious (Fort Smith), Wild Ginger (Conway)
FRENCH FRIES Delta Biscuit Co.
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Big Orange Finalists: @ the Corner, Buffalo Grill, David’s Burgers, The Pantry Crest AROUND THE STATE Winner: Big Orange (Rogers) Finalists: David’s Burgers (Conway), Eat My Catfish (Benton), Feltner’s Whatta-Burger (Russellville), Hugo’s (Fayetteville)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken Finalists: Cathead’s Diner, Flint’s Just Like Mom’s, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Maddie’s Place
48 FEBRUARY 2019
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Holly’s Country Cooking (Conway) Finalists: A.Q. Chicken House (Fayetteville), Monte Ne Inn (Rogers), Old South Restaurant (Russellville), Slim Chickens (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Dave & Buster’s Finalists: Big Orange, Fassler Hall, The Fold: Botanas and Bar, Petit & Keet AROUND THE STATE Winner: Big Orange (Rogers) Finalists: Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse (Eureka Springs), The Hive (Bentonville), The Ohio Club (Hot Springs), Silks Bar and Grill at Oaklawn (Hot Springs)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Dempsey Bakery Finalists: Baja Grill, Big Orange, The Root Cafe, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Hideaway Pizza (Conway), The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs) Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Bentonville)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: The Root Cafe Finalists: Poke Hula, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co., ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), WunderHaus (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Homer’s Restaurant Finalists: Bobby’s Country Cookin’, Cathead’s Diner, Franke’s Cafeteria, Soul Fish Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Holly’s Country Cooking (Conway) Finalists: Hole in the Wall (Conway), Old South Restaurant (Russellville), Wagon Wheel Restaurant (Greenbrier)
ICE CREAM/COOL TREATS
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Loblolly Creamery Finalists: Le Pops Gourmet Iced Lollies, Kilwins, Shake’s Frozen Custard, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.
AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Andy’s Frozen Custard (Conway), Daisy Queen (Marshall), Frozen Delite (Searcy), Las Delicias (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Star of India Restaurant and Bar Finalists: Banana Leaf Indian Cuisine, The Indian Feast, Saffron, Taj Mahal
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Bruno’s Little Italy Finalists: Cafe Prego, Ciao, Raduno, Ristorante Capeo AROUND THE STATE Winner: Pasta Grill (Conway) Finalists: Bocca Italian eatery & pizzeria (Fayetteville), DeLuca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs), Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking (Eureka Springs), Luna Bella (Hot Springs)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Kemuri Finalists: Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, Mt. Fuji Japanese Restaurant, Sekisui, Sushi Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Umami Sushi Lounge & Grill Fusion (Conway) Continued on page 50
Little Rock’s dining and craft beverage scene is on the rise. Whether enjoying a romantic dinner for two, using our Locally Labeled Passport program to sample our city’s ever-expanding offerings of ales, wines and spirits, or savoring the amazing flavors local chefs are creating, there’s never been a better time to enjoy great food and drink in Little Rock.
IN GREATER LITTLE ROCK
Choose from more than 500 restaurants > Visit LittleRock.com Local Lime ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 49
THANKS FOR VOTING US AMONG THE BEST! From salads to our world famous Hamburgers, our pub snacks are a must on your night out! Kitchen is open daily 11am -10pm and open till midnight on the weekends.
BEST BURGER AROUND THE STATE BEST CHEF AROUND THE STATE, MICHAEL DAMPIER MOST FUN AROUND THE STATE
THE BEST NIGHT IN TOWN
501.627.0702 • 336 Central Ave • Hot Springs • theohioclub.com
Taqueria El Palenque Continued from page 49
Finalists: A1 Sushi (Hot Springs), Fuji’s (Conway), Meiji Japanese Cuisine (Fayetteville), Sumo Sushi and Steak (Bryant)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Local Lime Finalists: The Fold: Botanas and Bar, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Taqueria El Palenque AROUND THE STATE Winner: Local Lime (Rogers) Finalists: El Acapulco (Conway), La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant (Hot Springs), Table Mesa (Bentonville), Taco Mama (Hot Springs)
LITTLE ROCK’S MOST AWARD-WINNING RESTAURANT 1619 Rebsamen Rd. 501.663.9734 • thefadedrose.com
Southern Cooking At Its Best thanks for the votes! 120 HARKRIDER, CONWAY • 501.328.9738 50 FEBRUARY 2019
LITTLE ROCK Winner: kBird Finalists: Buenos Aires Grill and Cafe, Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: WunderHaus (Conway) Finalists: A Taste of Thai (Fayetteville), Katmandu Momo (Conway), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs) Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Bentonville)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: U.S. Pizza Hillcrest Finalists: Brave New Restaurant, Buenos Aires Grill and Cafe, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Petit & Keet
CAFETERIA-STYLE • FRIENDLY SERVICE • CONSISTENTLY GOOD FOOD
Monday through Friday 11am - 2pm
BEST FRIED CHICKEN BEST PIE AROUND THE BEST HOME COOKIN’ AROUND THE STATE STATE,AROUND THE STATE
Continued on page 52
MEAT MAR S ’ N O D K L E E T “QUALITY TELLS, QUALITY SELLS” W Thank you so much to our loyal customers for voting us the best! — Tom and Charla Starnes 3911 CENTRAL AVE. • HOT SPRINGS (501) 525-2487
BEST BUTCHER AROUND THE STATE ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 51
Rocks! East + West = Modern Fusion The Happiest Hour 5-7! 5823 Kavanaugh The Heights 501-663-9888
SUSHI CAFE WEST
11211 CANTRELL ROAD, #120 • 501-954-7866 sushicafe
Honey Pies Continued from page 50
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Honey Pies Finalists: @ the Corner, Alley Oops, Petit & Keet, Soul Fish Cafe
BEST JAPANESE FOOD
BEST CHINESE FOOD
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets (Keo) Finalists: Fork and Crust (Rogers), Holly’s Country Cookin’ (Conway), PattiCakes (Conway), Stoby’s Restaurant (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. Finalists: Damgoode Pies, Pizza Cafe, Raduno, U.S. Pizza
Authentic Sichuan Cuisine and Cantonese Dim Sum served daily
Catering • Take Out • Delivery CHI’S FINE CHINESE CUISINE 1 7 2 0 0 C H E N A L PA R K WA Y • L I T T L E R O C K 501-821-8000 3421 OLD CANTRELL RD • LITTLE ROCK 501-916-9973 MON-SUN 11AM-9:30PM chisasiancafe 52 FEBRUARY 2019
AROUND THE STATE Winner: DeLuca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs) Finalists: Hideaway Pizza (Conway), Rocky’s Corner (Hot Springs), SQZBX (Hot Springs), Tommy’s Famous (Mountain View)
PLACE FOR KIDS
LITTLE ROCK Winner: All Aboard Finalists: Big Orange, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Dave & Buster’s, Purple Cow
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Boulevard Bread Co. Finalists: Burges, District Fare, Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches, Paninis and Co.
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Cross Creek Sandwich Shop (Conway) Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Patio Cafe (Conway), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Flying Fish Finalists: Cache, Kemuri, Petit & Keet, Soul Fish Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Eat My Catfish (Conway) Finalists: Luna Bella (Hot Springs) Mike’s Place (Conway), Postmasters Grill (Camden), Who Dat’s Cajun Restaurant (Bald Knob)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Doe’s Eat Place Finalists: Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse, Faded Rose, Petit & Keet, Sonny Williams’ Steak Room AROUND THE STATE Winner: Mike’s Place (Conway) Finalists: Herman’s Rib House (Fayetteville), Postmasters Grill (Camden), Tamale Factory (Gregory), Taylor’s Steakhouse (Dumas)
Continued on page 54
Fresh 32 Beers & 20 Wines On Sam’s Tap and Great Food! Good Times! simple. Fresh
Open Kitchen | Wood Grills | Full Bar
We use only the freshest ingredients, and vegetables and products from Arkansas.
322 Main St. (The Mann on Main)
w w w. s a m s t a p . c o m
Open Kitchen | Wood Grills | Full Bar
32 Open BeersKitchen & 20| Wines On Sam’s Tap Wood Grills | Full Bar
Great Food! Good Times! 32 Beers & 20 Wines On Sam’s Tap Great Food! Good Times!
We use only the freshest ingredients, We use only the freshest ingredients, Wevegetables use only the freshest ingredients, vegetables and products from Arkansas. and products from Arkansas. vegetables and products from Arkansas.
Main St. (The Mann on Main) 322322 Main St. (The Mann on Main)
((501) 916-9613 501) 379-8019
(501) w w w. s a916-9613 mstap.com
w w w. s a m s t a p . c o m
BEST OVERALL RESTAURANT, BEST BUSINESS LUNCH BEST WINE LIST ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 53
One of the state’s oldest restaurants still in the same location and one of the best for catfish and buffalo fish.
LASSIS INN 518 E 27th St • Little Rock (501) 372-8714
The Root Cafe Continued from page 52
LITTLE ROCK Winner: The Root Cafe Finalists: Cafe Bossa Nova, The Fold: Botanas and Bar, Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co., ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. AROUND THE STATE Winner: Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), Preacher’s Son (Bentonville), Local Flavor Cafe (Eureka Springs), ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Petit & Keet Finalists: One Eleven, The Pantry Crest, Samantha’s Taproom and Wood Grill, SO Restaurant-Bar
Thank You! Come taste what you’ve been missing!
BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE (CONWAY)
Downtown Conway 915 Front Street | 501-205-8751 Downtown Russellville Downtown Van Buren 319 West Main | 479-747-1707 810 Main Street | 479-262-6225 pastagrillrestaurant.com 54 FEBRUARY 2019
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Luna Bella (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), Mike’s Place (Conway), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville)
LITTLE ROCK Winner: TCBY Finalists: I Love Juice Bar, Scoop Dog, Tropical Smoothie, Yogurt Mountain
Continued on page 65
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
BRINGING MORE THAN JUST FOOD TO YOUR TABLE
Ben E. Keith has established itself as a broadline foodservice distributor ... but with
of a small business.
SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN 1906, the Ben E. Keith Company has understood the importance of making the communities it serves better places to live. Benjamin Ellington Keith was the first salesman hired for the Harkrider Morrison Company, a produce company in Fort Worth, Texas. Keith took ownership of the company in 1924 and developed partnerships that the company maintains today, including one with Anheuser-Busch after Keith met Adolphus Busch in 1928. The company has been expanding and breaking new ground ever since, and with eight locations in the United States, Ben E. Keith has established itself as a broadline foodservice distributor with the resources of a national company, but the care and spirit of a small business.
BEN E. KEITH MID-SOUTH calls a 429,302 square-foot campus in North Little Rock home. This distribution center serves the entire state of Arkansas and portions of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, and itâ€™s a facility that was built with a commitment to Ben E. Keith customers and to the future of the communities the company serves. The Ben E. Keith Mid-South Distribution Center, including the warehouse, is LEED Silver Certified through the U.S. Green Building Council, which means sustainability and public health were top priorities in the design and construction of the facility, and they remain priorities in the day-to-day operations of the center.
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
COMPLEMENTS OF BEN E. KEITH
“We’re still about the people, which makes us about the
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
customer.” — Rusty Mathis, general manager of Ben E. Keith Mid-South.
BEN E. KEITH FOODS UNDERSTANDS its customers’ needs, and the Mid-South Distribution
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
Center was built to meet and exceed them. Starting in the administrative offices, customers know they’re speaking with a real person when they call Mid-South’s local buying staff, because Ben E. Keith Foods wants to be the local choice. Yvette Parker, director of marketing for Ben E. Keith Foods Mid-South, said calls are not outsourced to an offcampus call center, but instead received by onsite employees who are able to help customers find solutions quickly and efficiently. “We hear all of the time how reassuring it is for our customers to know that most anything can be solved in a single call,” Parker said. And at the Mid-South Distribution Center, collaborative working environments — assessed and approved by the Herman Miller Living Office workplace concept — encourage teamwork and transparency among the staff, ensuring that customers are served by a team that’s happy to come to work and communicates and coordinates to best serve their customers. Rusty Mathis, general manager of Ben E. Keith Mid-South, said people are at the center of what the company does. “We’re named after an individual and we’re still family-owned,” Mathis said. “We’re still about the people, which makes us about the customer.” It’s this emphasis on the humanity of the customers they serve and the people they employ that sets Ben E. Keith Foods apart.
The Mid-South Distribution Center is home
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
to a full-time health care specialist.
WHEN CUSTOMERS WORK WITH BEN E. KEITH FOODS, they’re working with a team of people dedicated to helping them succeed, but not just in distribution. The Mid-South Distribution Center is home to a full-time health care specialist and dietician who offers nutritional analysis, child care programs and menu automation services; a full-time technology specialist who offers onsite and over-the-phone training with the company’s online ordering system, ACH payment system and route tracker; and a special ordering partner with access to over 40,000 products, including organic, gluten-free, GMO-free and local products. They also offer a menu solution program, menu development, and menu engineering and design, and their experts in produce, dairy, seafood, pork, beef, poultry, paper goods, chemicals, equipment and supplies are available to help customers with their specific needs.
