By Tiffany G. Pettus
That’s a bold statement, but I mean it from my heart.
Who are we? Who am I? We are descendants of slaves. Slaves who were assigned American names, working the fields from sunup to sundown; my ancestors, they made cotton king, fueling the American economy.
Their stories are the story of many African Americans.
We didn’t get to where we are alone. I am a product of so many others who came before me. I am my grandmother, Pearl Scarbrough. She lived in New York City in the Manhattanville projects, during the ‘50s and ‘60s before she relocated to Little Rock. She shopped, performed odd jobs, cooking and cleaning for menial pay. She was poor, but rich in love. She raised a family. With the little that she had, she provided an opportunity for me to make it in this world. She taught me the importance of education and not to take it lightly. She created opportunity for my mother, uncles and aunts to get an education which has trickled down to my generation, her grandchildren, who then had the responsibility to carry on the Scarbrough legacy.
Like so many of my people, Pearl Scarbrough knew what it was like to take nothing and make something out of it.
Thanks to Rosa, I can sit anywhere I want to on a bus or even own a bus company. The massive voter turnout for the previous election started in Selma, Alabama.
That passion for change is in my DNA; it runs through my veins, beats in my heart. I am their legacy; I am what was not possible for them. I am the change they longed for. I am the change they wished for. I am the change they never saw. I am the change they died for.
Descendants of slaves, who wore rags, now prevalent in every arena, every walk of life including the highest government office in the country.
Scarbrough works to promote Dr. King’s legacy
As the director of the state’s official agency bearing the name of Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Scarbrough works selflessly to promote Dr. King’s legacy of diversity, equity, reconciliation and non-violence across the state through education and community service, especially targeting rural and undeserved communities and youth, providing thousands of hours of volunteer service.
Reared by his grandmother and aunts, it was instilled in him that he could achieve anything if he kept God first.
DuShun L. Scarbrough, Sr. is a native of Little Rock and educated in the Little Rock School District. At the young age of 15, he began his community involvement in a youth speak-out conference entitled, “Death of a Race.” Thereafter, he continued his zealous quest by participating in youth seminars and preventive programs. After graduating from high school, he went on to acquire a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Philander Smith College. Scarbrough currently holds a Master of Business Administration Degree from Webster University in Orlando, Florida, and a Master of Counselor Education Degree from Florida A&M University. He holds a J.D., Juris Doctorate Law Degree from Western Michigan University School of Law. Scarbrough is married to Angela and the couple shares three children — DuShun, Jr., Kennedy and Braxton.
Eager to acquire an astute blend of practical and theoretical skills, Scarbrough left Little Rock in 1999 to further his edification, desiring to someday return home and continue serving his community.
Scarbrough’s goal as Executive Director is to cooperatively keep Commissioners informed of staff progress and community unification, in accordance with the vision of the Governor of Arkansas. Scarbrough believes in the organization’s mission and vision of promoting racial harmony, multi-cultural diversity and social justice for the improvement and equality of all Arkansans. Scarbrough’s personal vision for the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is for Arkansans of all ethnic groups and economic levels to unite and work together on various issues of the community.
In April of 2014, Scarbrough initiated and garnered the participation of Arkansans to assist in healing race relations in Harrison, Arkansas, a nationally renowned city that carries the stigma of racism and the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. While in Harrison, he hosted a peace march, unity concert and a mock funeral to bury hatred and racism. Thousands from across the state journeyed to Harrison to participate in the event. While in Harrison, Scarbrough also sat down with the Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard to initiate dialogue, promote mutual understanding and hear his perspective.
The Commission has earned the respect of several nationally acclaimed figures including Arun Gandhi, the grandson of non-violence champion Mahandas Gandhi, and Dr. Bernice A. King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who is also one of Scarbrough’s mentors.
Under Scarbrough’s leadership, The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission proudly announced Arkansas’ first commemorative license plate dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The commemorative license plate is available at local revenue offices throughout the state of Arkansas. Arkansas is one of five states in the nation that now offers a license plate commemorating the legacy of Dr. King.
In light of the recent tension between law enforcement and civilians, Scarbrough decided to take a positive, proactive approach to encouraging community engagement and dialogue.
“As an agency dedicated to promoting the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we along with so many others have been shaken by the recent tragedies that have rocked our country,” he said.
Scarbrough crafted public service announcements and initiatives that the Commission undertook to move forward towards community involvement, reconciliation and healing. The purpose of the public service announcements was to show that as a community we must stand together with our law enforcement officials and that there can be positive interaction between the two. Scarbrough strongly believes in Dr. King’s teachings that say, “What affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”
The Commission has ongoing partnerships with Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, Little Rock Police Department and several law enforcement agencies throughout the state to improve community relations with law enforcement and encourage community policing.
During the holiday season, the Commission gave away thousands of toys, clothing, and food items to families throughout the state and highlighted the historic West Ninth Street, which was a vibrant district of black-owned businesses in what is now downtown Little Rock.