Diana Shelton – Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission Program Coordinator
- Tell us a little bit about your family – childhood, education, professional experience, hobbies, volunteer interests, etc.
I was born in Glendale, California and raised here in Little Rock. I am the fifth and youngest child to both of my parents. As our family became blended with more children, younger and older, my mother taught us that siblings are siblings and that we will treat each other as such. We do not address each other as “Stepsister or Half Brother.” We are all brothers and sisters. There are now nine of us.
Growing up in the South End of Little Rock, everyone took care of each other and looked out for each other. Watchful neighbors were not appreciated then, but they kept us safe, humble, respectful, and helped mold us to love everyone, to respect people because we are respectful.
I was educated in the Little Rock School District and met some of my best friends that I still hold dear to me today. I am a proud graduate McClellan High School, home of the Mighty Crimson Lions. I am currently a student at Arkansas Baptist College, studying to receive my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Service.
As a single mother of four handsome young men, grandmother (affectionately called Nani) to one little beauty, I am a student at Arkansas Baptist College working to receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Services. I am a natural speaker and teacher, have served on the boards of a few community organizations and most importantly a believer and servant of the most high God.
My childhood professional dreams always included working with youth, in age and at heart, and bringing happiness to those around me. The most fulfilling job I have ever had involved nurturing, guiding, and providing the needs and sometimes wants of youth in a classroom setting and here at the Commission. I love people and building relationships. Learning from the past through the eyes of our elders and guiding our future by mentoring youth inspires me to be the best me I can be.
- How did you become involved with the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr Commission?
In 2010, Executive Director DuShun Scarbrough invited me to attend a program that the Commission was hosting at a local school. I knew nothing about the organization, but he thought enough of me to request my presence, so I accepted. The room was packed with youth and positivity and the energy was amazing. Later that week, Scarbrough invited me to the office to meet the team. When he asked me about volunteering, I remembered the energy that he and the team had during the program, the way the students received, reacted, and repeated the information that had been presented to them, and I could not say no.
This experience has educated me and increased my understanding of the need to share the teachings of Dr. King in the areas of social injustice and economic development.
- What are your roles with the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission?
I began serving as a volunteer in whatever capacity needed and was moved to lead others as an Area Captain. After a year or so, I was tasked with being the Volunteer Coordinator, to contact individuals and organizations interested in serving during our community outreach projects and overseeing the tasks to be completed. As the Program Coordinator now, responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating the different community outreach projects and programs, work out the logistics of each component, research to include resources and services, assign various duties and responsibilities of positions to all everyone involved.
- What do you believe is the greatest contribution Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission makes?
The thing that I really appreciate about the vision that Mr. Scarbrough has for the Commission, is that it is out of the box, very detailed oriented, and shares the philosophy of Dr. King of diversity and inclusion of the entire human race and in communities. We have programs that involve and inspire individuals and organizations across the nation. Other state MLK Commissions have reached out for us to help them in their efforts of sharing Dr. King’s legacy. By contributing to other organizations whose mission include outreach to the underserved we expand the reach of the vision.
- What is your earliest memory of volunteering?
Serving others has always been in my heart and is a big part of who I am. I was brought up in the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, where the opportunity to serve has always been present and required by my parents since I was a young girl. Serving as an Usher/Door Keeper, as an officer with the Youth Department, the choir, and yes, I am a Girl Scout. As a member of the Jr. Sunshine Charity Girls Club, we also learned about volunteerism and speaking up when it counts.
- Can you share an anecdote that speaks to your character?
As an officer in a community girls club, I as at competition when I responded to an elder saying that we I should not have won. My grandmother was informed that I was disrespectful. She kindly advised me that everywhere I go and everything I do represents her and the name that she made for herself. Those words reside with me every day. I represent my parents, my grandparents, the women, the Ladies, who took their time to invest themselves in me and I will not ruin their name or legacy with negative words or actions. I will pay it forward.
- Do you have a philosophy to live by?
Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.
That says to me that there is nothing that can defeat me if I trust and believe in Him. He is my strength to keep pushing though. I can not give up!!
- What is the best advice you’ve received?
Often as the baby child, I would tell my mother how someone hurt my feelings. She said to me, “Put your feelings in your back pocket and sit on them and can’t nobody hurt them but you.”
So often we respond to things based on how we feel about a person or thing rather than thinking before we react. If we learn how to manage through our feelings, then we would respond to each other and situations differently and more effectively.
- Who / what provides motivation / inspiration to you
My mother, children, and granddaughter are my greatest inspirations. I look at the example of what a godly woman should be in my mother and the sacrifices she made for us, and I want to make sure that my hands and works show her that her work does not return void. I want to leave a lasting and positive example for my generations following.
My life’s mission can be found in words sang by Mahalia Jackson…
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re traveling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain