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Leslie Hester: The Need to Come Together, Arkansas

As told by Leslie Hester
Little Rock, Arkansas

Story Narrative:

A woman eyeglasses and her hair pulled back tightly in a bun sits in a black, leather chair.

Between December 2019 and January 2020 (just weeks before the pandemic), Smithsonian staff and their storytelling partners at the Peale, Baltimore, traveled to multiple states in the U.S. to ask residents of those states about voting experiences, the current state of American democracy, what issues brought them to the polls, how they made a difference in their communities, and what Americans' civic responsibilities were, among other complex questions.

Leslie Hester (00:00): Well, first let me say that I'm not intricately involved with politics and all that in my community. I'm fairly new to the community. I've been there about five years. I grew up in the area. I was gone for a long time and now I'm back. So I'm really getting to know, still in the process of getting to know libel and the people who, who are there. But from what I see, my perception is that the Republicans work together and the Democrats work together, but they don't, you know, they don't cross the aisle, so to speak.

(00:46): The Black community works on their issues, and the White community works on their issues, and they have trouble melding or, you know, making it a community issue rather than a Black issue or a White issue. Now, again, that's just my perception, and I think that it would be better if everybody, I mean, we're all civil. Everybody is civil to one another.

(01:17): You know, you meet in church or on the street or in the museum or wherever, and you're, you're going to talk and you're going to ask how how's your family and, and that sort of thing. Maybe talk business or whatever. But they're not working together on the big political issues or I can't say economic issues cause that economic issues is, that's a big, big thing for Mississippi County. It's a very poor county. we struggle all the time with joblessness and poverty. We work on that, you know, we're, we're bringing in the steel industry and all that sort of thing.

(02:02): But I feel like Bytheville is a microcosm of America, you know, if we were working together, if we could find common ground. But it doesn't seem as though people are trying to find common ground. It seems as though this person is just full steam ahead on his stuff, and this person is full steam ahead on his stuff and, and they're just going in opposite directions and there's never any crossover. Now again, that's just my perception, but maybe that'll change. That would be good.

Asset ID: 2023.02.11.a-b
Themes: Political Parties, Political Process, Participation, Polarization, Division, Race, Local Politics, Poverty
Date recorded: December 4, 2019
Length of recording: 0:02:50
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Arkansas Humanities Council, Little Rock
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