Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Diversity Task Force Leadership Series: Men Leading Men

A Focus on Leadership
by: Leora Jackson

Diversity Task Force (DTF) of Fort Smith is focused on building more leaders in the community. With a shortage of young people helping to step up in the forefront of leadership roles, the older generation feel a need to pass on the torch, but there are not many young leaders willing to help out.

The focus of DTF which is a grassroots movement, is to help recruit and train new people to help with initiating and taking charge of issues or concerns that are important to them in the community. Issues of lack of diversity in the Fort Smith School System, Lack of blacks on the Police & Fire Department and lack of Entreneurs or Black Business Owners. 

Hebron Franklin 

There is also a need for men to step up and take charge in more roles other than sports. Youth are looking for mentors to help teach life skills, guidance and providing inspiration and encouragement or anything to keep them off the drug/alcohol, or school dropout path. 

Same thing for young girls as well, but moreso, there should be education of parents on these matters too. 

On June 26, 2017 at 6 pm at the McGill Center, mentors from The Future School of Fort Smith, Joel Releford, Jr and Hebron Franklin will lead a leadership series on Men Mentoring Men. Anyone is invited to come and listen to these men talk about mentoring, leadership, drug prevention, bullying, life skills and more.
Joel Releford Jr. 

We need more Men and Women to step up to lead. Come and join DTF Leadership series. We need more leaders to speak and more leaders to Lead!

Juneteenth on the Hill and at the Fort


What were the words of the Emancipation Proclamation?

Here is the speech:

By the President of the United States of America:
A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twentysecond day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Johns, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South-Carolina, North-Carolina, and Virginia, (except the fortyeight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth-City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Official Juneteenth Poem

We Rose

From Africa’s heart, we rose

Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,

We rose

Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose

Survive we must, we did,
We rose

We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew,
We rose

Dream, we did
Act we must

Kristina Kay,

We Rose  © 1996,

Poetry, Speed Dating, Poetic Justice and more at Tha AVE!

It's POETIC at Tha Ave!!

There is lots of stuff going on at Fort Smith hottest new club Tha Ave!

Since doors open February this year, it has continued to bring in hot local artists to the community for entertainment.

This months lineup is HOT!!!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Everyone ROTATE! Speed Dating in The Fort

Speed Dating in Fort Smith

by: Leora Jackson

Let's get ready to Rotate!!!

Fort Smith, Arkansas will have a new treat for local singles in the area. On Friday June 16 at  the new club The Ave at 7pm, 15 single men and 15 single women will have the chance to go on 15 dates in ONE NIGHT!! Dating like this hasn't been so easy and accessible to the community of Fort Smith and putting this together hasn't been a "walk in the park" either.

Local volunteers have been working behind the scenes for two months to make this event possible. Individuals will register and pay a $15 fee online (Register Here) to hold their spots. They will also complete a singles profile online as well (Click HERE to complete your profile). When the singles show up, they will have a brief meet and greet and each will receive name tags and dating score card. 

Then the show begins!!!

Women will take their seat and the men will sit across from the women. Then the timer starts. Each couple will have 3-4 minutes to ask questions before the time goes off. Then, the men rotate to the next chair.

Once the 15 dates are over, the hosts and volunteers will score their cards and inform them by text or email who their chosen dates are. Once, they are informed, and matched, the rest is up to them. 

So, Singles lets get Ready to ROTATE!

(For more information about this event, please email F.L. Jones at )

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


A Tribute To Black Poets and Writers
by Tony Boyd

February is Black History Month, a time of the year we set aside to remember, teach, and learn about the contributions of African Americans to United States history and to honor their achievements. Black History Month was established in 1926 (originally just a week) by Dr. Carter Woodson. It became a whole month in 1976. Dr. Woodson’s impetus for creating “Negro History Week”, as it was called then, was the lack of recognition of  the contributions of Blacks being taught in U.S. schools.

“He noted that African-American contributions ‘were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.’  Race prejudice, he concluded, "is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind."

