The disproportionate number of cases in racial violence and police brutality toward African Americans has sparked protests around the state, nation and world.
While the killing of George Floyd served as the catalyst for the protests over the past three weeks, other police killings have flooded the news, leading protesters to call for reforms such as increased accountability and transparency. Some are even demanding to defund or disband the police.
Since May 30, there have been daily protests across the state of Arkansas. People have gathered at the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol, city halls as well as companies like Walmart.
Arkansas Money & Politics spoke to two Little Rock protest organizers, Tim Campbell and Drekkia “Writes” Morning, to learn more about their efforts and goals.
Campbell, 27, is a Little Rock native who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s on Wolfe Street. “During that time, my neighborhood was probably one of the worst in terms of drug and gang wars,” he said. Today, he is a student at the Clinton School of Public Service and a member of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recently formed Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas.
Morning, 26, is the education program manager at the Arkansas Arts Council which involves managing education grants and organizing events. She also works with at-risk youth to help them build confidence and learn how to communicate through performance poetry. Campbell reached out to Morning as a friend about organizing something locally to fight racism and find effective solutions.
Campbell and Morning, along with three other individuals, Darrin Kidd, Oya the Poet and June June, have come together to form “The Movement.”
“I see us as a group of millennials who have come together to form sort of a think tank. We have goals, attitudes and visions with the same direction, so we want to see what we can get out of that,” said Campbell. “I felt a responsibility to mobilize people in my hometown to make a difference and give them a platform. I am ready to see a better Arkansas with a better police and criminal justice policy moving forward.”
According to Morning, the group talks daily in a group message and has met several times over the last three weeks.
“It’s still very new, but something that we are passionate about and working hard to develop,” she said. “Protests are important, but we also want to make sure that ideas come to fruition.”
Both Campbell and Morning have met with Gov. Hutchinson to discuss possible solutions and support from local law enforcement at peaceful protests.
“I remember getting the phone call from him and he basically asked what he could do,” said Morning. “We have been working with other community activists like Ron and Stacey McAdoo who helped us put together a list of policy changes to propose. They have also just been helping us in general with strategies and future plans.”
With their individual backgrounds, experiences, motivations and challenges, all five members of The Movement uniquely contribute to the cause of improving the lives of African Americans.
“I see my role with kids and the youth, Tim’s role would probably be police reform, Oya’s is mental health, June’s is education and Darrin’s is economics,” Morning said. “We can use our own strengths and networks as well as collaborate with each other to further The Movement.”
The Movement is seeking better police accountability, transparency, policies and training. The creation of the governor’s task force and new Duty to Intervene policy signed by the Pulaski County Sheriff are “the first steps” to progress. Furthermore, working in solidarity with other organizations and law enforcement is essential. Effective solutions are the focus for the group.
“We have to fight together in solidarity as a society for change. It has been incredible as well as interesting to see the response from others. At the end of the day, we want to work together to find solutions. We shouldn’t be fighting against each other,” she said. “Let’s work with existing organizations who are already putting in the effort to make a difference in society.”
The Movement is continuing its efforts to reach out to the community and be involved in the state’s progress to improve policies. Not only have the members organized multiple protests, they have also been making local care packages for those who have lost a loved one to gun violence.