Community Cohesion Project launches to bridge cultural gaps in Northwest Arkansas

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 936 views 

Walmart, Procter & Gamble, the Northwest Arkansas Council and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art have created the Community Cohesion Project to improve understanding about cultural differences while also encouraging and celebrating diversity.

The announcement Wednesday (Aug. 26) comes as another young black man is shot by a police officer. On Sunday, an unarmed Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer. Riots have ensued, and on Wednesday the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The NBA ultimately postponed Wednesday’s full slate of three playoff games. The Seattle Mariners, who have the most Black players of any team in Major League Baseball, and Milwaukee Brewers also boycotted their scheduled MLB games Wednesday in protest of the shooting.

Ben-Saba Hasan, senior vice president and chief culture, diversity & inclusion officer at Walmart, said the new project is “an opportunity for us getting to know each other.”

“At the end of the day we want to come down on the right side of history and someone will write that we took a stand for what is right,” Hasan said.

The Community Cohesion Project will sponsor and promote educational programming, wellness programs, cultural initiatives, dialogues, networking events, and celebrations that recognize unique cultures. A weekly CCP virtual event series will launch in early September. Events will feature community leaders and health and wellness experts, as well as spotlight locally-owned small businesses.

Following are some of the initial events sponsored by CCP.
• Sept. 10 – Ask Me Anything: Mike Reynolds, Fayetteville Chief of Police
• Sept. 14 – Small Business Spotlight: Shakayla Houston, Sweet Greens Vegan
• Sept. 16 – Small Business Spotlight: Jimmy Beasley, b-easy
• Sept. 24 – Ask Me Anything: Session TBD
• Sept. 30 – Small Business Spotlight: Dr. Ashley McElroy, Amethyst Chiropractic
• Oct. 8 – Town Hall: Dr. Sylvia Bartley, Medtronic Foundation

The events are tentative and subject to change but updates will be posted on the organization’s website.

“We see this community going together from supporting local restaurants, law enforcement and healthcare workers or anyone in the community who needs help,” said Mindy Sherwood, president of global Walmart at P&G. “Voices that need to be heard and changes that need to be made can be put on the table and I believe together through CCP we can make real lasting change.

The Northwest Arkansas Council began pushing for the effort following a quality of life survey conducted by the Walton Family Foundation. One of the key survey findings was a large disparity amongst African American constituents, compared to other constituent groups, as it relates to themes around inclusivity, diversity, and sense of belonging.

CCP said it serves to answer an unmet need for an underserved community, providing an epicenter for connection and engagement in Benton and Washington counties. For this reason, the CCP is focusing efforts on closing gaps among underserved communities and bridging a more inclusive environment for everyone who lives and works in Northwest Arkansas. The group said its efforts will be intentional in highlighting constituents and cultures who are disproportionately underrepresented in Northwest Arkansas.