It is because of the tradition that we gathered on February 4, 2017 to honor our forbearers. In this instance, we chose to honor them through poetry. Umoja Soul Writers Group in conjunction with Crystal Bridges Museum presented Poetic Justice Open Mic at Crystal Bridges “A Tribute to Black Poets and Writers”. Poetic Justice Open Mic is an open forum poetry slam that encourages all people, especially people of color to come to the mic and express themselves about anything that moves them. Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening was Ms. Lakeesha Nicole Shaw.

The program began with an introduction of  why we were there and what we were doing by Stacy “L.I.F.E.” Harper. With her usual theatric flare, she  spoke in lyrical tones of the importance of poetry in her life and indeed, all our lives.  She was followed to the stage by Leron Jackson, son of Leora Jackson, one of the original founders of Umoja Soul Writers Group and its driving force. Leron chose a work by Langston Hughes for his tribute to Black poet history entitled “I, Too, Sing America”. Mr. Hughes was known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties.

Leora took a little mic time afterwards to discuss Nikki Giovanni, Margaret Walker, Maya Angelou, and other Black female poets

Michael Day, local poet, vocalist, activist and more, came with an original work entitled “A God Is Dead” speaking to the ills of racism, pain and struggle in today’s world. His projected voice reverberating around the room, the passion about his subject matter clearly evident. I feel like his homage to those that came before him is one that both he and they can be very proud of. This young man has important things to say. It would behoove us to listen.

“We Wear The Masks” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poem that is near and dear to my heart. It was one of the first poems I ever heard by a…Black person (say what!!) … read to my siblings and me by my favorite aunt, Ida Henning-Wilson. So when C. J. Beavers came to the mic and uttered the first phrase I was taken back in time to those days, those na├»ve days. Mr. Dunbar’s work inspired my aunt. In turn, she used it to inspire us. We learned a lesson about creativity and expression that day. Thanks for the memory, C.J.

Maya Angelou, Stacy Harper’s choice for recognition, was a world reknown, prolific, and talented writer/poetess/teacher/singer/actress. Of her many works, Stacy chose “Rainbow” to be the piece to represent her with. Steve  “Mr. Ladebac” Toston also decided to pay homage to Mr. Langston Hughes by reciting “Let America Be America”.  Leora performed her original piece called “Say Her Name” about lifting up the names of the female victims of police misconduct. Madia Willis performed an original piece entitled “Tonic”.

All in all, it was a pleasant, insightful, educational event. Kudos to Crystal Bridges Museum for being apart of making it possible.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Umoja Soul Kids Showcase Sponsors Wanted

Umoja Soul Kids Showcase Sponsors Wanted

The 2017 BHM Showcase is right around the corner on February 25, 2017 and the Fayetteville Boys and Girls Club Kids Showcase is coming up on March 11 and the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Kids Showcase will be Saturday April 8.

And we are excited to produce these events for you!!!

On Saturday February 25, our youth will be dressing up as Famous African Americans of the Past and Present. Some notable individuals are Madam C.J. Walker, B.B. King, Coretta Scott King, Wilma Rudolph, the Tuskegee Airman and many more.

On Saturday March 11, 2017, youth will choose from diverse lineups from Super Stars such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Barack and Michelle Obama, Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Michael Jackson, and many more

On Saturday April 8, youth will also choose from Super Stars of the Past and very few of the present with people like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, George Washington Carver, Anne Frank, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Selena, Prince, Whitney Houston, Maya Angelou and more.

All 3 of these Showcases require a lot of help and support to make this the best event possible for our kiddos. This Saturday, we have 14 youth who have been practicing really hard for 8 weeks. Some youth will participate in all 3 showcases, or 2 or just 1 and they are welcome to do as many as they like.

We anticipate each showcase will yield 15-25 youth, sometimes more. All of our volunteers have been working to make sure our kids have fun being a historical person of the day.

We would like to your support with a donation of $5, $10, $20 or $25 or whatever you would like to give. Your donation will help with items, such as snacks, gift bag items, black history paraphelneia and more at each location. 

Please attend any one of these showcases or attend all 3!

