The Arkansas Delta is the “deepest of the Deep South,” for in its fertile soil, cotton thrived and with it, slavery. Today, Phillips County’s mostly black families now contend with a complex and all-too-familiar relationship with the Arkansas Delta — a place where sharecroppers lived in segregation yet built a bastion of black culture. Like the rising river, the persistence of poverty still looms just over the levee, threatening to wash young people down paths of violence, drugs, food insecurity, unemployment and early death. That’s why Together for Hope is committed to growing the gifts and dreams of Helena’s children as they seek to interrupt cycles of generational poverty and instill lasting hope in the Delta’s youngest.
This series in the “Resilient Rural America” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits? In “Resilient Rural America,” we attempt to answer these questions when we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.
This series is written by Blake Tommey. Photos are by Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey. Videos and audio are by Blake and Lesley-Ann Tommey.
This series includes:
At the center of Helena, Arkansas’s fight against poverty and division: an 85-year-old swimming pool – Every June, that work culminates in the wildly-popular Swim Camp, where children and teenagers not only learn to swim but learn to pursue leadership through lifeguarding, volunteering and interning with TFH.
Imagination is the greatest threat to Delta poverty, Together for Hope Arkansas says – With a precise focus on literacy and leadership development, TFH continues to build children’s imaginations for what is possible beyond the limited view of poverty.
Phillips County, Arkansas: Backwater Rising – Children take center stage, but the kinship that has formed between Helena’s black community and mostly white “outsiders” who come to volunteer is equally staggering.
Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.