Three University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff alumni assumed leadership roles in protests for justice and equality at Little Rock in June following the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans during encounters with police.
Tim Campbell, a 2015 graduate of health and recreation, Darrin Kid, a 2016 graduate of biology (pre-med), and Jared “June” Young, a 2017 graduate of mass communications, organized participants and spoke about community empowerment during protests.
Their activism led to conversations with local law enforcement and collaboration with the office of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, according to a news release.
Hutchinson invited Campbell, Kid and other protest leaders to a discussion following their first march down Capitol Avenue. They met with the governor and representatives of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office twice.
After the second meeting, Campbell, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, was appointed by Hutchinson to serve on the Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas.
The committee was created to study and analyze the best practices and procedures for recruiting, training and maintaining law enforcement officers in Arkansas.
Currently consisting of 20 community leaders, including Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, the group will make recommendations to Hutchinson on ways to enhance trust between law enforcement and communities, as well as improvements or changes needed to enhance the profession of law enforcement to ensure compliance with standards.
“I am excited and honored to have been appointed by Gov. Hutchinson as a part of the task force,” Campbell said. “My role is going to be to reflect the community perspective. For too long, minority communities have been policed by over-militarized officers who they don’t know. Let’s get police to know members of the communities they patrol and vice versa.”
Campbell said Hutchinson seemed receptive to the idea that more attention needs to be paid to strengthening the relationship between everyday citizens in minority communities and law enforcement personnel at all levels.
After he earned a degree in health and recreation at UAPB, Campbell served in the Peace Corps for two and a half years in the West African nation of Gambia. There, he acted as a health education facilitator and was responsible for building the capacity of rural communities to incorporate sustainable practices related to health and nutrition. Reflections on the things he learned in Gambia, as well as his education so far at the Clinton School of Public Service, served as the push to get involved in community change in a meaningful way at home.
“After the killing of George Floyd, I felt a sense of social responsibility and knew my background in community engagement could be an asset,” he said. “If I could effect social change in Gambia while speaking a different language and working in 100-degree heat with little resources, I knew I could do it at home too. I also thought back on the lessons in resilience I learned at UAPB and wanted to put those skills into practice.”
While serving as a protest organizer, Campbell said he wanted to give local citizens a platform to express their anger and frustration in a peaceful and constructive way.
“Protest is often the first step to making legislative change, and I aimed to ensure that our protests were safe, healthy and effective,” he said. “Our first march began with around 500 participants. At one point, I turned around and saw that the crowd had grown to over 1,000 people. I knew then we had a chance to effect real change.”
Campbell said confirmation of the effectiveness of peaceful protest came in the form of Hutchinson’s invitation to meet. Later, during a third march, this idea was reaffirmed when officers and representatives of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office showed up in great numbers to march in solidarity with protesters.
Kid said during protests he aimed to give a voice to people who felt like they were not being heard.
“My message to the people at the first protest was that we have to be the change we want to see,” he said. “I told them we have to stop waiting around for the president, celebrities or athletes to speak for us. We have more power than anyone to make a change in our lives, so we have to start elevating ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically.”
At the second protest, Kid spoke about black economics, using a megaphone to address the crowd gathered around him. He urged people to think about where their money goes and to start spending money in their own community first and foremost.
“I told them there is no black power without black dollars,” he said. “Our power as a people is equivalent to our dollar. We spend around 98 percent of our income outside of our community, making other ethnic groups rich, while leaving only 2 percent of our own money in our community. We can’t build anything with only 2 percent. We have to start using our money as a weapon.”
During the meeting with Hutchinson, Kid took the opportunity to speak about his hometown of Pine Bluff and express his opinion that the city was being failed by the state government, especially in terms of education.
“The governor looked back at me and told me that I was right,” Kid said. “He said there are ongoing problems that need more attention and work.”
Young said he got involved in the protests because he wanted to take action. He reached out to Campbell and other protest leaders, who referred to their activist group as “The Movement,” and asked about ways he could make a difference. Using his skills in communications, he reached out to a number of contacts, including leaders of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities.
“When I connected with the team that organized the protests, it felt like meeting with family,” he said. “We were a family with many different talents and strengths working together to accomplish common goals.”
When speaking with protest participants, Young emphasized the importance of community unity. He also asked individuals to remember that they are role models for others and should work to keep people inspired and diligent in their actions.
Young had several opportunities for dialogue with police officers during the protests. Currently a middle school teacher of English and math, he shared his perspective as an educator with the officers.
“As educators, the way we build relationships with our kids is to talk to them and get to know them and understand their differing backgrounds,” he said. “If I only scold kids when they are doing something wrong, they will resent me and won’t respect me. That’s how we feel when police patrol our neighborhoods day after day, but don’t know our names. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have a relationship with the community you drive through on a daily basis.”
Young said several police officers shook his hand after his speech and expressed their willingness to do a better job getting to know the communities they serve through conversations and simple acts of engagement such as playing basketball with local youth.
During the third and final march, Young walked arm-in-arm with Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey and Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins.
— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.