Thank you in advance for your assistance with helping our kids to DREAM and BECOME a SUPERSTAR!!!

For more information on how to get your child involved in the showcase for March 11 or April 8, please contact Leora Jackson at or call 901-340-1966. Deadline signup for March 11 is March 3, and deadline for Fort Smith Kids Showcase is March 31, 2017. Thanks!

To Donate, please click below

Michelle Obama

Coretta Scott King

Bruno Mars

King of the Blues BB King

Olympic Track & Field Gold Medalist Wilma Rudolph

Katherine Johnson-Hidden Figures played by actress Tariji P. Henson

Saturday, December 10, 2016


by Tony Boyd

            The eleventh incarnation of the Poetic Justice Open Mic night brought with it a new venue. PJOM was held at the fledgling theatre called Artist Laboratory Theatre. It is a smaller, homey, more intimate venue. It’s the brainchild of Erika Wilhite and her partners to provide a neighborhood type venue to provide a diversity of artistic expression.

            Our MCs for the night were Jared Carter and Steve Toston better known as D.J. Jockstrap and Mr. Ladebac. The atmosphere was subdued. Patrons trickled in at their leisure. The MCs got the night started off by discussing how and why Umoja Soul Writers’ Group (the spearhead of Poetic Justice Open Mic night) puts on the poetry slam. One of the main purposes of PJOM is to provide an open forum for anyone to discuss their experiences with and feelings of social injustice. It can be therapeutic.

            With all of that out of the way, our first performer steps to the mic and its Jared Carter with one of his always though-provoking untitled pieces. It had no name but if you listened you could glean a sense of what he was trying to convey. In this case, I felt he was conveying the difference between the privilege of white people vs. the lack of privilege experienced by so many people of color. The sentiments he wanted to convey were conveyed as a verbally painted tapestry. So awful is social injustice.

            Not to be outdone, our other MC, Steve Toston, step to the mic to drop some knowledge and understanding. His piece was entitled “Race Was Invented for Division. He seemed to point out the stupidity and futility of race proven by science to be just a made up thing. It’s a source of so much separation, divisiveness, mistrust, and conflict. Not to say there wouldn’t be any of those things without the artificial construct of race just that they might be based in reality.

            I have been to all of the PJOM nights. I have seen some incredible performances. So when I tell you a young lady named Regina blew up the stage, you can believe me. She blew up the dang stage. Regina sang a riveting, soul-stirring, a cappella song with the assist of just one key to start called “Sadness Dismiss”. It was a touching look at the sadness of loss and the strength to face it. Her voice was so very moving inducing you to feel as she felt. I guess you can tell I was impressed by her performance. Did I point out that she was a newcomer?
            We had other poignant performances including a young gentleman by the name of Dillon who brought political discourse to the night, reflecting on the recent presidential election. Yolanda waxed poetic about Black men being in danger and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jared sprung a named piece on us called “America The Beautiful”. Here’s a hint: Its not like the song. Another newcomer, Lola B. laid bare her soul and poured out her heart to us as she spoke of her bouts of depressions and the causes behind them. It took a lot of guts to open up like that. Being able to express openly in a safe, supportive environment is one of the main things that Poetic Justice Open Mic night is about.

            Lady Jazmynne, singer, poetess, and activist, opined about what it meant to be a house n—ger vs a Uncle Tom back in the day. Then she compared it to what’s going on today. She pointed out that her perception of a 20th century House Negro is someone who feels they already have a piece of the proverbial pie and identify with the oppressor.

            The night carried on with many heartfelt revelations of heartache, pain, and childhood strife. Speakers were able to share without judgment. We also had some lively freestyle from our MCs.

            All and all it was a good night. It was an intimate gathering in an intimate setting that encouraged the participants to open up. There was a take away for each and every one of us. Thanks to Erika Wilhite and the Artist Laboratory Theatre for hosting. Be one the look out for announcements about future events.
Erika Wilhite
Jared Carter

Lady Jazmynne Matthews

Lady Jazmynne & F.L. Jones

F.L. Jones

Steve "Mr. Ladebac" Toston