Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
Since its inception, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has provided strategic programming that cultivates leadership and intrinsic understanding of social justice. Commissioner Laveta Wills-Hale recognizes the educational component of this mission fulfillment work and the power of knowledge to transform lives. She also believes Black History Month is a time to reflect on the lives of Arkansans who have created a more equitable society.
Professionally, Laveta serves as director of the Arkansas Out of School Network. The network is an initiative of Arkansas State University that ensures the health and safety of all Arkansas children through meaningful, learning experiences outside of the classroom. “I lead a team that advocates for policies and cross-sector partnerships,” Laveta explains. “We’re always working to expand access to quality programming throughout the state.” This perspective complements her civic engagement with the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.
The vision of both organizations blends seamlessly into an equation for a brighter future; a future that Laveta envisions is possible. The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission provides educational opportunities that promote understanding of nonviolence + human equality as a path for positive change. “We highlight the life and legacy of Dr. King while adding contemporary elements, like anti-bullying. We hope to engage youth, communities and elected officials with these resources,” she notes.
At the advent of Black History Month, Arkansas Martin Luther, Jr. Commission Executive Director DuShun Scarbrough reflects on the significance of African-American history in our shared American experience. “It pays tribute to several unsung heroes of history and learn from their stories. How often do we hear about great inventions by African-Americans such as cell phones or GPS technology? It’s a chance to educate, inspire and tell stories of the human spirit.” He continues, “We can reflect on how so many individuals succeeded against insurmountable obstacles.” Laveta adds, “Now more than ever, we need to bring people together through constructive dialogue. We help community stakeholders address difficult topics in a way that honors diverse opinions.” It represents courage + determination that all people can embrace.