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Everyone Welcome!

In a country of Westboro Baptist Churches and a state governed by the despicable Sarah Huckabee Sanders, this past Easter weekend in Northwest Arkansas proved to be one of the most delightfully multicultural weekends I've had in the United States in a long time. 

The fabulous Momentary Art Museum was hosting a Holi party. Yes, they are aware the holiday was actually earlier in the year. I'd thought about going but I really wanted to make it out to Eureka Springs this trip since I didn't in the fall and Saturday was the best day for my schedule. So I skipped it and went into the mountains instead. Well, turns out that it was the Eureka Springs not annual but quarterly Diversity Weekend, which meant public concerts and family-friend drag queen bingo, which I'm sure Scummy Huckabee Sanders does not think is possible. 

The "debauchery" was amusingly counterbalanced by a pickup truck driving around town covered in pink balloons like a high school homecoming float with people dressed up like Jesus standing in the bed, passing out bible literature and promoting the Great Passion play. I left town when the sheriffs rolled in, but presumably everyone figured out how to get along. 

On Sunday, I joined up with my new Canadian friend (who I met at run club) at the theater and she told me how she hosted a bunch of French people at her house that morning for Easter brunch. Apparently some French aviation company has a manufacturing facility in Little Rock and so there are a quite a few Frenchies living here. At the theater, sitting on my other side, was a woman who was originally from Calcutta but lives in Fayetteville now. She told us she attended the Holi party (with her Iranian friends!) and it was legit and super fun. She said any event put on in conjunction with the Indian Cultural Association of NWA will be legit and well done. 

Also in the audience, unexpectedly, was my Canadian friend's Latin dance instructor, who is from Brazil, with her daughter, and we all went out afterward for food and to discuss the play, Sanctuary City. As you can imagine, the play is about the experience of illegal immigrants, and in this case, of a teenage boy who is in America illegally through no fault of his own and how difficult his life is because of it. It's an emotional play. Given the subject matter, I shouldn't have been surprised to see that only about sixty percent of the audience appeared to be white, non-Hispanic (this demographic of Fayetteville is about seventy-seven percent).

Prior to the show starting, I took a quick snapshot of a sign on the theater across the street, which was written in three languages. I remember seeing this third, unknown language on municipal signage in Rogers last time I was in NWA. I'm pretty good with languages but couldn't place this one at all. 

Turns out, it's Marshallese. Also turns out that outside of the Marshall Islands themselves, NWA has the largest Marshallese population in the world, with many of them working at Tyson Foods. So random and wonderful! And funnily enough...I have a Canadian friend who adopted a little girl from the Marshall Islands. Everything is connected in my world.

So yeah, I'm not going to deny that Arkansas is still a pretty backwards and racist state, but NWA is a gem, not just for the state, but for the country. It really is a special little place for so many reasons and I was delighted to find even more.