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In the past, we have shared stories of African-American pioneers, many of whom have used their influence and grit to change the past. But Arkansas has incredible, young, African-American Arkansans making a difference today in their communities.
Kendra Pruitt has been on a mission to enhance Arkansas from day one. As a college student, she was well-respected among her peers and noticed by professors and administrators. Law school was no surprise with her passion for helping others and serving her community. Today, Kendra is an attorney and Chief of Staff for the Little Rock Mayor.
Pruitt’s experience in corporate litigation and administrative law is a perfect blend for the advising role of Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. with change-making policies to strengthen the city of Little Rock. Over time, Kendra has been heavily involved in youth programs in her hometown of Newport through Club RESTORE. At the core of her initiatives, Kendra is a people advocate and a placemaking entrepreneur.
In the summer of 2022, the Miss Arkansas Pageant Organization set a new historical precedent as both the new Miss Arkansas and Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Team were crowned and are both women of color. Mitchell grew up in Harrison and started pageants at the age of 9. Winning the title in a year where the teen winner was also a black woman meant a lot to Mitchell.
Mitchell’s social impact initiative, “A Responsible Digital You.” focuses on digital media safety, an area of stronger concern with greater access to digital platforms. After learning about digital marketing concepts through her undergrad and graduate studies, she knew this was a cause she could advocate for across the state. Her partnership with the department of education and the Attorney General’s office is significantly impacting a new generation.
Looking for a good read for this spring? New York Times-bestselling author Ayana Green’s debut novel Beasts of Prey may be the perfect selection. With Netflix already starting production on a series based on her debut trilogy, she has caught the readers’ eye.
The unique setting for her story came about through her study abroad program in Ghana. Gray participated in the University of Arkansas’ Fulbright College study abroad program through her studies in political science and African and African American studies. Last summer, Penguin Random House publishing bought the book rights and translated it into 10 languages across five continents.
One of her main goals through her writing is to offer novel settings for dark-skinned teens to find a character they can resonate with among Young Adult fiction and bring attention and inspiration from African locations.
Anyone who knows Nicole Porchia’s charismatic personality has difficulty believing the road to college was tough. She attended the TRIO program at Ouachita Baptist University as a high school student. TRIO refers to three programs developed under the Title IV Higher Education Act: Upward Bound, Educational Talent and Special Services.
Today, Porchia coordinates the Student Success program at her alma mater. Her daily office work includes one-on-one conversations with students helping them build a course of action for the greatest academic success, including tutoring, building study habits for the first time or taking special academic courses to ensure student success and retention. In addition, she developed a transition survey process for incoming students, highlighting red-flag areas of social and academic deficiency.
One of Porchia’s most remarkable accomplishments at Ouachita is the pre-enrollment retreat for first-generation college students. Before fall enrollment, incoming first-year, first-generation college students attend an extended weekend stay on campus, meeting professors, building relationships with classmates and launching into coursework. This program has increased retention and graduation rates for students who typically struggle academically and socially.
Adena White is a storyteller, award-winning writer, and communications strategist. She serves as the Communications Director for Excel by 8, a community partnership focused on reading levels in Arkansas communities. In addition to her day job, she serves the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collective and founded Blackbelt Media, a storytelling agent spreading the message of changemakers in the south.
White’s passion for influencing and defining race and place through storytelling sets her apart from other changemakers. It is one thing to stir up and make noise, but White is using her voice, influence, and relationships to change a community known for civil rights activism and making sustainable changes for the next generation.
White attributes her love of storytelling to a grade school teacher and librarian who made sure her small school district students saw representation in the characters in the novels they were reading. “Storytelling is the way we capture history and ignite social change.”
If you want to change the stories, you must change the storytellers. -Elaine Welteroth
Scenes from GPSn were filmed at locations significant to Martin Luther King, Jr’s life.
Rapper, Singer and Producer from Little Rock. Jzade uses her life experiences to spur the rhythms and rhymes of her latest hits. A back-to-back loss of grandparents drew Jzade back home to be close to her family and regroup her thoughts. That season of writer’s block gave her space for personal growth, building connections and participating in her family’s media and production company, Unprocessed Media, LLC.
In 2020, Jzade released “Treasure, a trilogy of hits,” “Still,” “L.O.S.T.,” and “GPSn.” These hits quickly brought her back into the rhythm and blues scene with a headlining performance at LITfest in 2022. The lyrics share emotional experiences around loss and life with a fresh reminder of rebuilding after being broken. Jzade recently graduated college and plans to use 2023 to focus on music and share her voice with the world.
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