"If we ever lose power in Northwest Arkansas, we could tap into the energy of Still on the Hill and have enough left to air condition Texas!"
-- Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet, who make up the musical duo Trout Fishing in America
My first inclination was to say, "She's at it again!" My second reaction was, "Thank goodness!"
She is Donna Mulhollan, who with husband Kelly comprise the musical duo "Still On the Hill." From making peace poles (since 2003) to organizing climate marches, to giving away CDs about the Beaver Lake watershed and the Buffalo River to creating Earth Day festivals, music concerts and rallies for countless issues and causes, when these two people see needs, they help out in whatever ways they can. And, as I said, they're at it again.
A few months back, Donna started making felted wool wall hangings featuring birds. She offered her artwork on their web site and on Facebook as fundraising for the 7 Hills Homeless Shelter. After selling 25 pieces, she had earned $2,000 for the shelter. Kelly in the meantime became interested in a local start-up effort called "May Day Kitchen," organizing to provide meals to people in need. His fundraising for this project is in crafting beautiful walnut Ozark pickin' bow instruments for donations of $100 or more.
The newest effort is to benefit the Marshallese people living in Northwest Arkansas. The covid-19 pandemic has especially impacted the tightly knit Marshallese community of multi-generational families. The Marshall Islanders make up only about 3% of the region's population, but 50% of the covid-19 cases, so they are suffering great loss and tragedy. Ironically, it was the need for decent hospitals that drove many to leave their homeland for safety in the U.S.
A long time ago and far away, the United States evacuated some of the Marshall Islands, a chain of 29 coral atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to use as testing sites in our country's nuclear bomb program. The people there weren't enemies. They just happened to be living in a militarily strategic region of Oceania, closer to Australia than to San Francisco some 4,623 miles to the east.
In World War II, the Japanese, who had occupied the islands, were defeated by the U.S., which later took possession of the islands under a United States Trusteeship. That trust was supposed to come with responsibility for the health, education, and welfare of the people. But between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. tested 67 thermonuclear weapons, "with a composite megaton equivalent of 7,200 Hiroshima bombs," according to the Asia Pacific Family Medicine Journal. It also states, " The testing resulted in Marshall Islanders ... being exposed to radioactive fallout; contamination of land and food sources [and] displacement ... from homes." A 2004 U.S. National Cancer Institute study found the entire island nation was and remains affected, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
An article by the Atomic Heritage Foundation explained, "In 1986, the U.S. and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) signed the Compact of Free Association, which granted the RMI political independence and allows Marshallese citizens to work and go to school in the U.S." Following friends who had found jobs in Northwest Arkansas, Marshall Islanders began settling and working here. Now, approximately 10,000 call Arkansas home. But their migrant status did not extend Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security to them even though they pay taxes.
Introducing her fundraising idea (https://youtu.be/tZ6ygJUYgRQ ), Donna Mulholland says, " I've been an activist of sorts my whole life. I just think that part of our job of being humans is to stand up and do things for things you believe in. " She heard the term "craftivism" a few years ago, and it seemed to fit her love of crafting with being an activist. Hesitating to claim what she does is "art," her main goal seems to be creating that which will involve others in awareness and participation whether through direct action or helping monetarily. Also active in climate change issues, she points out that these beautiful Pacific islands that are only a few feet above sea level will likely disappear by the end of the 21st century as oceans rise.
The Mulhollans can be reached through Facebook or via their website, www.stillonthehill.com. Donations can be made to the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese (https://www.arkansasmarshallese.org) to help with rent, utilities, food and medical bills. And, if you have any old wool sweaters you no longer want, Donna can always repurpose them into craft/art pieces as she continues to find ways to help others.
Fran Alexander is a Fayetteville resident with a longstanding interest in the environment and an opinion on almost anything else. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.