The most ambitious Welcoming Week NWA yet will kick off next month, bringing multiple speaker panels, volunteer drives and other family-friendly events highlighting the significance of accessibility, LGBTQ+ identity, immigration and more in making Northwest Arkansas a thriving and inclusive place to live and work.
Now in its ninth year, Welcoming Week NWA is an annual initiative organized by EngageNWA at the Northwest Arkansas Council, and dozens of partners throughout the region. This year’s community celebrations will formally launch at the Jones Center on Sept. 8 with a keynote by Victor Calise, director of global belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion at Walmart and a longtime public servant, Paralympian and advocate for adapting spaces for those with disabilities.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to empower NWA community leaders by showcasing the immense value that disability talent brings to the table, driving the creation of vibrant and inclusive communities that celebrate what we all have to offer,” Calise said.
In addition to the keynote, supporters and sponsors will share why they uplift Welcoming Week NWA. Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese will highlight their upcoming cultural training on Sept. 21 and the Ocean Wave dancers will perform traditional dances from the Pacific Islands.
The week’s later events include a conversation and Q&A with Casey Parks, an Oregon-based author and Washington Post reporter covering gender and family issues, on Sept. 13 at The Medium in Springdale. Casey’s award-winning memoir, “Diary of a Misfit,” relates her own story of coming out in a rural Louisiana town in 2002 and her efforts to uncover the story of Roy Hudgins, a small-town singer who, like Parks, didn’t conform to the expectations of his community.
The event is free and will include a book giveaway and signing, but registration is required.
“Events and activities during Welcoming Week NWA are an actionable way to build belonging and create a community we all want to live in. It’s an opportunity to counteract mistaken or fearful opinions about others that are different in a way that builds bridges and creates a foundation for inclusion throughout the year. Welcoming Week NWA is a doorway to do exactly that,” said Monica Kumar, a belonging and inclusion strategist who works with the Council and EngageNWA on Welcoming Week NWA and other efforts.
The full schedule, including those hosted by EngageNWA as well as by partner organizations, is at Welcoming Week NWA’s website. Highlights include:
- Collection drives benefiting local nonprofits, including: Rogers Public Library and Operation Reboot is gathering blessing bags for homeless veterans from Sept. 8 to Sept. 30. Find out what items to donate and other information on the library’s website. The Squire Jehegan Outreach Center is collecting hygiene kits and winter wear for the unhoused and those in need. Canopy NWA also will accept donations for household and school supplies at various locations on Sept. 8, 13 and 15. Register and find more information online.
- Arkansas Immigrant Defense Convening from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville: This convening will provide a rich and reflective co-learning environment for people who serve immigrants and refugees in schools, hospitals, nonprofits and elsewhere. Karen Tumlin, founder of The Justice Action Center, and Rachel Perić, Executive Director of Welcoming America, which launched Welcoming Week nationwide in 2012, will keynote. Register online.
- An entrepreneur panel hosted by EforAll Northwest Arkansas at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at Fairlane Station in Springdale: The Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses, Canopy NWA, Conexión de Negocios Latinos, and Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese have partnered to support entrepreneurship in diverse communities.
- Marshallese Cultural Training by Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at The Medium in Springdale: This event is an opportunity to learn about Marshallese culture, history and the experience of Marshallese people in Northwest Arkansas. Register online.
Welcoming Week NWA sponsors are Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce, Signature Bank of Arkansas, Tyson Family Foundation, Walmart, Walton Family Foundation and Visit Bentonville.
Learn more at WelcomingWeekNWA.org.