Formed in 1993, The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission — a division of the Arkansas Department of Education — serves Arkansans of all ages and cultural backgrounds throughout the four congressional districts of Arkansas in its effort to encourage Arkansans to reflect on the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through educational endeavors, cultural performances, exhibitions and public community outreach projects that are multi-ethnic and family-oriented.
The mission is to promote and preserve the life and legacy of Dr. King in our state and to promote the principles of non-violence and equality among all citizens. Our community outreach projects are designed to promote education, an appreciation for history and to encourage youth to engage in positive leadership development and roles within their communities.
Amid these unprecedented times and difficulties, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is mindful of the reason it exists — for the Commission to help Arkansans create a more just, humane and peaceful world and “Beloved Community” using Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence and the Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change.” As Dr. King so often stated, “…the aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community; the aftermath of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation.”
Today, the work of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, and its duty-aligned partners, is critically important to turning the tide and transforming the world. During his years of social leadership, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged all people to address pressing social ills by way of citizen service.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Commission has hosted programs in all four congressional districts, some entirely in Spanish, and technology-based workshops in which students have studied coding, anti-bullying, joint programs with law enforcement agencies. Scarbrough fueled several action items including “Operation Appreciation” in which the Commission served meals to first responders and armed forces members, and L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Education, and Acceptance of Diversity) a mentorship program for youth ages 6-19.
Through the programming of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, it has always been a goal to bridge generational gaps. Dr. King’s work and the efforts of many who fought for Civil Rights locally are just as important today as they were then. The Commission partnered with Rock Region Metro to honor Dr. King’s leadership in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 by introducing the Rock Region King Bus. According to Rock Region Metro, the King Bus will have been viewed 1 million times before the end of the year.
The Commission promotes its Nonviolence Youth Summits, Nonviolence 365, diversity, Kingian principles and equity throughout the state. Soon, the Commission will implement classes teaching these initiatives in all four congressional districts. In previous years, the Commission has sponsored several individuals and organizations who promote non-violence and diversity within their communities to the King Center for professional development.
The challenges of 2020 prompted the Commission to extend its outreach to hurting families affected across the state and author virtual programming to address issues of social concern that arose during the pandemic.
Through the year, the Commission hosts several events that honor milestone events and figures in African American history including The Day of Service Day of Impact, the Commemorative Vigil acknowledging Dr. King’s passing, the march on Selma,and the Poor People’s Campaign. The efforts to lead the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign was organized by Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The goal was to champion for economic justice for poor people across all racial lines in the United States.
The 2021 King Holiday Day of Impact, the largest celebration in the nation honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King, was experienced virtually due to the pandemic, receiving thousands of impressions across several platforms.
The virtual experience included commemorative remarks, historic reflections, arts and presentations by community leaders, local and nationally renowned groups and individuals.
As a division of the Arkansas Department of Education, the Commission encourages youth to support the R.I.S.E. initiative — Reading Initiative for Student Excellence — to build a culture of reading. Director Scarbrough also serves on Arkansas’ National Statuary Hall Committee to replace the current statues in our nation’s capital with statues of Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash.