Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
For nearly three decades, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has provided strategic programming that cultivates an intrinsic understanding of social justice and the pursuit of a nonviolent path for positive change. Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission Executive Director DuShun Scarbrough is the visionary; his team of ardent ambassadors promote the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with courage and compassion. Diana Shelton and Tiffany Pettus work throughout the state inspiring the steadfast progression of human rights and the transformative power of knowledge.
“Serving others has always been in my heart and is a big part of who I am,” Diana reflects. She was initially introduced to the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission when DuShun invited her to attend a local school program hosted by the commission. “The auditorium was packed with youth and positivity; the energy was amazing.” She became a volunteer and later joined the organization in a professional capacity. As Program Coordinator, Diana believes her faith and family values are invaluable resources. “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.” She continues, “My mother, children and granddaughter are my greatest inspirations. I look at the example of what a godly woman should be in my mother.”
Tiffany realizes that youth are the future. “Children are a great investment. It is important to expose them to rich arts experiences to spark interest and build confidence.” She has volunteered as a dance teacher at several nonprofit organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Arkansas. At the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, she utilizes lessons from her childhood sharing the message of Dr. King. “Get an understanding of everything, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions even if you have to look in the mirror. Ask questions, gain clarity.” This counsel from her mother is instilled in every aspect of her role as Executive Assistant and Agency Historian. “Mr. Scarbough executes remarkable programs to reach individuals from all walks of life,” Tiffany shares. “Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is inclusive and not limited to one race of people. It is our goal to model this principle. The state of violence is so egregious, it’s going to take all of us working together to save our communities, to save our children.”
A statewide presence and strong partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education remains paramount to the success of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. “We serve all four congressional districts and the Arkansas Department of Education helps coordinate our efforts to our most important demographic – the youth and future of Arkansas,” DuShun elaborates. He recognizes underserved communities deserve the same consideration as more urban areas of the state. “Many communities struggle with violence and the status of race relations. We travel the state with a message of reconciliation and fortitude.”
It’s this kind of conversation that creates meaningful change among constituents and better understanding of the principles of racial harmony and respect that remain relevant. “We must work together and invite Arkansans of all ethnic groups and economic levels to unite on various issues affecting the community. We need to not only utilize Dr. King’s tenants but to also teach his legacy. We must solidify our youth’s intellectualism and elevate our effectiveness as parents, educators and role models.”
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is a beacon of hope, providing inspiration for humanity. As Dr. King reminds us, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” As we consider current events + culture, messengers of hope – like Diana and Tiffany – provide reassurance. “I am convinced that the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has what’s known as a ‘halo’ impact,’ Tiffany explains. “Several of our programs and initiatives are being implemented throughout the state by other organizations. I believe that our work is trailblazing; we receive calls from commissions across the nation requesting training and assistance. The greater the output, the greater the impact.” Diana adds, “It’s important to share the philosophy of Dr. King through inclusion and diversity to the entire human race.”