THE MID-SOUTH DISTRIBUTION CENTER
is also cooking up solutions for customers in the facility’s test kitchen. Their onsite chef leads cooking demonstrations, helps with menu planning and works to produce countless combinations of the products that Ben E. Keith Foods offers. The test kitchen is also used for employee and community gatherings as a common space to congregate, eat and learn. Customers can reserve the test kitchen to use for training purposes or demonstrations as well. A live feed from the test kitchen can also be streamed into the large conference room on the facility’s first floor, which was built to offer a space for customers and community partners to lead meetings, trainings and demonstrations. The space was designed to accommodate different types and sizes of groups, so it can be split into three rooms or used as one large space. The Mid-South Distribution Center was built to help support customers’ businesses because Ben E. Keith Foods knows that when its customers succeed, communities succeed, too.
Ben E. Keith Foods knows that when customers succeed, communities
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
CUSTOMER SUCCESS DEPENDS
on their orders being delivered safely and on time. Food safety is a top priority for Ben E. Keith Foods, and the Mid-South Distribution Center has a 99.28% food-safety audit score to prove it. The warehouse facility is audited every year by a thirdparty auditor, and it is certified to a food-safety standard recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative. “The audit itself is a two-day review where every process that we have is verified as documented, current and signed,” said Michael Roach, director of operations. “All paperwork from receiving and shipping is reviewed for accuracy. The facility inside and out is inspected for cleanliness and maintenance upkeep. We are graded on standard operating procedures’ accuracy, documentation, involvement of the entire organization, code dates and temperatures of food and storage areas: the cold chain.” That 99.28% score means customers can be assured that the cold chain is protected and they are receiving only the highest quality products. “Food safety is paramount to us, and we believe that it should be paramount for our customers as well,” Mathis said. As general manager of Ben E. Keith Foods Mid-South, Mathis said that “in today’s environment, you hear about all the product recalls, and we want to protect the food all the way into the customer’s establishment. In fact, we consult with them on the best ways for them to store their products.” In addition to food safety and handling consultations with customers, Ben E. Keith Foods also sponsors and hosts ServSafe courses.
“Food safety is paramount to us, and we believe that it should be paramount for our customers as well.” — Rusty Mathis
THE MID-SOUTH DISTRIBUTION CENTER
“We are intentionally different about how we go to market, different than your average wholesaler.” — Rusty Mathis
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
was built with customer success in mind, and Ben E. Keith Foods understands that customer success depends on access to quality products. “We are intentionally different about how we go to market, different than your average wholesaler,” Mathis said. “One of our go-to market strategies is offering brands our customers know and prefer, which means we still offer a lot of nationally branded products, along with our exclusive brands and private label.” That’s why they’ve expanded their product offerings to include thousands of brands, including Kraft, Heinz, Pillsbury, McCormick, Tyson, Kellogg’s, Rubbermaid, Solo and many more, as well as the Ben E. Keith Foods exclusive brands and private labels, like the Essentials, Homestyle and Ellington Farm brands.
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
IN ORDER TO HOUSE those expanded
brand offerings, the 350,132 square-foot warehouse facility at the Mid-South Distribution Center was built with room to grow and room for Ben E. Keith customers’ businesses to grow. Parker, the Mid-South director of marketing, said the large facility will allow for customers to have more choices in their own businesses. “With this new large warehouse, we are able to source and bring in more items to expand the number of items we have, not only in quantity, but in diversity of items,” she said. The technology at work in the warehouse ensures efficient, accurate order retrieval through the automated storage and retrieval system. The ASRS in the dry storage and freezer areas has a combined 19,000 locations. “Instead of dedicating an entire pallet or rack space for an item across the warehouse, it condenses the storage area by putting the product on trays and going up into the air,” Roach, director of operations, said. All day every day, every time an order is placed for one of those items, it rotates locations around so that any of those potential items are stocked at the ground level for a selector. This allows us to carry more items and more choices for our customers.” The ASRS has also allowed the warehouse facility to open the selection of products for restaurants, such as special menu ingredients and specific utensils or tableware.
new large warehouse, we are able to source and bring in more items to expand the number of items we have, not only in quantity, but in diversity of items.” — Yvette Parker, Mid-South director of marketing
KAREN E. SEGRAVE
AS A BROADLINE FOODSERVICE DISTRIBUTOR, “We have full control
over the maintenance and welfare of our vehicles.” — Rusty Mathis
FOR BEN E. KEITH FOODS, customer service doesn’t stop on the doorstep. Its delivery drivers ensure customers’ needs are met accurately, on time, and with care. Ben E. Keith customers are happy customers because this dedication to service reaches beyond the threshold of customers’ businesses. “We buy from Ben E. Keith because they offer the freshest products available. We have a knowledgeable salesman, and their deliveries are on time,” said Steve Binotti, executive chef of Petit & Keet.
BEN E. KEITH MID-SOUTH DIVISION 1 Ben E. Keith Way North Little Rock, AR 72117 501-978-5000 BRIAN CHILSON
Ben E. Keith Foods depends on its drivers and vehicles to ensure employees and their orders arrive safely at their destinations. That’s why Mid-South’s Truck Maintenance Garage is a one-stop destination for truck drivers. Complete with a fueling island, a truck wash and eight mechanic bays, the Truck Maintenance Garage allows for drivers to have all their needs met in one place. “We have full control over the maintenance and welfare of our vehicles, which is very important to us, for the comforts of our drivers to their safety on the roadway,” Mathis said.
YVETTE PARKER Director of Marketing Ymparker@benekeith.com
YOUR FAVORITE FOR 6 YEARS
ARKANSAS TIMES READERS!
BEST FRIED CHICKEN
2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
(501) 372-2211 • 300 President Clinton Ave • www.gusfriedchicken.com
BUSINESS INSURANCE / EMPLOYEE BENEFITS PLANS AUTO & HOME / RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES
HOME GROWN Food just tastes better when the ingredients are local. Fresh – Creative – Original – Local. Congratulations to all our clients on achieving the Reader’s Choice Award! MA-Lee is your locally sourced insurance broker option. Arkansas owned for the last 110 years. With a fresh and original approach that just works better. You are invited to taste the difference in how we operate. From our family to yours.
FRESH – CREATIVE – ORIGINAL – LOCAL.
Learn more at ma-lee.com or come have lunch with us in the River Market district. It could be the best lunch you have in 2019! ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 63
A ARDS SPONSOR 2019
64 FEBRUARY 2019
Thank you Arkansas Times Readers for voting us BEST MEXICAN IN THE STATE, BEST RESTAURANT, and our new Rogers, AR location as BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2019!
arkansas owned & operated for 7 years!
coastal-mex cuisine & cocktails
STREET-STYLE TACOS | CRAFT MARGARITAS AHI TUNA CEVICHE | FRESH SALADS ICE-COLD BEER | HOUSE-MADE DESSERTS ARTISAN COCKTAILS AND MUCH MORE
LOCAL LIME tacos + margaritas
arkansas rock owned & operated FOR 11 YEARS!
Eat My Catfish Continued from page 54
BEST RESTAURANTS IN AREAS AROUND THE STATE: BENTON/BRYANT Winner: Eat My Catfish Finalists: Brown’s Country Kitchen, Riviera Maya, Tacos 4 Life CONWAY Winner: Mike’s Place Finalists: Eat My Catfish, Hideway Pizza, Tacos 4 Life, Stoby’s Restaurant EUREKA SPRINGS Winner: Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking Finalists: Cafe Amore, Gaskins Cabin, Local Flavor, Mud Street Cafe
WOOD-FIRED PIZZA FARM FRESH SALADS HOMEMADE GELATO CRAFT BEER & WINE
THANK YOU Arkansas Times Readers for voting us BEST PIZZA, BEST HEALTHY FOOD IN THE STATE, BEST GLUTEN FREE, AND BEST COOL TREATS!
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PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY THROCKMORTON FINE ART
A JEWEL IN THE SHOW: Amy Sherald's "Wellfare Queen."
UA LITTLE ROCK SHOWS HOW AFRICAN-AMERICAN ARTISTS MAKE ART ‘ON THEIR OWN TERMS.’ By LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK 68 FEBRUARY 2019
he New York Herald writer who said in an article in 1867 that African Americans could not produce art was ignorant of the work of such talents as Edward Bannister, Robert Scott Duncanson, Charles Ethan Porter and Henry Ossawa Tanner. Even today, African-American artists are underrepresented in the collections of major American museums: An analysis by Artnet News published in September 2018 found that museum acquisitions of African-American art represent less than 3 percent of total purchases. Decades after Bannister, who, fired up over the Herald article, won in 1876 a spot in an important Philadelphia exhibition, there were museums that still turned blacks away at the door. (Philadelphia exhibitors almost removed the Bannister work when they discovered the artist was black.) UA Little Rock is, once again, proving the folly of ignoring African-American art, with the exhibition “On Their Own Terms,” which opened Jan. 17 at UA Little Rock’s Windgate Center of Art and Design. UA Little Rock gallery director Brad Cushman pulled together 50 works by some of America’s finest black artists — including Bannister, Duncanson, Porter and Tanner — for a show that celebrates the work of fine artists who share an affinity born of life experience. “On Their Own Terms” is not an investigation into whether there is such a thing as “black art.” That’s a question for philosophers. Black culture and racism is, understandably, central to these modern and contemporary works, as issues of social justice have always found expression in art. “On Their Own Terms” includes work from 13 collections, both public and private. The Arkansas Arts Center contributed 16 works, including a graphite drawing of a gaunt and beleaguered woman by the great Elizabeth Catlett, a charcoal portrait of a 19th century figure drawn on a circle of wood by contemporary artist Whitfield Lovell and a tall quilted portrait in pieced indigo denim by Bisa Butler. Darrell and Linda Walker contributed six works; six others are from UA Little Rock’s permanent collection. Besides paintings and textiles, the show includes prints, mixed media works and sculpture. Along with the historical paintings are modern works, including a jazzy expressionist collage by Benny Andrews and serigraph of musicians by Romare Bearden; and contem-
'BLACK JESUS': Robert Pruitt's conte and charcoal work is grouped with Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Christ at the Home of Mary."
'PORTRAIT OF A MODEL, STUDY 2': The artist, Benny Andrews, encouraged Aj Smith to take a job in Arkansas.
porary works, such as two large, forceful portraits of steely gazed men by Alfred Conteh; an amusing crayon and charcoal portrait by African-American identity commentator Kerry James Marshall; a book of silhouettes by narrative artist Kara Walker; a large oil stick drawing of a woman, absent her head, in 19th century garb by Whitfield Lovell; an ironic painting of a crowned woman by Michelle Obama portraitist Amy Sherald; and quilt artist Bisa Butler, as well as other stars in the firmament of black American artists. The Arkansans in the show — retired UA Little Rock instructors Aj Smith, Marjorie Williams-Smith and David Clemons; Justin Bryant of Little Rock; and former UA Little Rock instructor Delita Martin (who lives in Texas but is claimed by Arkansas) — hold their own with nationally lauded artists. In 2007, the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School, Cushman put on the exhibition “Taking Possession,” a show that highlighted black contemporary art by satirical painter Robert Colescott, sound-suit maker Nick Cave, mixed media sculptor Faith Ringgold, photographer Carrie Mae Weems and others. When the show went up, Cushman got a call from Darrell Walker, the former Razorback and pro basketball player and art collector (and now UA Little Rock basketball coach). “He said, ‘You’re putting all my friends in an exhibit and we should be friends,’ ” Cushman said, and the men began an 11-year conversation about art by African Americans. In 2017, Dr. Lynne Larson, assistant professor of art history at UA Little Rock, told Cushman she was going to teach a survey course on African-American art, and asked if he could curate an exhibition to support it. As it happened, Garbo Hearne, co-owner of Hearne Fine Art with her husband, Dr. Archie Hearne, had asked Cushman if he’d be interested in exhibiting works by Duncanson, Tanner and other early black pioneers at UA Little Rock. “I said, ‘Yes, I would,” Cushman told the Arkansas Times, “but I’d like to activate that work with modern and contemporary work,’ and Garbo said, ‘Tell me more.’ ” Cushman began investigating the works held by the Arkansas Arts Center, UA Little Rock and Walker. Along the way, Cushman went to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to hear a talk by Amy Sherald. He introduced himself afterward and asked if the university could borrow one of her ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 69
'THE DINNER TABLE': Delita Martin's installation of portrait plates around a white table is an example of contemporary feminist art.
'THE TREES WE CONSTRUCT TO CONCEAL OUR STRANGE FRUIT': Metalwork by former UA Little Rock instructor David Clemons.
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works for the show. Dropping Darrell Walker’s name didn’t hurt; now the show includes Sherald’s “Wellfare Queen,” provided by a private collector from Princeton University. Mixed media artist Delita Martin was quoted in a recent article in the magazine “Pressing Matters” as saying, “I’m very much interested in reconstructing the identity of African-American women, particularly, offering a different narrative to the stereotypes you see in media.” She contributes to the show “The Dinner Table,” an installation of portraits of Martin’s female family and friends done with china marker on plates and hung around a table. The work is undeniably a nod to white artist Judy Chicago, but it is Catlett to whom Martin feels a kinship, she told Cushman. “On Their Own Terms” is hung to illustrate the tendrils that connect the artists. The first works on entering the main gallery are Catlett’s drawing “Newspaper Vendor”; Sherald’s “Wellfare Queen,” a large-scale painting of a woman in a tiara and purple sash; and the many portraits of women in Martin’s “Dinner Table.” Cushman has also paired Aj Smith’s larger-than-life and amazing graphite drawing “Faces of the Delta Series: Mr. Q.T., WWII Vet,” with “Portrait of a Model,” a collage of an insouciant fellow by Benny Andrews. Both are images of men, but the greater connection is that it was Andrews who encouraged Smith to move from New
York to Arkansas for a job. A third stunning mixed-media work by Alfred Conteh, “Will,” joins the male portrait lineup. In the small gallery on the first floor, Kehinde Wiley’s “Peter Chardon Study,” a watercolor of a man against a floral field, is paired with David Clemons’ steel caged teapot sculpture “The Trees We Construct to Conceal Our Strange Fruit.” Also in the small gallery, Cushman has grouped Henry Tanner’s quiet drawing “Christ at the Home of Mary” (1905); Robert Pruitt’s in-your-face charcoal and conte crayon “Black Jesus” (2016); and folk artist Bessie Harvey’s “Whore of Babylon” (n.d.), an amalgamation of red-painted wood, glitter and beads from Cushman and husband Bobby’s own collection. Others who contributed work from their collections are Karen and C.J. Duvall, Pamela and Anthony Vance, Karen and Kevin Cole, Aj Smith, Delita Martin, Dr. Imani Perry, the Monique Meloche Gallery and Pierrette Van Cleve. The opening reception for the exhibition is 5-7 p.m. Feb. 1. Juan Rodriguez of New York, who with Garbo Hearne loaned the many historic paintings to “On Their Own Terms,” will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Windgate Center. Galleries are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. The exhibition will run through March 10. ♦
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'FRIDA KAHLO ON WHITE BENCH': Photography by Nikolas Muray, 1939.
KAHLO COMES TO THE ARTS CENTER IN ‘PHOTOGRAPHING FRIDA.’ By LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK
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PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY THROCKMORTON FINE ART
hen we think of Pablo Picasso, we think of his mural “Guernica,” perhaps, or the Cubist “Demoiselles D’Avignon.” When we think of Frida Kahlo, we think of the woman, with her long Mexican dresses, oversized jewelry, flowery headdresses and iconic monobrow. Kahlo was every bit as much an artist as her on-again, off-again husband, Diego Rivera, but her personal glamour has gotten as much, if not more, attention as her paintings. She was herself a walking artwork, and because of her bohemian beauty, Kahlo was the subject of hundreds of photographs by such important photographers as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and Lola Alvarez Bravo. Sixty-five such portraits make up the “Photographing Frida” exhibition opening Friday, Feb. 1, at the Arkansas Arts Center. Kahlo curated her image by choosing to wear the traditional dress of Tehuana women of southeast Mexico: rectangular huipil tops decorated with embroidery and floral patterns, voluminous colorful skirts and large starched bonnets. Her dress was an expression of her feeling about her home country of Mexico and feminism. In an essay in “Mirror Mirror,” a book of Kahlo photographs that will be available for sale at the Arts Center, Salomon Grimberg writes that Alvarez Bravo photographed Kahlo more than 30 times, nearly half the time showing Kahlo gazing at herself in a mirror, and that Kahlo surrounded herself with mirrors as a way to maintain her sense of self. One such photograph is in “Photographing Frida”: Because Kahlo’s image is so much of a piece with her artwork, Alvarez Bravo’s photograph of Kahlo gazing in a mirror is recursive, both physically and philosophically. In “Photographing Frida,” we also see a color photograph by Nickolas Muray — one of Kahlo’s lovers — of a frontward-gazing Kahlo dressed in black and gold, wearing roses in her hair and seated in front of a flat floral background, a photograph with a startling similarity to the contemporary paintings of Kehinde Wiley. There’s a shot of Kahlo as an 18-year-old staring confidently into the camera, belying the incredible pain and suffering of her youth: the spina bifida that affected her legs and spine, and the horrific injuries she suffered in a bus-trolley crash that sent an iron rod through her abdomen and fractured and crushed her bones. While her teenage gaze is serene, her paintings are anything but, inspired by her continuing afflictions. One photograph in the show, by Juan Guzman, is of Kahlo in a hospital bed. Muray’s photograph of Kahlo painting “The Two Fridas,” in which a vein from an exposed heart in a Tehuana-dressed Kahlo connects to the heart of Frida in less flamboyant clothing, provides a glimpse of Kahlo’s talent. Kahlo in her later life said the painting depicted her sadness at her separation from Rivera.
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Jan. 31, 6 p.m. Lecture and Member Reception: Raissa Bretana, fashion historian for the Metropolitan Museum in New York, will give a talk on the way Kahlo used dress to express feminism and national pride. Admission is $15 for nonmembers, free to Arts Center members. Nonmembers may attend the reception by buying memberships at the door. Feb. 8, noon. Feed Your Mind Friday: A screening of “The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo,” in conjunction with AETN. Feb. 10, noon-3 p.m. Free Family Funday: Family portrait-making event. Feb. 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Paint Like Friday: Tour of the show and workshop with Robert Bean and Michael Schaeffer, $60-$75. Feb. 21, 6 p.m. Movement and Frida: Lecture by Ashley Bowman of the Artifact Dance Project, 5:30 p.m. reception, $10 nonmembers. March 14, 6 p.m. Lecture and Late Night: Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director of the DePaul Art Museum, will give the talk “Frida Kahlo: Unbound,” and the galleries will be open until 9 p.m. 5:30 p.m. reception, lecture $10 nonmembers. April 4, 6 p.m. Lecture and Late Night: Lis Pankl of the University of Utah will give the talk “Materiality, Geography and Identity Construction in the Work and Life of Frida Kahlo,” 6 p.m. April 4 (5:30 p.m. reception), free.
There are photographs of Kahlo and Rivera, both posed and informal, and the exhibition will include the Arts Center’s famous Rivera, the Cubist painting “Dos Mujeres.” “Photographing Frida” is the first exhibit having to do with the famous Mexican painter at the Arts Center. It’s not known whether any paintings by Kahlo have ever been exhibited in Arkansas, though reproductions of some of her work were shown at the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale this winter. Arts Center curator Brian Lang, who did his master’s thesis on Kahlo, said that “Photographing Frida” may not include her own work, but it “allows one to experience a different aspect of the artist — artist as subject rather than artist as creator. In some respects, one might argue that as a subject she is also playing a role in the creation of the object.” ♦ 74 FEBRUARY 2019
FEBRUARY 2019 75
HOW A KITCHEN COSMETOLOGIST BUILT — AND HANDED DOWN — A 90-YEAR LEGACY OF BLACK HAIR CARE. By SYD HAYMAN Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31
his is history,” Veronica Macon said. It’s late on a Saturday morning, and Macon, 31, is completing a client’s roller set on the clinic floor of Velvatex College of Beauty Culture, a one-level red-brick building situated on a corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Little Rock. Like other smock-clad trainees in the room — shampooing the coily hair of a client at a sink or ushering a woman to a humming hooded dryer — Macon is earning hairdressing hours toward the cosmetology license she aims to attain this spring. The history she speaks of is Velvatex’s: The institution training Macon was the first of its kind to open in Arkansas for people of color. Thanks to the care and intention with which Velvatex changed hands across decades, a history of finger waves, goddess braids and black women’s empowerment has been kept alive for 90 years. 76 FEBRUARY 2019
Now, that story itself is being preserved and archived: In the fall of 2018, Velvatex donated a total of 105 artifacts to the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s permanent collection, just a few months after partnering with the museum on the “Don’t Touch My Crown” exhibition. With a name inspired from Proverbs 16:31, “Don’t Touch My Crown” celebrated the history of African-American aesthetics through artwork and objects. “For people to be able to see this collection, to know that we’re committed to preserving this collection in perpetuity as part of our commitment to the public trust, I think, says a whole lot about black women and the ways in which their bodies and their stories matter,” Christina Shutt, Mosaic Templars director, said. “I find that our hair is really important to us, but it’s not something that we often think about it in a historic model or historic sense, that there are wom-
THERE IS HISTORY IN HAIRSTYLES: Wigs made for the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center illustrate 'dos that have roots in Africa as well as early 20th century styles, like finger waves (center).
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“You just had to look like a lady.”
JEWELS FOR THE CROWN: Items from Velvatex donated to Mosaic Templars include combs, curlers and instruction books. 78 FEBRUARY 2019
en who came before us that did their hair and found agency through hair." Shutt said. "To be able to get this collection tells a really important part of African-American history, but specifically Arkansas history, and the school’s long-standing tradition.” _____________________ In the summer of 1929, M.E. Patterson founded the beauty college as a way to transfer her skills from the kitchen — the era’s choice location for at-home hairdressing — to an educational setting. Inspired by her belief that black hair could emulate velvet, Patterson named the school Velvatex Beauty College. At the time, Velvatex was the only approved school in the state for people of color, adding a more formal education to what some may have learned in their own kitchens. With Velvatex’s training, students were not only learning cosmetology techniques, like applying chemical relaxers and hair cutting, but they were also studying the science behind the hair, skin and nails. “You understand the structure of the hair, you understand what the hair grows from, you understand the basics of what is in a body when you study anatomy,” said Velvatex CEO Barbara A. Douglas, who earned both a cosmetology and instructor’s license from the school. Douglas said Velvatex has always been strict and demanded a high standard of professionalism. “You couldn’t come in with a spot on your shoes,” she said. “You had white uniforms, white shoes. Your blouse had to be three-quarters; it couldn’t be down to your wrist. You couldn’t wear short sleeves. Your top had to come down over your hips. You just had to look like a lady.” When Douglas entered Velvatex in the late 1970s, Patterson’s daughter, Ernestine Towns, was at the helm. Under Towns’ tutelage, every Velvatex student passed Arkansas Board of Cosmetology exams for 12 consecutive years. Towns took ownership of the school from her mother in 1954, and that year the school adopted the name Velvatex College of Beauty Culture. For years, the school was located on State Street near Philander Smith College and was within walking distance from Ninth Street, the thriving African-American business district full of black-operated churches, grocery stores, restaurants, beauty shops, clubs and more. In the mid-’50s, Velvatex opened at its current location, adjacent to another historically black institution, Arkansas Baptist College. Douglas purchased Velvatex in 1994, and brought with her daughters Rachel Willis, chief operating officer and head instructor, and Roberta Douglas, director of financial operations. For much of Towns’ time with the school, examinations for white and black cosmetologists were segregated, Mattie Sue Woods, a Velvatex alumna and longtime instructor, said. Later, Woods would help end that segregation during her 20-year tenure with the state Board of Cosmetology. Still, Patterson’s founding of Velvatex — and its continued op-
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erations — was less about addressing a segregated hairdressing landscape and was more a mission to empower black women through careers, Shutt said. _____________________ Even as trends in hair have shifted, Velvatex has kept up with it all — and its donated items to Mosaic Templars attest to that. Artifacts include a 1941 “Art of Shampooing” guide, an electrotherapy machine used to stimulate hair growth, a vintage manicurist table and pressing combs, metal comb-like tools heated to straighten hair without chemicals to achieve styles like roller sets, French braids and pin curls. Some tools, like the pressing comb, have been supplanted by modern devices like the electric flat iron, but the styles executed with them still give a nod to the past. Just view any Velvatex-styled mannequin head in the museum’s permanent collection for proof. The finger waves, for instance, recall a ’20s-era style that could have been spotted along Ninth Street. Braided up-dos that have roots in African hair styling were created for the museum, to display both students’ talents and the diversity of black hairstyles. “[Black hair] can go through so much,” said Abraham Johnson, a Velvatex instructor trainee whose mannequin includes braids ornamented with wooden beads. “It can be natural, it can take chemicals, braiding. We can really do each and every category of something. I think it’s so diverse. You got to know how to really work with it. You need a little love to work with black hair.” Johnson enjoys installing extensions or creating wigs for clients. “With extensions, you’re trying to extend, you’re trying to add a little something something, so you’re trying to feel a little bossy,” he said. “You want to have a little flip in your hair.” One of Macon’s favorite aspects of her Velvatex education is learning about the African influences behind some of her favorite natural-hair stylings, particularly braiding, which has long been a cornerstone of black hairstyling and has been widely interpreted over time to create looks like goddess braids (a style of thick cornrows) and “lemonade braids” (a style of thinner cornrows named after a hairstyle sported in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album). “I love the experiments, to go back into time and look at the different hairstyles that they created back in the day and what we come up with in our time and age,” Macon said. The more popular styles requested today at the school include thermally straightened looks and various braiding styles. But, most all of the styles showcased in the Mosaic Templars collection cross generations and are still practiced on the institution’s clients, many of whom are neighborhood locals who have been clients for years, B.A. Douglas said. _____________________ Today, to qualify for a cosmetology license, which can be obtained within a year, students must earn 1,500 hours studying sciences re-
LIKE VELVET: The beauty school was named for the appearance of African-American hair. Here, Ebone Johnson is getting her hair done by Veronica Macon.
lated to anatomy, the nervous system, fungi and other biological phenomena, along with training in sanitation, salesmanship and shop deportment, or professional conduct. Students also study makeup application and manicuring. Velvatex graduates about eight to nine students a year; some of the 15-20 who are enrolled annually may break from their training. While it isn’t the largest beauty school around, Velvatex certainly prides itself in holding its own, instructor Woods said. Woods, who received her cosmetology license in 1955 and instructor’s license in 1966, has a relationship with Velvatex that is storied: She worked under both Patterson and Towns and credits much of her career journey — including the nearly 30 years spent instructing at Velvatex — to the legacy they created. “I would think that they would say, ‘I thank God for enabling us to make it such a beautiful place,’ ” Woods said from behind the instructor’s desk of the school’s classroom. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest school. It’s not the quality or the size; it’s what you get out of it inside. I just think they would be very, very proud. In fact, I know they would — I knew them.” Both students and staff say Velvatex is not just an educational resource: It’s family. Its meet-you-where-you-are approach differs slightly from how Towns ran the school, but is key for many of its nontraditional students today. “Some come in, and they’re not sure. That’s when I like coming in to instill in them that self-awareness, that independence that they feel they don’t have,” B.A. Douglas said. Before she enrolled at Velvatex, Macon said, she lacked a career path. But in the two and a half years during which she’s been at the college, the staff has been a constant source of encouragement as she works toward her career as a stylist. For these students, and others, spending a Saturday morning at the school to refine hairdressing or shop management skills isn’t just carrying forward a tradition; it’s finding one’s place. ♦ ARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 81
the TO-DO list By STEPHANIE SMITTLE and LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK
SATURDAY 2/2 | 7:30 P.M | UA PULASKI TECH, CENTER FOR HUMANITIES AND ARTS (CHARTS) | $35-$120.
