JOPLIN, Mo. — Over the weekend, protesters from Joplin for Justice and Bridge The Gap Northwest Arkansas caravaned to Zinc Arkansas, the reported home of the National Director of the Ku Klux Klan, for a barbecue.
We talked to those who made the trip, what did they say about their experience?
Protesters told us they believe racism not only impacts the local communities around the KKK compound,
But it impacts the reputation of the Ozarks as well.
And awareness is a huge part of the solution.
Dola Flake, Organizer, Joplin for Justice, said, “The presence the energy of hate and bigotry is there.”
Aaron Clarke, Bridge the Gap NWA, said, “We don’t want to go down there and be the first black people that some of these people have ever met and be the angry, hateful, violent people that everybody else in the area has told them about.”
Clarke says he organized the protest as a way to extend an olive branch.
“Everybody likes to eat right, so let’s start and let’s create a common ground and let’s move from there.”
“As lead organizer for Joplin for Justice, it really was important that we have a presence there.
There was a lot of narrative happening while we were in Zinc, Arkansas some of that came directly from the KKK,” said Flake.
But some of the dialogue came from community members who don’t agree with the methods of the KKK.
Kevin Stage, Harrison Arkansas Resident, said, “It gives us a negative effect, everybody’s like Harrison, Arkansas is the most racist town in America. Now back in the day when it was all over Harrison, I get that 100%. But now is that stuff still going on, very little.”
“We have to work with these people otherwise it’s just us standing outside of the building yelling and saying black lives matter, who’s going to take the next step and and go inside of the building and say hey black lives matter, and that’s what Bridge the Gap is about,” said Clarke.
“Our intention when partnering with Bridge the Gap Northwest Arkansas and other activist groups is not simply to cause trouble and agitate people, it is to bring awareness and change and unfortunately, making people uncomfortable in their bigotry and hate is part of that process,” said Flake.
Joplin for Justice and Bridge The Gap NWA plan to continue to partner together in the future
And Clarke has announced his plans to run for City Council in the City of Rogers.