story by Kim Souza
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently teamed up with the new local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to host a star-studded event on Saturday (Feb. 22) in conjunction with the NAACP 45th Annual Image Awards.
While the NAACP red carpet event is played out in California, more than 1,300 local residents will take part in NWA blue carpet and viewing celebration made possible by Wal-Mart, One Solution and Procter & Gamble.
“We are so excited to be part of this special celebration and were happy to reach out to Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight about attending the local blue carpet viewing event in Rogers. These great entertainers both accepted the invitation to come to Northwest Arkansas for this big night,” said Tony Waller, senior director, corporate affairs constituent relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Waller works to help Wal-Mart to set strategy for its outreach opportunities and social investments in the African-American, American Indian, mature and women’s markets. He told The City Wire that Wal-Mart has had a longtime association with the NAACP as many of their core missions align to one another. But, it was just recently that the NAACP granted a local charter to Northwest Arkansas.
John L. Colbert, president of the local NAACP chapter, said the group received its charter from the national organization in October and Wal-Mart was among the first local companies to reach out for a partnership opportunity.
“It’s a big deal. The NAACP Image Awards have been an important part of the organization’s efforts to recognize those entertainers who promote social justice through creative endeavors dating back to 1909. To have a local satellite viewing production with its own live headline entertainment is very exciting for us as brand new chapter. We couldn’t have better partners,” Colbert said.
Wal-Mart said 1,300 local residents have already been assured a seat at the NWA event through the retailer’s RSVP requirement.
“Even through the event is at capacity, we continue to work toward getting more folks in. We suggest signing up via the website, and getting on the waiting list, as more seats could become available,” Waller said. “Wal-Mart knows how to put together a big show.”
Those attending will be able to view segments of the main event as it unfolds live in California, and of course LaBelle and Knight will each perform for the local audience.
“This has been an incredible year from the artistic community, with phenomenal contributions across the board from the music, television, motion picture, and literature genres that have the power and impact to drive social change,” said Roslyn Brock, chairman of the NAACP. “The NAACP Image Awards provides an excellent venue to recognize those who make difference through art and activism.”
Colbert, a Fayetteville educator for the past 40 years, credits Wal-Mart’s diversity efforts for much of the region’s changing ethnic make-up. Waller said Wal-Mart takes its commitment to diversity seriously as the nation’s largest private employer with 1.3 million employees.
“Through our Diversity Goals Program, nearly 60,000 managers are held accountable for elevating the standards of diversity and inclusion throughout our company, with up to 15% of management bonuses and 10% of performance evaluation scores tied to their diversity goals achievement. These goals motivate our leaders to participate in diversity events, mentor associates and to place diverse candidates at a rate consistent with the qualified applicant pool for field management positions,” according to Wal-Mart’s website.
Wal-Mart also notes that 37% of its U.S. workforce are minority, employing more than 225,00 African-Americans, 169,000 Hispanic workers, 43,000 Asian and 6,000 Pacific Islanders, as well as more than 14,000 American Indian and Alaska Natives.
Waller said Wal-Mart continually looks for opportunities to celebrate diversity, while also fostering inclusion in the communities where its located. He said last June the company sponsored the “Road to Essence” music festival in Bentonville’s Orchards Park.
“This was Wal-Mart’s opportunity to give local residents a taste of of the larger Essence Music Festival event held in New Orleans July 4 to 7. Grammy Award-winning artists Maxwell, Estelle, Trey Songz and Hezekiah Walker performed the free concert,” Waller said.
Wal-Mart, being such a large national employer, has been the target of numerous gender and diversity lawsuits during the past decades. The Dukes V. Wal-Mart Stores was the most high-profile and at one time was considered a class action lawsuit with the potential to result in steep penalties for the retailer. However, Wal-Mart has won several decisions in the process, and what remains of the lawsuit in the federal appeals system.