SUMOKEM, THE LIGHTS INSIDE THE WOODS
Just when you’d written off the banjo as the laughingstock of the stringed world, spousal duo Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn swoop in with a flurry of 16th notes, a captivating story and a rapturous melody to prove you dead wrong. See: last May’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Then in the penultimate month of her pregnancy with Theodore Wilder Washburn Fleck, Washburn broke such a 16th-note flurry from Fleck, leaning back to wail an outcry in “Over the Divide,” the duo’s homage to a Jewish yodeling Austrian sheep herder who drove fleeing Syrians across the Austro-Hungarian border at the height of the refugee crisis. That tune is part of “Echo in the Valley,” the pair’s latest collaboration, from which this North Little Rock concert will undoubtedly sample. Fleck’s 15 Grammys are probably testament enough to what happens when he’s on stage, but when his Earl Scruggs style overlays Washburn’s voice and acclaimed frailing, “the banjos seem to sparkle with one another,” as Fleck told Canadian musician/ broadcaster Tom Power in 2017. SS
WEDNESDAY 2/6 | 8 P.M. | SOUTH ON MAIN. $6. This bill at South on Main is manyfold: It’s a pairing of the new and the not-so-new guard of the Little Rock metal scene, one that’s garnering increasing acclaim outside The Natural State. It’s a musical testament to the love affairs that heavy music has carried on for years — with horror cinema, with mythology, with psychedelia. It’s also a chance to hear Sumokem and Jeff Morgan (of Rwake) cushioned by luxuries that heavy music-makers aren’t universally afforded: stellar sound engineering, a start time moms and dads can endorse, steamed mussels and a Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc for purchase. If you missed Morgan’s one-man experiment in sight and sound, "The Lights Inside the Woods," in its past iterations, take note: Neither he nor doom rockers Sumokem play nearly enough to sate their devotees. Screen-printed event posters await the first 20 in attendance. SS
82 FEBRUARY 2019
COURTESY OF JIM MCGUIRE/GRAYSON SHELTON/FACING PAGE: JULIETE CERVANTES/ CRYSTAL BRIDGES: ROCHELLE AND DARREN LEININGER FAMILY COLLECTION
BELA FLECK AND ABIGAIL WASHBURN
‘THE BOOK OF MORMON’ 2/12-2/17 | ROBINSON PERFORMANCE HALL $35-$138. For 20 years, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s dick-joke-turned-animation-empire “South Park” lewdly lampooned religion with inflammatory satire. What’s more, it did so in equal measure: Mohammed, the Virgin Mary, Scientology, contemporary Christian rock and atheism all came under fire. There is an episode in which the Buddha snorts cocaine, and that arguably doesn’t even approach the apex of the show’s subversive bent. Imagine the surprise of fans and haters alike, then, when Parker and Stone’s post-“Team America: World Police” venture was hailed roundly as “sweet” and “full of heart.” The New York Times’ glowing 2011 review from Ben Brantley began with a salutation: “This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist.” Sure, the show’s laced with smut and profanity, but what Parker and Stone did with “The Book of Mormon” — with an assist from Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” fame — was to take the same contradictions of human behavior that “South Park” badgered and wrap them up in a warm, vaudevillian embrace. This touring Broadway production stars Liam Tobin (who worked with Parker on “Cannibal: The Musical”) as Elder Price, Connor Peirson as Elder Cunningham and Kayla Pecchioni as Nabulungi. For tickets and performance times, see celebrityattractions.com. SS
‘MEN OF STEEL, WOMEN OF WONDER’ 2/9-4/22 | CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, BENTONVILLE $12 NONMEMBERS | FREE TO MEMBERS. Truth, Justice and the American Way are taking a beating right now, but art may help us survive the sorry state we find ourselves in. Enter Superman and Wonder Woman at Crystal Bridges, in versions that offer both amusement and chagrin in their commentary on the US of A. Museum assistant curator Alejo Benedetti pulled together more than 70 works — paintings, photographs, installations, videos — inspired by the superhero archetype, which has permeated our apparently rescue-hungry popular culture of late. The works — among them a painting of a wholesome Wonder Woman from female-form-loving pop artist Mel Ramos (left); the surreal cartoon “Superman Versus the Toilet Duck” by Peter Saul; and William Pope.L’s video “The Great White Way,” a piece in which the African-American performance artist comments on racism by crawling up a filthy Broadway sidewalk in New York dressed in a Superman costume — should produce reactions ranging from wry to painful. That’s art’s job. Artists Fahamu Pecou and Aphrodite Navab will give a talk at the opening reception, 7 p.m. Feb. 9, and other programs, which can be found listed at crystalbridges.org, will complement the exhibit. LNP
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the TO-DO list LYLE LOVETT & JOHN HIATT Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt — two songwriting sages who were making Americana music before it was called that — go way back. The two guitarists have, of course, fronted their own expansive outfits. Hiatt’s backing band (featuring no less than Nick Lowe and Ry Cooder) turned into the short-lived group Little Village, and Hiatt’s been covered by everyone from Willie Nelson to Iggy Pop with lots in between, all the while developing an agglomeration of esteemed records — the last several of which are on Nashville’s New West, a label that’s welcomed Hiatt’s daughter Lilly. Then there’s Lovett — perpetual class clown, Texas swing advocate and sometimes movie actor. Here, the two return to a songwriter’s circle format — strictly acoustic, no frills — a stage environment they’ve shared more than a few times in their careers. They're also playing The Auditorium in Eureka Springs Feb. 15, but that concert is sold out. Get tickets for Sunday's concert at eldomad.com. SS
THE McCRARY SISTERS FRIDAY 2/15 | 7:30 P.M. | FOWLER CENTER ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY JONESBORO | $25-$35. Sisters Beverly Ann, Deborah Dianne, Regina Avonette and Alfreda Antionette McCrary have been known to perform “Amazing Grace” in the same set as Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” and James Brown’s “Gonna Have a Funky Good Time,” and that combination is as apt a snapshot of the quartet’s energy as any written biography. Mimicking their father, Rev. Sam McCrary — a founding member of a cappella pioneers The Fairfield Four — until they were old enough to form their own gospel outfit, the McCrary Sisters built a career out of making music that elevates: half-praise, half-boogie. They appear at Arkansas State University’s Fowler Center as part of the Riceland Performance Series. Get tickets at fowler.astate.edu. SS
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SUNDAY 2/17 | 8 P.M. FIRST FINANCIAL MUSIC HALL | MURPHY ARTS DISTRICT EL DORADO | $55-$110.
‘TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM’ SATURDAY 2/26 | 7:30 P.M. UA PULASKI TECH |CENTER FOR THE HUMANITIES AND ARTS | $15-$50.
‘NEWSIES’ 2/27-3/9 | ARGENTA COMMUNITY THEATER | $30.
Lynda Blackmon Lowery still has a scar on the back of her head. It originated, as she recalled in a 2015 interview with NPR, at the hand of an Alabama state trooper on the now-legendary “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, when Lowery joined hundreds of others that year marching from Selma to Montgomery in the name of voting rights for people of color. Now recognized as the youngest person on the march — she was 14 at the time — her story has been turned into a one-woman play with a gospel backing ensemble, “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.” With a stage adaptation by Ally Sheedy (“The Breakfast Club,” “St. Elmo’s Fire”) and direction by Fracaswell Hyman, lead actress Damaras Obi plays Lowery in this touring performance. A talk by the real-life Lowery follows. For tickets, visit uaptc.edu/turning15. SS
On paper, Disney’s 1992 live-action musical “Newsies” sounds uncannily contemporary: fights for the independence of the press, working-class people pushed to the brink, corporations willing to forgo fair practices for the sake of the P&L statement. The film’s subject matter, though, springs from the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, when an alliance of young newspaper hawkers brought Brooklyn Bridge traffic to a standstill for days in protest of unfair compensation for their work. In 2011, “Newsies” became a stage musical — one with a notoriously fierce dance book — and that’s the iteration next up at the Argenta Community Theater, with choreography from Moriah Patterson, music from Michael Heavner, direction from ACT founder Vincent Insalaco and a cast of local all-stars from the community theater scene: Will Porter, James Norris, Jackson Karl, Caleb Allen, Corbin Pitts (with a new “True Detective” credit on his resume), Annslee Clay and Laura Grimes. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 2 p.m. Sun.; see argentacommunitytheater.com for tickets. SS
‘CHICAGO’ 2/22-3/24 | ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE | $58. When bamboozling lawyer Billy Flynn sings “Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it, and the reaction will be passionate” on the stage at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in February, those lines are likely to do a little bit of fourth-wall breaking. Flash and panache — of which Bob Fosse/John Kander/Fred Ebbs’ 1975 confection of a musical possesses by the boatload — are exactly what the occasion calls for: “Chicago” marks the professional theater’s reopening after a year in which a financial crisis forced its hiatus, and in which its widely beloved founding father, Cliff Fannin Baker, suffered a brain aneurysm and died. That said, the reaction from the theater-loving Central Arkansas community to this Jazz Age-mounted jewel will likely be all the more passionate for the wait. Fitting, too, to The Rep’s triumphant return to the stage: longtime resident Rep choreographer Ron Hutchins directs and choreographs. Performances are 7 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., and additional Saturday matinee performances are scheduled for Feb. 23, March 16 and March 23. Get tickets at therep.org. SS
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In chamber music, venue choice is paramount. Too resonant, and the sound can echo back upon itself, muddying things up. Too dry, and even the most shimmering vibrato can fall a little flat. Count the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock as a group with a knack for bringing mesmerizing talent to the area and matching it with spaces that suit the respective sounds. This time around, it’s a 180-year-old church paired with João Luiz and Douglas Lora, the two halves of the Brasil Guitar Duo. Luiz and Lora have been duetting for over 20 years, since they were teenagers in Sao Pãolo, and it shows. Here, they’ll perform works by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; works by living composers Frederic Hand and Egberto Gismonti; and Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s alternately serene and turbulent “Sonata de Los Viajeros,” a 25-minute piece that scored Brouwer a Latin Grammy in 2016. A reception follows the performance, with complimentary wine and appetizers from, fittingly, Cafe Bossa Nova. Admission for students of all ages and for children is free. See chambermusiclr.com for tickets. SS
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‘ODE TO JOY’ SATURDAY 2/23 | 7:30 P.M. | SUNDAY 2/24 | 3 P.M. | ROBINSON PERFORMANCE HALL | $16-$68. It would take him about 30 years to finally do it, but Beethoven is said to have known he’d write music for Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as soon as he read it in 1793. It would be his last complete symphony, and would cement his place in history as the first major composer to use voices in an orchestral symphony. Its highs are unbelievably high: galloping three-beat patterns, gigantic expressions of triumph befitting the text from which it sprung: “Be embraced, Millions! This kiss to all the world! Brothers, above the starry canopy, there must dwell a loving Father. Are you collapsing, millions? Do you sense the creator, world?” (EDM DJs, where y’at with some bass-forward remixes?) The audience went berserk, applauding during the middle sections and giving five standing ovations. Beethoven was, by this time, too deaf to hear them, but was turned around by his colleagues on stage so that he could see the elation he’d inspired. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs the august work in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System, who with the ASO selected several spoken word performers to take the stage and read pieces themed on joy, unity and hope as part of the concert. Get tickets at arkansassymphony.org. SS
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FOOD & DRINK MOVING TO ARKANSAS: But that's just across the street for Darby Neaves and his Naaman's BBQ, on the Texarkana, Texas, side of State Line Avenue since 2012.
