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Panelists discuss race in Northwest Arkansas

by Tracy Neal | June 11, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- Panelists had a online conversation Thursday about race in the country.

The event -- Let's Talk About It: Complexity of Being Black -- was sponsored by the NWA Juneteenth Committee.

The four panelists discussed race, racial discrimination and racial trauma in the Black community and provided strategies on ways to navigate social injustices and provide tools to help parents have the discussions with their children.

The panelist watched videos which then led into discussions and questions.

Henry Smith, a mental health physician and associate pastor, said one of the things he wants to get across to young black men is don't let anyone else define their value. Smith encouraged men to have an outlet for the emotions sometimes locked inside of them.

He encouraged black men to be involved in support groups; volunteer to coach youth sports; and get exercise in order to handle the stress.

"Make sure you let those emotions out," Smith said. "Let it out to someone you trust."

Smith said he owns and drives an old Chevrolet Impala and he couldn't say how many times he's been pulled over by police in Northwest Arkansas. Smith said it's important to teach and show others who you are.

LaShawndra Fields, an assistant professor of social work, encouraged people don't allow people to belittle their experiences concerning racial profiling. She said people have to be patients because changing culture takes a long time.

Joi McGowan, a mental health counselor, said it's important that people share their experiences about being racially profiled. She said black people need to share how they felt in that moment instead of keeping the experiences to themselves.

One of the videos concerned when black parents had "The Talk" with their children.

McGowan said she remembers her 5-year-old son telling her, "Mom, it's hard being brown around white people."

She said they talk about race in her family and she loved that her son felt safe with her to make that statement.

McGowan encouraged parents to create a safe space in their homes to have those discussions with their children.

Smith said his parents had "The Talk" with him when he was in the first grade after he got in a fight and was suspended from school while the other person didn't receive the same punishment. Smith said his father helped him understand discipline and punishment will not always be equal when the other person looks different.

Patricia Morency, a mental health clinician, said it's important to expose youth to many different types of blackness. She said it's important black youth understand there are many different paths to success.

Fields agreed with Morency.

"We have to be open to our little black boys being ballerinas if that's what they want to be," Fields said.

She said not everyone is going to be a ball player, lawyer or doctor and black youths need to understand there are many other avenues of success.

Morency encouraged people to speak up and tell their truth, and don't be afraid of criticism.

More News

Northwest Arkansas Juneteenth Events

Arkansas Black Film Showcase

What: The University of Arkansas’ Juneteenth Committee, the Fayetteville Film Festival, Dayvision Films and the Arkansas Cinema Society will honor Black filmmakers in Arkansas. The inaugural showcase brings awareness, exposure and networking opportunities for Black filmmakers in Arkansas.

Where: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 600 Museum Way, Bentonville

When: 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., Thursday

Cost: Free, but registration is required. Visit

A (Virtual) Juneteenth Celebration of Family, Community & Freedom

What: A celebration of freedom with appearances by Eric Benet, singer, songwriter, producer and actor; Dorian Hunter, MasterChef season 10 winner; and more.

Where: Online; register at

When: 12:30 p.m. June 19


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