The narrative of place is designed, devised by a myriad descriptors that reveal authentic insights into not only its inhabitants, but also the day to day practices, happenings, and rituals that ultimately reveal that story. Edible culture exposes truth about people, space, and time because it echoes not just sustenance paradigms, but also artisanship and community in its purest form.
It's 2 p.m. on a muggy Arkansas Tuesday and eerily quiet in Pine Bluff's old downtown. Most of the buildings in this neighborhood are boarded up and empty, a few remnant artifacts of retail stores, banks and who-knows-what. Here and again, a city parcel sits bleached and bare, its punch-drunk building long lost to weather and time and apathy. The district, like the early summer air, is still.
When examining the landscape of urbanism throughout Arkansas, the value of community planning and engagement is paramount. It means very little, however, if it lacks input and direction from minority voices. Following many years of disinvestment and neglect, mistrust is widespread among minorities. Many institutions have not fully realized the benefit of collaboration and community partnerships, furthering tribalism. As communities continue to grow and evolve throughout the state, advocacy groups, planners, business leaders, policymakers, local development organizations, universities, foundations and local residents must work together within their respective communities to unify diverse and disparate interests and craft an authentic vision of equality and prosperity for everyone.
In 2013, I was beginning my fifth year as an Alderman. I was losing hope. I was frustrated because everything I wanted was taking so long—or getting shut down completely. I sought out Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines when we were both at a conference. I thought he could give me a secret recipe for success. Instead, he gave me unexpected advice I will never forget.