A PITMASTER WITH A CULT FOLLOWING PREPARES TO MOVE HIS JOINT ACROSS THE STREET — AND INTO ANOTHER STATE. By STEPHANIE SMITTLE Photography by BRIAN CHILSON
90 FEBRUARY 2019
arbecue people are hardliners. There’s no nuance for a pitmaster when it comes to a choice of wood chips, for example, and a perennial brisket question — “Fat side up or fat side down?” — generally triggers an unswerving one-word answer. For the most part, Darby Neaves of Naaman’s Championship BBQ is no exception: The menu at Naaman’s joint staunchly condemns the idea of chopped meat. It features exactly one dessert. A styled advertisement for Naaman’s circa 2012 shouts: “Words have meaning! ‘Championship’ is not an adjective!” There is, though, one hard line on which Neaves vacillates: the border between Arkansas and Texas. In 2012, Neaves took the devout following he’d amassed at his Ashdown foodtruck location in Little River County, leased a kitschy retro filling station in downtown Texarkana and began serving barbecue on the Texas side of State Line Avenue, prepared in a commer-
cial kitchen seven miles north in Ogden (Little River County) and transported to a food truck parked alongside the building. The ticker tape of Yelp, Tripadvisor and Facebook reviews of Naaman’s is a stream of superlatives. “I give this five stars because I can’t give it 30,” one reviewer wrote in 2016. A New Zealander on a tour of the American South called the brisket at Naaman’s “life-changing.” Another disciple purports to have written his review just after leaving another BBQ establishment in Mesquite, Texas: “Why have you set the bar so high, Naaman’s? Why?” Hyperbolic praise, to be sure, but it’s not exactly unwarranted. The meat selection at Naaman’s is beef-forward — a nod to the Lone Star State’s signature emphasis — and an exercise in why the best barbecue doesn’t need sauce: succulent hand-trimmed ribs, woodsy medallions of smoked chicken breast, feathery pulled pork, and sausage packed in-house from pork shoulder and Angus brisket. That
FUNKY, FOLKSY AND FOOD THAT'S FINE: The brisket at Naaman's has set the barbecue bar high.
litmus test of all smoke savvy — the sliced, unadorned brisket — is a delicacy in the same tradition as the exemplary Pecan Lodge (Dallas) or Franklin’s (Austin, Texas), encased in thin, brown rubble, sporting a subtle rose-colored smoke ring and ready to fall apart at a fork’s slightest provocation. (I recall, just after my first bite, looking around frantically to be sure there were no children within earshot, as an especially earthy expletive had escaped my lips rather involuntarily.) Purists and serious barbecue competitors don’t like to talk about sides, but if they land at Naaman’s, they probably should. The baked beans are for anyone who thought they hated baked beans: meaty, with no cloying sweetness. There’s a piquant potato salad, hearty macaroni and cheese, twicebaked potatoes and a Thanksgiving-worthy rice and corn casserole called, unpretentiously, Cheesy Corn. All are house-made, as is the solitary star of the post-dinner moment: a barely sweetened, solid-state wedge
of cheesecake so dense and hefty the thin graham-cracker crust and available-foran-upcharge toppings (caramel, chocolate, pecans or any combination thereof) are reduced to peripheral, decorative roles. Now, armed with a fiercely loyal customer base and hours of training time logged in high-end kitchens in New York and Detroit, Neaves is relocating Naaman’s to a former Pizza Inn building right across the street from his current digs — and therefore, from Texas back to The Natural State. On the cloudy morning of New Year’s Eve 2018, the construction site was quiet, but evidence of the project was abundant nonetheless: a Bobcat excavator in repose, a pile of natural stone stacked neatly in a block and a patio in stately mint-condition cedar, flanked by a rustic corrugated steel overhang. At 11 a.m. that day, Naaman’s Texas-side spot was already beginning to buzz, white-collar workers filing in under the five-gallon buckets strung along the perimeter of the patio canopy — the Naaman’s logo
on one side and a “Real Q” stamp on the other. After dark, the buckets — each of which has a sturdy electrical cord snaking out of its lid — double as mood lighting. Patrons broadcast their statuses as regulars by way of body language: beelines to favorite tables were made, sans any hesitation at the dining room door entryway to survey the scene. Every few minutes, a diner would stop by to greet Neaves by name and ask if the new location was closing in on an opening date: “How’s it comin’ over there? Still February?” Neaves would giggle and, as if it were the first time he’d been asked, he’d say earnestly, “Maybe March. When it’s right. I’m not gonna open ’til it’s right.” From the looks of the crowd that day, Neaves can likely bide his time until that moment arrives. “I don’t like doing things fast,” he said. “I wanna grow into stuff.” Still, he’s nothing short of giddy giving a tour of the new Naaman’s. At the construction site, Neaves spoke of finishing touches in an electrified, but hushed tone — less like he was ARKTIMES.COM
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‘I could lie, but I
don’t wanna be known for that either. We season. And we smoke.’
preparing to open a new business and more like he was getting ready to throw Texarkana locals the dinner party of their lives. “I gotta have shock value,” he said, showing off an architectural quirk and then asking immediately that it be kept secret. The former Naaman’s catering delivery car — an antique Chevrolet panel truck — had been wheeled in before the entryway was closed off, and was now winterized and protected from construction dust by a taupe-colored coverlet, standing guard at the north window. A 20-by48-foot onsite smokehouse had been erected.
Neaves deliberated about whether to bring over one (or all) of the “Real Q” buckets
as a nod to the old place. If they do make it across the state line, those buckets will likely be accompanied by the fruits of another of Neaves’ passions: antique collecting. The Texas dining room is a bit like a curio shop: A delicate mid-century pink dining table is lit by a rotating chandelier in the dining room, a framed photo of a chubby infant has been labeled with a tiny plaque that reads “Fat Baby,” and the machine dispensing Dallas-based Oak Cliff, Tex-
THERE'S THE BEEF: Tender brisket slices and ribs have given Naaman's Championship BBQ a large, loyal following.
as, “real sugar” soda is as in keeping with the decor as it is with Neaves’ disdain for high fructose corn syrup. In the lobby, a rustic faux chandelier has been fashioned from keys suspended on tiny chains, and a large frame houses sheet music paying homage to Texarkana’s own Scott Joplin. The pull-chain toilet in the restroom is surrounded by vintage magazine ads imploring military women to satin-finish their lips and petal-finish their complexions while “serving shoulder to shoulder with America’s fighting men.” Metal signs for Grapette soda and King Edward Cigars hang high. “I want everything old-school cool,” Neaves said. He and his family have concocted some Naaman’s lore. Gesturing to a mural on the dining room wall of a distinguished gentleman smoking a pipe, Neaves said, “We call him Winston.” The Naaman’s foodtruck sports a Prohibition photo doctored so that two protestors hold a sign saying, “Naaman ain’t pretty!” Neaves calls the two Marion and Duffy, after his grandparents. And, as family names go, Naaman is an especially important one. Neaves and Patti, his wife of 15 years, named the barbecue team-turned-restaurant after their son, then 3 years old. “I never dreamed it would turn into what it has,” Neaves said. Naaman is 14 now, and reportedly the best rib trimmer on staff. He’s a consummately polite kid, and on New Year’s Eve he’s probably thinking less about rib prep and more about the Metallica concert his parents are treating him to in a few weeks. Asked about having his first name plastered all over billboards along Interstate 30, he was sanguine. “I’m kinda used to it,” he said, and shrugged. “Nothing about Naaman’s is about money,” Neaves had said earlier. “That’s my son’s name. If anybody ruins that name, I want it to be him and not me. That name means more to me than all the money in the world.” Neaves moved Naaman’s to the Texas side of the state line, in part, because he wanted to carve out his own piece of Texas barbecue culture — to be part of the beef scene, and part of a network of Texas pitmasters. Now, with all the patience of a man who cooks a hunk of meat for 14 hours, he’s crossing back over the state line. “Pork has been king in Arkansas,” he said. “But once you know how to cook a brisket … .” He trailed off, resuming the thought with: “I’m a beef guy.” I asked Neaves about his brisket recipe. He demured and smiled. “I could lie, but I don’t wanna be known for that either. We season. And we smoke.” ♦
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MARDI GRAS IN THE CITY THAT CARE FORGOT: The celebration of Carnival goes on for weeks before culminating with Fat Tuesday.
AN EXTENSIVE GUIDE TO EATING, DRINKING, DANCING, KARAOKE-ING, STROLLING AND CARNIVALING IN THE CRESCENT CITY.
By DAVID RAMSEY Photography by LEAH FLOYD
arnival season in New Orleans kicked off in early January and reaches its peak on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras day, which falls this year on March 2. Any time is the right time to visit New Orleans, but there is something special about this time of year, when it can feel like the whole creative force of the city is devoted to the art of celebration. No rough guide can do it justice — the city is inexhaustible — but here’s a starter kit. If you’re picturing frat boys barfing on Bourbon, don’t worry: There’s a better way.
First things first, pack in as many of these New Orleans classics as you can: The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, the muffaletta at City Grocery, oysters at Casamento’s, the jambalaya supreme at Coop’s Place. Other good spots for Cajun/Creole/soul food: Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe and Dooky Chase. And yes, I’m stating the obvious here, but it must be said — go get beignets and a cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. A tip that might save you an hour: If there’s a line, ignore it. They don’t make this clear to tourists, but locals know — there is no hostess, you just
keep your eye out for someone leaving, have a seat at any unbussed table, and a waiter will swoop in before you know it. While this is a topic of endless local debate, for my money, the best po-boys in town are at Domilise’s. For a different twist, try the immaculately stuffed barbecue shrimp po-boy at Liuzza’s by the Track. If you want the full poboy tour, longtime midtown haunt Parkway Bakery and Tavern is also worth a visit. And to cure your late-night hankering, Gene’s dishes out hot sausage po-boys 24 hours a day from its can’t-miss-it bright-pink building at the corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields, always a wild (if occasionally dodgy) scene in the wee hours. On the fancier end of the spectrum, the hottest table in town might be Saba, the new Mediterranean restaurant from James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Alon Shaya. Among the elaborate and unforgettable hummus options: blue crab with beech mushrooms, lemon butter and mint; lamb tongue with pickled barberries, red onion and almonds. Cochon, from another James Beard award-winner, Donald Link, is a favorite spot for casual splurging for locals and foodie visitors alike. Cochon serves up Cajun-influARKTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2019 95
enced downhome gourmet; it’s the sort of place where you can find both a world-class wine list and fried alligator. The Louisiana Cochon is its show-stopper: pork braised overnight into a succulent and crispy cake, topped with pork cracklins, cabbage and pickled turnips. If you can find the room, other highlights include the wood-fired oyster roast, the rabbit and dumplings, and the indulgent charcuterie plate. Ask about moonshine offerings. Other great restaurants from Donald Link: fine dining at Herbsaint, seafood at Peche and casual Cajun deli and butcher shop Butcher next door to Cochon. Cochon is one of a number of contemporary restaurants in New Orleans that blend fine dining with country cooking. A couple of other masters of this form, both uptown: Coquette and Patois. If you can score the one outside table at Patois, it’s the perfect romantic spot for a date. Have yourself a pickle-tini:
ket, Krispy Kreme bread pudding. And it has the best Pimm’s Cup in the city, if you ask me. Its sister restaurant around the corner, Bourreé, a Cajun smokehouse, butcher and patio beer garden, serves up seasonal fresh-fruit daiquiris, hot wings, boiled peanuts, boudin links and more — an absolute gem for laidback al fresco dining. Other cozy, relaxed neighborhood spots: Bennachin offers up West African comfort food in the French Quarter; Bacchanal is a wine bar in the Bywater that serves exquisite tapas in a picturesque outdoor courtyard with live jazz; the small and intimate 1000 Figs serves impeccable (and affordable) Mediterranean cuisine in mid-city; and Pizza Delicious is a casual, counter-service restaurant in the Bywater that has become a local favorite — true to its name, its thin-crust pizza is delicious. Be ready for lines, but check out Turkey and the Wolf, the Irish Channel
state Capitol to the gin fizz awaiting him at the Sazerac Bar in an hour flat. Among the other too-good-to-check stories: While staying at an upscale New York hotel, Long was unsatisfied with its version of the drink and flew the top bartender at the Sazerac Bar up to “teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.” I don’t blame the Kingfish — the Sazerac Bar’s Ramos Gin Fizz remains heavenly stuff. Meanwhile, for inventive and contemporary takes on fancy cocktails, stop by Bar Tonique, or check out the Cuban-inspired frozen cocktails at Manolito. But maybe you just want cheap beer that’s cold, and you don’t mind a little grit and grime. The following dive bars have low prices, an aroma that lingers from before the city’s smoking ban, and plenty of character (and characters): Iggy’s, The John, Big Daddy’s, BJ’s, Bud Rip’s, Cutter’s, Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, Miss Mae’s. While gallivanting around in the French Quarter, have a Bloody Mary at Molly’s at the Market (ask for it spicy). Other cozy bars downtown that are worth a pit stop: In the French Quarter — Lafitte’s, Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, Cosimo’s. In the Marigny — Lost Love Lounge, R Bar, Mimi’s. And when it’s time to take it all in, the best rooftop bar, with stunning views of the city: Hot Tin.
Hendrick’s gin plus juice from Patois’ homemade bread-and-butter pickles. Meanwhile, for fine dining on the finer end, the big spenders should make a reservation at August or Compère Lapin. Or if you have a hankering for old-fashioned New Orleans decadence rather than the contemporary foodie scene (think turtle soup, Oysters Rockefeller, bread pudding, classic French Creole rabbit dishes, served up in roaring-’20s opulence), some of the best options: Brigtsen’s, Brennan’s, Clancy’s and the ultimate classic, Commander’s Palace, where the 25-cent martini happy hour for Friday lunch remains the supreme see-and-beseen scene for the dandy set. If you want to go fancy but you’re on a budget, check out the city’s best happy hours: Domenica — 2-5 p.m., half-off wood-fired pizza and half off drinks; Luke — 3-6 p.m., 75-cent oysters on the half shell and half-off drinks. The best bang for your buck in town: Boucherie. Everything on the rotating and vibrantly eclectic “casual fine dining” menu is good: boudin balls, scallops, grit fries, sashimi, bacon brownies, Waygu beef bris96 FEBRUARY 2019
sandwich shop that was recently named the best new restaurant in the nation by Bon Appétit magazine. For breakfast, the best vibe is Pagoda and the best food is Toast, while the talk of the town is a new spot, Molly’s Rise and Shine. Satsuma Cafe and Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar are great neighborhood spots. If you’re in need of morning munchies in the Quarter: Stanley is a touristy but fine option in Jackson Square; Clover Grill on Bourbon Street is an inviting greasy diner for the hungover set.
My vote for the best cocktail in the city is the Ramos Gin Fizz at the Sazerac Bar. Yes, it has a hefty price tag at $14. But you’re on vacation: Treat yourself. The Sazerac Bar, in the Roosevelt Hotel a block off the Quarter, is an art deco masterpiece, with a mahogany bar, walnut-paneled walls and iconic murals by the artist Paul Ninas. This is the bar where legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long held court, always with a Ramos Gin Fizz in hand. The story goes that Long got a highway built between Baton Rouge and New Orleans just so that he could speed his limo from the
Preservation Hall remains the city’s premier place to see traditional New Orleans jazz; make sure to get tickets in advance, as the intimate space inevitably fills up. For the booming funk of the city’s many brass bands, the more adventurous souls among you might seek out the hallowed neighborhood dives that serve as meccas for live brass: check the listings at the Candlelight Lounge, Bullet’s, Vaughn’s and the Mother in Law Lounge. For the uptown set (Tulane students like to dance, too!) — the Maple Leaf is another great spot. Or just wait for the happy surprise of seeing a brass band play in the street — walk around Frenchmen Street and you’ll inevitably come across one blasting on a corner. Frenchmen is home to the Spotted Cat, a terrific spot for tradjazz, klezmer, Cajun and blues, with patrons spilling out to dance in the street; other spots to check the listings on Frenchmen include Snug Harbor, d.b.a. and Blue Nile. If you are lucky enough to be in town when a second line parade is rolling with a brass band on a Sunday afternoon, this quintessential New Orleans experience is not to be missed — check wwoz.org for upcoming second lines or just keep your ear open for tips. Karaoke in New Orleans is like karaoke everywhere, except the guy belting out “Born to Run” might be wearing a space insect costume made of immaculately woven neon
SOUNDS, SIGHTS, SAZERACS AND TASTES: Domino Sound (clockwise from left) is a record collector's heaven; the live oak chime tree in City Park is musical art; the Sazerac is the NOLA-defining drink; Pagoda is a hot breakfast spot.
SPEND HAPPY HOURS: Domenica (opposite page, left photo) has one of the best drink and pizza deals in the city; Luke has 75-cent oysters on the half-shell.
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tinsel. Kajun’s, a divey downtown joint, is thusly one of the most spirited karaoke bars I’ve ever set foot in. Located on St. Claude Avenue, a hard-partying street in the heart of a hard-partying city, Kajun’s has all of the cheap-beer-fueled abandon with a dash of psychedelic mayhem. If New Orleans is famous for its high-culture musical traditions, the city also hums on pastiche and kitsch. Kajun’s is the sort of establishment where the besotted fool singing a Lisa Loeb song begins to feel like a messenger from God. St. Claude Avenue is rapidly gentrifying
from it all, head to City Park. The 1,300-acre sanctuary is one of the nation’s oldest parks, offering a green respite from the concrete bustle and buzz of New Orleans since 1854. Rent a paddle boat, canoe or kayak to explore the park’s waterways, or wander around and check out the botanical garden, the sculpture garden, the antique wooden carousel at the old-time amusement park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, the city’s flagship fine arts museum. It’s also worth a stroll to follow the bayou on the east end of the park down into the picturesque Bayou St. John neighborhood.
and people-watching. New Orleans Original Daiquiris is just around the corner from the last stop uptown; pick up a daiquiri to give your ride a little buzz. Warning: Trying to take the streetcar on Mardi Gras weekend can be nearly impossible because of the crowds; the St. Charles streetcar is also not an option when St. Charles is on a parade route. For shopping and strolling, try Magazine Street six blocks south of St. Charles at the other end of the Garden District, a charming stretch of boutiques, antiques and restaurants. The French Quarter is also great for
these days, but remains home to longtime bars that serve as nightlife headquarters for the city’s outré scenesters. Just down the block from Kajun’s, the AllWays Lounge, an expansive freaky-deaky performance space and watering hole — what David Lynch might imagine for a dive bar — is one of the most joyously unique venues in the city, and a great spot to see the full creative wizardry of local revelers. Other venerable bars on the strip to check out, hosting everything from dance parties to brass to death metal: Hi-Ho Lounge, Saturn Bar, Siberia. One block up, the extremely divey St. Roch Tavern hosts raucous and sweaty nights devoted to New Orleans bounce music. The St. Claude corridor would also be the area where you might befriend a crusty rogue at the bar who can fill you in on the wacko happenings in the New Orleans downtown scene that are too spontaneous and secretive to find in listings like this one. The best place to swim in your undies and/or eat a waffle: The Country Club, a Bywater mansion that houses the late-night after-party scene for weird New Orleans — with a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, sauna and hot tub. They no longer allow skinny dipping, but the Country Club retains a swanky anarchy in the wee hours; meanwhile, once the sun comes up, they serve one of the best brunches in the city.
City Park features the oldest grove of mature live oaks in the world. The Singing Oak, near the park’s Esplanade entrance, is one of the most enchanting spots in the city. The work of local artist Jim Hart, the tree is subtly adorned with giant chimes (up to 14 feet long), positioned to catch the breeze from the nearby lake and ring a pentatonic scale. Sit beneath the shade of the drooping live oak and enjoy the gentle symphony. It’s the perfect place for a picnic: Grab provisions at mid-city’s neighborhood grocery store Canseco’s or, better yet, pick up a few pounds of cooked crawfish from Danny’s #1 Seafood in the Seventh Ward. Short of stumbling upon a neighborhood crawfish boil, a do-it-yourself, peel-and-eat picnic is the best way to have crawfish in New Orleans; skip the buckets at overpriced French Quarter restaurants and get a big bag fresh from Danny’s or from Cajun Seafood, which has various locations around town. FYI for the hardcore mudbug fanatics eager to host your own boil: You can get live crawfish shipped home or even take them as a carry-on on a plane. One of the most delightful ways to see a long stretch of the city is to hop on a streetcar. If you’re in the French Quarter and want to see uptown New Orleans, take the St. Charles streetcar, which goes all the way from the heart of the Quarter to the riverbend on the other side of the town, through the north end of the Garden District, Audubon Park and just south of the Loyola and Tulane campuses. It's a perfect trip for house-gazing
ambling. Skip Bourbon Street unless you just have to have a grain alcohol concoction in a novelty neon container; instead hop one block over and try walking the length of Royal Street from Canal to Esplanade during the daytime. You can also catch a $2 ride at the foot of Canal Street on the Algiers Ferry, which offers beautiful views of the city as it crosses the Mississippi River to Algiers Point, a walkable neighborhood on the West Bank. And make time for these absolute New Orleans treasures: Domino Sound Record Shack, a collector’s paradise; the interactive sound installation Music Box Village, an open-to-the-public wonderland of musical houses and structures; and the Backstreet Cultural Museum, a warmly curated collection honoring Mardi Gras Indians, second lines, jazz funerals and other aspects of the city’s black cultural history.
OUT AND ABOUT IN TOWN
If you need a quiet moment to get away
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If you want the absolute pinnacle of Mardi Gras madness, you’ll want to make the trip for Mardi Gras day and the weekend preceding it, but keep in mind that the parades and celebrations of Carnival go on for weeks beforehand, with schedules easy to find online. The bigger parades can be overwhelming, but they’re a fun window into how much of a communal, family event Carnival is (particularly further from the Quarter on the parade routes). The best of the biggies: the irreverent Krewe du Vieux, famous for its wicked satire, kicks things off in mid-February; the
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all-female Krewe of Muses rolls uptown on the Thursday before Mardi Gras (its elaborately bedazzled shoes are one of the most prized “throws” of Mardi Gras season); and the historically black Krewe of Zulu tosses hand-painted coconuts in its mammoth procession on Mardi Gras day. Everyone, at least once, should try the bone-rattling thrill of hanging out under an overpass on a Mardi Gras parade route, where the processions pause for the highschool marching bands to take advantage of the throbbing acoustics under the bridge. Various nontraditional parades have more manageable crowds, more opportunities for impromptu participation, and often the most interesting DIY art. Dance along with the costumed revelers at the Box of Wine and Red Beans walking parades; check out the incredible shoebox-sized tiny floats of the all-miniature parade, ’tit Rex; gawk at the rolling art installation that is the science-fiction-themed Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus; and woof along with Barkus, the all-dog parade. Things get stranger still if you can hunt down one of the various secret, no-permit parades by word of mouth; the Mystic Krewe of Eris provides an experience you won’t soon forget if you can find them. If you are in town for Mardi Gras weekend, check out the Panorama Brass Band at AllWays Lounge on Saturday night. Make sure to get some sleep on Monday — the party on Mardi Gras day starts first thing in the morning and lasts all day. Start downtown with the walking parades of the Society of St. Anne or the St. Anthony Ramblers, featuring the most lovingly outlandish costumes in the city. They don’t follow precise routes, but R Bar or Mimi’s are good spots to join up, and they roll down Royal all the way into the Quarter. Or start your morning uptown on St. Charles to watch Zulu and follow them into the Quarter. One way or another, spend some time checking out the costumes and mini-krewes on Royal, which provides a steady stream of wonders all day. Catch an outdoor band in Jackson Square, then duck into Pirate’s Alley around the corner for an absinthe, then mosey to the Moonwalk riverfront park, where the day’s adventurers take a minute to relax by the Mississippi. It may take some searching, but Mardi Gras day is also one of just two days a year that you can witness an utterly singular New Orleans cultural tradition: Mardi Gras Indians are out chanting, singing and strutting in the stunning costumes that they have worked on all year. The best spots to find them are under the I-10 overpass on Claiborne and outside the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Seventh Ward. ♦
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104 FEBRUARY 2019
The Unbearable Whiteness of Being
WHAT’S LOST WHEN WE CONSIDER THE HISTORY OF RACIAL VIOLENCE FROM A WHITE PERSPECTIVE.
n Dec. 26, 1920, a mob in my hometown of Jonesboro broke into the jail to seize Wade Thomas, a black man and petty thief suspected of having murdered a local police officer the day before. Although Police Chief Gus Craig and Mayor Gordon Frierson had barricaded the jail with the intent of defending Thomas, they did not lift one finger to defend the man when the mob finally broke through. As Frierson later told his nephew, “When the mob opened the door, the first half-a-dozen men standing there were leading citizens — businessmen, leaders of their churches and the community.” We like to think of mobs as rowdy amalgamations of poor and uncouth whites, but they were more often prominent individuals in their communities, which helps to explain the complicity of certain agents of authority in these murders. After all, coroners’ reports almost universally found that victims of lynching met their fate “at the hand of persons unknown,” even when these “persons” marched down Main Street in broad daylight. One of the ironies of study into racial violence is that historians typically know more about any one victim than they do any individual member of the mob — even the names of most of those “leading citizens” eludes historians to this day.
By GUY LANCASTER
Mobs were more often prominent individuals, not poor and uncouth whites.
