The Juneteenth holiday provides an opportunity for all Americans to consider freedom and civil rights in the context of our shared history. It was established 156 years ago to recognize the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Texas. Time passes and cultures shift, yet the vision for the progression of human rights that embraces cultural diversity remains steadfast. It reflects the mission fulfillment work of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and the commissioners who devote themselves as civil servants on behalf of the organization and the greater good.
Sergeant Carmen Helton provides a safer environment for all citizens. She believes in the transformative power of effective communication as a catalyst for building better communities. Her tenure of more than two decades with the North Little Rock Police Department – as the first African American female sergeant – translates into an intuitive nature promoting nonviolent resolutions. “Being part of such a noble profession is truly an honor. Our youth programs help build connections with families. The impact of technology on law enforcement has really changed how we engage with the community, solve crimes and create a level of transparency. We are hoping to resume some of our youth activities as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and more people are vaccinated.”
Carmen created one of these summer youth camps, facilitated by the North Little Rock Police Department, that cultivates stronger relationships among the residents and city officials. This experience blends seamlessly into her work with Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. Executive Director Dushun Scarbrough explains, “Carmen is key to our expansive outreach efforts. With a presence in all four congressional districts, initiatives include encouraging healthy and viable communication between law enforcement and the community.”
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, a division of the Arkansas Department of Education, provides strategic programming that promotes understanding of nonviolence and human equality as a path for positive change. The organization will host the Nonviolence Youth Summit Delta Financial Literacy Juneteenth Celebration later this month. Highlights include a peaceful march, vaccination clinic and voter registration. “All are welcome to join us in unity, healing and reconciliation,” Dushun notes. “We hope our presence in Southeast Arkansas will reassure our neighbors in Dumas that the commission represents the state of Arkansas – all Arkansans.” Dushun expects the day’s activities to encourage peaceful conversation reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr. Carmen adds, “Advocating for Dr. King’s vision and meaningful community discussions is an honor.” The commissioners believe – like our hopeful forefathers – that peaceful, positive change is possible.