This is no accident. American history has classically been viewed through the eyes of people who were white, male, educated and middle class or better. But what if Americans took what historian Richard W. Bulliet has called “the view from the edge” and look back at whiteness through the eyes of others? How does our perspective change? Telling the history of racial violence from a white perspective places lynching exclusively within the domain of black history, given that such forms of violence had a huge impact upon black culture and consciousness, so much so that even those who never witnessed such an event themselves felt terrorized, knowing that the same could happen to them at any time. From the white center, these acts of violence are regarded as aberrations, not representative of the American “mainstream,” not part of our own collective heritage, despite the fact that demographics for some lynching events included hundreds or thousands of white men and women, as members of the mob, per black victim. This fact has been obscured by the use of passive voice when talking about racial atrocities. Black people “were lynched,” black people “were driven” from this town, black people “were warned away” from taking these jobs. But white people committed these crimes, and we need to underARKTIMES.COM
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stand why. White Americans need to incorporate this history into our broader culture and come to terms with it, lest the general framework that made such atrocities acceptable remain hidden, unacknowledged, and allowed to emerge again. Let’s go further back still. Let’s go back to the time of slavery and see in what surprising places whiteness shows up. In July 1855, the slave Abby Guy of Ashley County sued her legal owner, William Daniel, claiming that her mother had never been a
Despite what you were taught in elementary school about indentured servitude in the Americas being an easy way for poor Brits to secure passage to the colonies, needing only to put in a few years’ employment for a benign British lord before being freed from the contract, indentured servitude early on featured some characteristics later common to chattel slavery. Abuse was rampant, and servants could have their contracts extended at the slightest pretense. However, enough did manage to gain their
ist from preying upon poor whites? Abby Guy’s was not the only court case alleging the kidnapping and selling of poor whites, and newspapers of the time were filled with stories expressing horror at the very idea of “white slavery” being visited upon “innocent” people. At the same time, slaveholders occasionally expressed sadness that they could not simply enslave many of the poorer whites in their communities and put them to profitable labor. In your typical grade school history class, you probably heard some variation of the statement, “They were enslaved because they were black.” But, in fact, the reverse is true — they were labeled as black because they had been enslaved. As historian Barbara Fields has written: “Probably a majority of American historians think of slavery in the United States as primarily a system of race relations — as though the chief business of slavery were the production of white supremacy rather than the production of cotton, sugar, rice, and tobacco.” As the Gary v. Stevenson case reveals, designations of blackness were a convenience for ensuring captive labor. Had they been able, these plantation owners would have eagerly enslaved all of those they saw as beneath them. And yet these still managed to get poor whites to devote their time and energy to forming slave patrols and keeping black people in line. According to historian Kelly Houston Jones, the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1854 “affirmed the right of any white person to subdue a slave in rebellion. Thus, whites policed and patrolled slave communities even if they did not act as formally organized ‘patrollers.’ ” Whites, especially poorer whites, acting against their own self-interest is not a new story — in fact, whiteness as a valuable social construct was manufactured precisely to ensure that people at the lower end of the scale don’t recognize what they share with each other. As a poor white person, you couldn’t kick up, because the rich kick back, but you could kick down, and that offered a little compensation for your plight.
It amuses me no end that a chief tenet of white supremacy is that whiteness remains so fundamentally fragile that even the slightest mixture threatens it. slave but rather was a white woman who was kidnapped by slave traders, who no doubt knew how much masters preferred lighter-skinned victims, especially lightskinned women. And Abby Guy herself, by all accounts, appeared as white as anyone else. The local jury ruled her white, and the Arkansas Supreme Court refused to overturn the verdict on appeal, partly due to a “reluctance to sanction the enslaving of persons” who appeared to be white. However, three years later, in the case of Gary v. Stevenson, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled differently. In that case, the enslaved Thomas Gary had sued his owner, Remson Stevenson of Van Buren County, arguing that he was not a “Negro” according to Arkansas law. So-called racial experts analyzed Gary and agreed that he was probably white in the legal sense: two experts testified that he lacked African ancestry entirely, while a third said that Gary might have a trace amount of African blood but not enough to meet the legal threshold for being defined “Negro” in Arkansas at the time. But the court held that because Gary’s mother, who also possessed fair skin and straight hair, had never objected to her status as a slave, Gary was the child of a slave and thus a slave himself. To make sense of this, we have to go back to the early days of the American colonies. 106 FEBRUARY 2019
freedom that the colonial lords decided to ramp up the importation of African slaves, especially after servants across the color line teamed up against their masters in Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. In response to that rebellion, authorities in the colonies began to pass laws that connected “race” to status, so that any child of an African slave inherited the position of slave, an innovation that, in the words of historian David Roediger, “became the basis for a new regime that sought to set poor people apart from each other much more clearly on the basis of ‘race.’ ” Eventually, race became codified with the “one-drop rule,” so that any African ancestry marked one as a slave, no matter how white you appeared. So plantation lords often enslaved white people. “But wait,” you say, “they did, after all, have some African blood in them, so you can’t call them whitewhite, now can you?” First off, what does it say about the ideology of white supremacy if something like 1/64 drop of “black blood” gets to overrule everything else? It amuses me no end that a chief tenet of white supremacy is that whiteness remains so fundamentally fragile that even the slightest mixture threatens it. Second, once you have a one-drop rule in place and slaves as white as anyone else, what is to prevent an enterprising capital-
And this brings us back to lynching. Many people assume that the lynching of blacks was exclusively a post–Civil War phenomenon, for there was too much value wrapped up in a black slave. But at least 13 slaves (and almost certainly more) were lynched in antebellum Arkansas. To give one example, the sons of James Boone led the Fayetteville mob that lynched the two slaves accused of murdering their father in 1856. And remember, there were also those slave patrols, and they occasionally killed escaped slaves who allegedly resisted capture. As Kelly Houston Jones asks, “When does a posse gathered for the purpose of policing slaves become a lynch mob? It may not be that these men gathered for the premeditated purpose of killing the slaves they pursued, but it is true that they were acting as a group in a police effort and were ready and willing to use lethal force.” So what do we see when we decenter the white experience? We see a moneyed elite whose system of slavery may have had a nominal, official reference to skin color or place of origin in its definition of human property, but who were willing and eager to enslave whoever was available so long as their cotton got picked. We see other poor relations of these elites ready and willing to employ violence in the preservation of the same system that denied them labor and dignity, for who can compete with cheapness of slave labor? With all of that, can we really be surprised that “leading citizens — businessmen, leaders of their churches and the community” participated in the reign of butchery that engulfed the United States, especially the South, for nearly a century following the Civil War? Violence, after all, was the very foundation of their “civilization,” as they liked to think of it. Seen through the eyes of others, whiteness ceases to be an innocuous social category but, instead, is riven with contradictions that continue to facilitate vast inequality, in this supposed nation of equals, down to the present day. This is Black History Month, and those who think of themselves as white (to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’s phraseology) can feel excluded from such celebrations by dint of pigmentation and indignation. But instead of seeing Black History Month as the domain of someone else’s heritage, try letting that history inform you about the truth of your own past. Looking at your own history from the edge, through someone else’s eyes, you can finally see just where you stand within this vast tapestry of Arkansas and American history. The truth will likely surprise you. And maybe, just maybe, it will set you free. ♦ ARKTIMES.COM
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Arkansas Times local ticketing: CentralArkansasTickets.com
UPCOMING EVENTS FEB
The Weekend Theater Foundations Workshop Acting and musical theatre techniques
Reinvented Vintage Painting Tulips with Redeemed Home Goods
South on Main Sean Fresh’s Freshest Birthday Bash
Junior League Ballroom Opera on the Rocks X: WE ARE OITR
Record, Bentonville INSPIRE Wedding Show NWA Presented by Tanarah Luxe Floral
Old Chicago - Conway OC Big Game Watch Party
South on Main Love in Harmony: Kami + Gavin
South on Main Love in Harmony: The Going Jessies
South on Main Love in Harmony: The Creek Rocks
iHeartMedia Metroplex Little Rock Bollywood Nights 2019 Presented by Harmony Health
Searcy Elks Lodge Super Comedy Show!
23 24 FEB
The Mixing Room F R E The National Register of Historic Places by Callie Williams Old Chicago - Conway OC Valentine’s Day Brewers Dinner
South on Main Bonnie Montgomery & Matt Ward
Four Quarter Bar Agent Orange
MAR 7-10 14-17 21-24
The Studio Theatre Urinetown: the Musical
The Mixing Room F R E E Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits by Antoinette Johnson, PhD.
St. James United Methodist Church Arkansas Chamber Singers Spring Concert: Haydn’s Creation Mass
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BUT IT LOOKS LIKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA WILL FINALLY ROLL IN.
fractious two years after Arkansas voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution allowing medical marijuana, there is still no healing bud to be had in Arkansas. But, with luck and no litigation, it looks like the first cannabis will be ready by late April for sale to medical marijuana dispensaries, and dispensaries will be open to receive and sell the product. Cultivator Bold Team LLC of Cotton Plant — the best thing to happen to that town in years — was the first out of the cultivator chute, finishing its facility, getting it licensed and beginning in the first week of January to grow Arkansas’s first legal marijuana. By the beginning of February, Bold Team said, its 600plus plants would be 2-foot-tall adolescents. Like Bold Team, Natural State Medicinals outside Pine Bluff also predicts to be able to put medical marijuana on the market by April, though it has not yet finished plant construction. It wasn’t easy getting to this point. The Medical Marijuana Commission, appointed in December 2016, took months to complete its rulemaking, set fees and design applications. Its five members decided to read and score the 322 applications for grower licenses, starting in September 2017, themselves, a process that took five months. The announcement of the top five cultivator awards in February 2018 was met the following month with complaints to state Alcohol Beverage
By LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK Control, the commission’s enforcement arm, and a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The lawsuit stalled licensing for another five months. The delay was an irritant to people waiting for legal marijuana guaranteed by Amendment 98, and allegations of conflicts of interest among commissioners and scoring irregularities tainted the process. Among the many scoring controversies: Commissioner Dr. Carlos Roman, who is no longer on the commission, scored another doctor’s application 30 points higher than he did any of the other top five applicants. In a bizarre turn of events, Natural State Agronomics owner Ken Shollmier secretly taped Roman to see if Roman would solicit a bribe. Roman, in turn, complained to the state attorney general’s office that someone had tried to bribe him. The lawsuit, filed by losing cultivator Naturalis Health, sought a rescoring by an independent party, noting that Commissioner Travis Story had given his second highest score to Osage Creek Cultivation LLC, owned by the Trulove family of Berryville, a client of Story’s. Naturalis also noted that commission Chairwoman Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman had simply checked off answers in one section rather than giving numerical scores; the ABC commissioner at the time, Mary Robin Casteel, asked Henry-Tillman to provide scores, which she did. The controversies gave a certain odor to the award process, which the commission sought
to dispel by hiring a consultant to review the applications for dispensary licenses and removing themselves from the process. Even that did not go smoothly; one applicant had to fight its disqualification, and was eventually allowed to submit. Nine applications were sent to the scoring team of the Public Consulting Group without their attachments. At least one losing dispensary has suggested a lawsuit may be in the offing over what it said was indefensible scoring. Danny Brown of Bold Team, who is also the owner of Willy D’s Piano Bar, said he and a friend were duck hunting when they decided to get into the marijuana cultivation business. The two went to Denver, Colo., to study up. By choosing Cotton Plant for the facility, the company got extra points and a warm reception from the then-mayor, Willard Ryland. Bold Team hopes to harvest 635 plants to produce 200 pounds of product a week, Brown said. The company, which will also process the cannabis, will wait for dispensaries to give it direction on what form they’d like the product to take, such as flowers, edibles or vape pens. He said Bold Team is growing “roughly” 15 strains, chosen on the advice of consultants based on the qualifying conditions for buyer cards. After a plant's flowers mature — which happens all at once, Brown said — the plant is destroyed. Bold Team will grow new plants from clones. Bold Team has nine employees now, but
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BUT ARKANSAS'S BEHIND. Oklahoma, which got medical marijuana hopes to employ 25, he said. It held a job fair months, with a harvest three months after that, from polling booth to store counter in only a few months ago, raising the hopes of outwhich would push product availability into of-work locals. The company has pledged 1 five months (June-October 2018), comSeptember. percent of its gross revenues every year to the pared to what will likely be a 30-month wait Warren Ross of Harvest, the company contown, which Brown estimates will come to in Arkansas (November 2016-April 2019), tracted by Natural State Wellness Enterprises about $100,000 — four times the budget of Cot- will let nonresidents with a valid license to for both its cultivator and dispensary licenses, buy cannabis products apply for a tempoton Plant, he said. reported in November the company’s facility — rary Oklahoma license good for 30 days. That would put gross at $10 million. like Delta Medical, also in Newport — should be So, if the Arkansas Department of Health Brown said he would encourage people to get open in the "second quarter" of 2019. He said their medical marijuana cards from the Arkan- does issue medical marijuana ID cards in Natural State would “phase in” its propagation sas Department of Health now. “A lot of peo- mid-February, as it recently said it would, while completing construction, and could start ple are waiting to get cards until the product Arkansans could head to the Sooner State growing by April. Ross said Natural State would is available, and if they wait, it’s going to take and get medical marijuana, well, sooner grow 25 strains of Cannabis indica and sativa them months” to get the cards because of the than they can here. and produce products with a varied balance But, not so fast:. State law says an processing backlog, he said. of THC, the intoxicating element of cannabis, Arkansas ID is only good in Arkansas, and The more cards, the more sales. and CBD, or the less intoxicating cannabidiol, The health department reported that as of bringing marijuana across state lines is a which some research says is effective in treatJan. 10, 6,764 Arkansans had been approved to federal offense. ing pediatric seizures. The exasperated would-be users of medreceive medical marijuana ID cards. It also anThe commission gave Ross somewhat of a nounced it expected to issue the first cards in ical marijuana in Arkansas hold Oklahoma hard time; Roman told him that cancer patients up as an example of how things should mid-February. “don’t have a lot of time” to wait for medical Licensed cultivators were called to the mari- work: Voters vote, a board of health makes marijuana (though he added that the “medical juana commission in November 2018 to report regulations, takes a couple of weeks to data is all over the place” on marijuana's meon their progress. Bold Team said its facility review applications for licenses, and boom: dicinal qualities). would be complete by the end of December, and Before you can say tetrahydrocannabidinol, In an interview in January, Harvest repreit was. The representative for Osage Creek Cul- 33,099 Oklahomans have licenses to buy sentative Ben Kimbro said structural steel had tivation in Carroll County, which was expected medicinal pot (a number released in Janubeen ordered and foundation work was about to pass inspection by the end of January, said it ary). In Arkansas, issued IDs total zero. to begin. “I think we’re fully operational in Here’s a comparison of other Oklahoma June,” with product available in late summer. would finish construction around March 1 and and Arkansas medical marijuana industry likely have product 90 days later, by June 1. “Hopefully, we don’t see the same delays with Joe Courtright, CEO of Natural State Medici- stats: litigation” over dispensary licensing, he added. Cultivators approved: nals of Jefferson County, came equipped with ABC is sending enforcement agents to cultiArkansas, 5. Oklahoma, 1,302. handouts and maps. Courtright said litigation vators who have not yet opened with a “pre-inDispensaries approved: and rainfall had slowed construction and its spection” checklist to make sure they know Arkansas, 32. Oklahoma, 805. greenhouse had not yet been delivered, but he what they’ll need to do to be permitted by the How many plants individuals can grow: still hoped to have product available by April. ABC, enforcement director Boyce Hamlet said. Arkansas, O. He predicted there would be 12,000 cardhold“We’re trying to speed this up.” Oklahoma, 12 plants per ers by the end of 2019. “The state in general has taken a lot of nega(six seedlings, six plants) At the November meeting, Jonesboro lawyer tive criticism for dragging its feet. Enforcement However, Oklahoma’s law was approved Don Parker, representing Delta Medical Cannais not dragging its feet. We’re going to do everybis Co. of Newport, said building materials and as an emergency action. Its legislature thing we can to get [facilities] up and running.” HVAC units had been ordered and predicted meets this year; restrictions may be on Complaints alleging false reporting on winconstruction would be complete in five months the way. ning cultivator applications are still pending Too, marijuana industry publications say once dirt was turned. Delta’s products — which before the ABC, Hamlet said. They include he said would include extracts, lotions, tinc- there aren’t enough residents of Oklahotwo by River Valley Relief Cultivation of Fort tures and oils for cooking — should be ready for ma to sustain the number of growers and Smith, which was unsuccessful in winning a sale by July or August. He expects the number dispensaries. Under Oklahoma’s Question license. River Valley Relief accuses Natural of cardholders to reach 20,000 in the first year 788, there are no caps on the number of State Medicinals of providing false informacannabis Rx business licenses, doctors can products are available. tion to the commission on the residency of Parker also said construction cost was dou- recommend it for any ailment they see fit principal Robert DeBin, who River Valley Relief ble the original estimate, but the company had and municipalities are not allowed to zone says did not live in Arkansas for seven consec“financial strength and resources” to handle it. away dispensaries. That’s a free-for-all that utive years before the application, as required In January, Delta Medical got the commis- folks in the legal cannabis industry predict under the law. River Valley also complained sion’s approval to move its facility to a site one will disadvantage businesses with fewer that Delta Medical Cannabis Co. falsely repand half miles from its original location after resources. resented its “operations specialist” as the there were complaints that it was too near a owner and operator of a medical marijuana school — Arkansas State University’s Newbusiness in Colorado. However, the expert port campus. Parker said it was a “no brainer” to move rather than had not been licensed for two years at the time of the application, wait for the commission or a court to decide on whether ASU was a River Valley reported. “school.” Delta Medical broke ground Jan. 15. The Colorado Department of Revenue licensed the specialist, Jeff Parker told the Times in January that construction would proBotkin, three days before River Valley’s complaint was filed with the ceed in “rain, snow and ice,” if necessary, and “probably” take six commission. ♦ 110 FEBRUARY 2019
THE 2019 ARKANSAS TIMES
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FEBRUARY 2019 111
33 Begged earnestly
64 Helper in an operating room 65 Another name for O3 (as appropriate to 17-, 25-, 44- and 58-Across?)
35 Make a goof 36 Free-___ (like some chickens) 38 Punk offshoot 39 “Don’t leave this spot” 42 Cairo’s land DOWN 44 Force to exit, as 1 Brand of swabs a performer 2 Man’s name 47 Hosp. trauma related to the centers name of Islam’s founder 48 Broadway’s ___ MIDTOWN MUSIC LINE-UP FOR FEBRUARY O’Neill Theater 3 Rock Lead-in to Feb 1 - Ed Bowman & The City Players glycerin 51 Puppeteer Lewis Feb 2 - Kurt Allen Feb 8 - Psychedelic Velocity 4 Prolonged dry 54 ___ Fein (Irish Feb. 9 - Familyspell Dog n political party) Feb 15 Fanstar 5 “Much 56 Either side ofFeban 16 - vintage Pistol ___ About FEb 22 - Jason & the Personal Space Invaders Nothing” airplane Feb 23 - Lipstick Hand Grenade a 58 Traffic reporter’s 6 Assert without comment proof 61 Plant-eating dino 7 Cry of triumph LATE-NIGHT SPOT with spikes BEST on its 8 Spat back 9 Last words almost ” 62 DiscoverEVERY before being TUESDAY AT 6 P.M. by chance, as a pronounced 1316 MAIN ST. • (501) 372-9990 solution husband and wife 63 Hoppy brew, for 10 Not drive by short oneself to work 11 Cheery greeting REVIOUS PUZZLE 12 Ares : Greek :: A S E T S P ___ : Norse B A G I T E M 13 Loch ___ I N G M E N U monster E D R E A C T 16 Patron of sailors P L U M M E T 18 Kingly name in B A O B A B Norway O P P Y C O C K 23 ___ Bo (exercise X E S H A L E system) E R L I T U P 24 Make great D I N S E T strides? C A P E 26 Highest digits in L U R P M O M sudoku U B L E W I D E 27 “Holy cow!,” in a N I O R P R O M text A T S M O R E 28 Quarry Greg Iles, the NY Times Best Selling
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Edited by Will Shortz 1
33 36 40
45 47 53
1 ___ shoes (ballet wear)
1 It has a stigma
PUZZLE BY BRIAN THOMAS
29 7 Museum Plantinstallations supplying 13 Asok in “Dilbert,” burlap fibere.g.
42 Urge (on)
2 Like some dips 52bagels Webandaddress
3 Grp. troubleshooting startera 33-Across 43 “Who’da thunk 4 Platform for early Zelda games, for short 30Holds Kitten’s sound it?!” 5 Travel in53 large numbers 15 back, for now On the waves 6 Feeling akin to Weltschmerz 16 1972 hit with the lyric “You can bend but never 31 Spirited horse 45 Professor’s goal, 54 5-Downs Fly high break me” 7 Group that one day 32 Sextet halved 17 Nail site 8 Its spirit may be broken Notes from 46 ___ Jemima 9 In a bit,55 18 objection to bards 34Strong “i” or “j” topper players who can’t 20 It. is in it 10 Fast times? 49 Mexican pay 36 Dictionaries, 21 Spinning out of control 11 Classification for violent video games president Enrique almanacs, etc., in 23 Impersonated 12 Ecclesiastical jurisdictions Peña ___ 57 Bit of brief 24 Historic town in SE Connecticut 14 Pasta dinner staple 50actor Company in 16 “Obviously!”inheritance? 25 Kapoor, “Slumdog 37___Poodle’s soundMillionaire” a 2001-02 19 To whom a conductor reports 27 Skewers 59 The Buckeyes of 40 Scoundrel, in business scandal 28 Design of park land requiring minimal water 22 Like much locker the room Big humor Ten, for British slang 32 Gymnast who won all-around gold Rio 26 Retreat 51inEnthusiastic short 41Computer What acrash setting assent in 33 cause 27 Go through Mexico sunafter dips 60childbirth However, briefly 34 Word halfbelow or before size 29 Pre-hosp. aide, often 14 Farm feed holder
30 Graceful antlered animals
36 What jam is packed with Today’s Onlineasubscriptions:
Intifada grp. 7,000 past puzzle and31 more than 32 Petroleum substitutes puzzles, nytimes.com/crosswords ($39.95 a year). 41 Lived in a love nest 33 It blows across the Mediterranean Read Byron, about and incomment on each puzzle: nytimes.com/wordplay. 44 Lord notably, his personal life 34 One who’s blackballed 40 Labrador greeting
46 Rose Bowl and others
37 What a pop-up link might lead to
47 Tampa-to-Naples dir.
38 Shade akin to chestnut
48 Big part of Greenland
39 Interstate numbers
42 Widely used antibiotic brand
52 Knee injury common among athletes
43 Wife of Mike Pence
53 Ready to face another day, say
45 Italia’s Casa d’___
54 Rubes, north of the border
46 High ___
49 “Death Becomes ___” (Meryl Streep film) 51 Jerk
Answers available in the March issue of the Arkansas Times.
Edited by Will Shortz ©2019 The New York Times
MARKETPLACE HEALTH CARE POLICY FELLOWSHIP Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is accepting resumes for a one-year, full-time health care policy fellowship. Requires bachelor’s degree. Graduate level study is preferred but not required. Excellent analytical, writing, communication, and organizational skills. For full job description see http:// www.aradvocates.org/about-us/jobs/. Send cover letter, resume, writing sample, and references to firstname.lastname@example.org. AACF is an equal opportunity employer.
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friend of The Observer’s had a baby the other day. The word went out the way such things do these days, not by town crier or courier pigeon or folks crowding around the party line down at the general store, but by way of photos sent down the electric superhighway: a beautiful baby girl, squinting into the bright lights for the first time, ever. Newborns always look a little pissed in photos, and who can blame them? There you are in your safe, warm little apartment and suddenly you’re pushed headfirst into this old, freezing world, full of honking horns and flickering lights, weird smells and Kardashians, a hundred-odd years to get your business handled if you’re very lucky, arriving just in time for Trump’s horseshit, the return of the poncho and dueling documentaries — Netflix vs. Hulu — on the
the Dow Jones or some phony who says they can turn the lines on your hand into a roadmap of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Japan, for example, is so caught up in catching Pokemon and building the ultimate Godzilla-fighting panda bear sex robot that they’re not really having that many babies anymore, the whole country on track to be a nation of old farts in a few decades, selling more Bengay than diaper rash cream. Here in America, the Folks Who Know These Things are seeing some of the same trends, caused here not by lack of effort or want to but by young folks so buried under student loan debt, shitty job prospects and the weight of knowing the world is going to be simultaneously drowning and on fire in the next 100 years that they’re just saying screw it and leaving the IUD in long past when they probably oughta be thinking
resilient enough to figure out and solve the problems that are bearing down on humanity now like a Peterbilt truck barreling up the fast lane toward our rearview mirror. Consider that people are actually choosing to bring a kid into a country that thought it was a good idea to elect a game show host as president. If that isn’t proof of a glass-half-full frame of mind, we don’t know what is. And, yeah, for all our crapola about optimism and investments and tomorrows, we believe it’s a choice women oughta be able to make, yea or nay, even after the cornbread is in the oven. Don’t @ me, antichoice wingnuts. The Observer is thinking about this, of course, because here we are smack dab in the middle of our own new beginning: the maiden voyage of Arkansas Times as a monthly, a switch from the weekly format the Times was published in for over 25 years. This newborn is also an expression of the ultimate optimism: that the job we all do here is worth it, too, even in an age where the oncesteady and well-paying world of journalism has gone decidedly “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” What does the future hold? What mysteries will be revealed? We don’t know. But we’re not ready to cash out and skedaddle. The fact that you’re reading this is proof. There’s still work to do, and we believe in Arkansas enough to do it. So, welcome to the world, baby girl. Hard days lie ahead, no doubt. But as we tend to think when we lay eyes on every newborn: We’re confident this is the beginning of something beautiful, no matter how it all turns out in the end. ♦
Babies turn out to be the ultimate expression of hope for the future. failure of the Fyre Festival, in which a horde of poreless hairdos who literally get paid to look cute and a little tipsy in their sponsors’ clothes got scammed into experiencing disappointment, deprivation, sad cheese sandwiches and smelly Porta-Potties with the rest of us slobs. Yeah, The Observer hates “influencers,” but we like babies. Not to hold or feed or diaper change, really — we’ve spent our time shoveling in that gravel pile, thanks, and it’s a young fella’s game — but as a concept. Babies, little griping poo machines that they are, turn out to be the ultimate expression of hope for the future, a much better barometer of the outlook for tomorrow than Meteorologist Barry Brandt, 114 FEBRUARY 2019
about sending little astronauts tumbling into this world, pissed and scowling. Every baby that appears before us on Doctor Zuckerberg’s Electric Book O’ Face, therefore, is a cause for celebration. Every one of those little suckers is someone pushing their chips and going all-in on a future that ain’t looking quite so rosy, to be honest with you. The Observer, cynical and bitter old turnip that we are, thinks: Can you imagine how screwed everything is going to be not next week or next month, but 40 or 50 years from now? Having a baby these days is the ultimate optimism — a money-where-your-mouth-is declaration that you believe human beings are smart and
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SEE THE ARTIST AS ART.
1 DE FEBRERO 14 DE ABRIL ENTRADA GRATIS FEBRUARY 1 – APRIL 14 FREE ADMISSION Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/ Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York. Sponsored by (at time of printing):
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Nickolas Muray, American (Szeged, Hungary, 1892 – 1965, New York, New York), Frida Kahlo on White Bench, New York (2nd Edition) (detail), 1939, color carbon print, 19 x 14 ½ inches. Courtesy of Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York.