About the Program
NWA Equality was established to serve as the voice of Northwest Arkansas' LGBTQ community. From national events, protests, and calls for legislative action, since 2006, we've made some fantastic progress for our community.
We're currently working to build better business resources by working with employers to educate their staff on LGBTQ issues and establish policies to prevent workplace discrimination of their employees and customers. Additionally, we'd like to develop programs and partnerships to support prospective employees with resume and interview skills to enhance their career prospects and quality of life.
We're also developing the support system needed to serve as Arkansas' LGBTQ historians through our 2018 establishment of the Arkansas LGBTQ Archive.
In 2006, the event planning of the newly established Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade and associated events were received with negativity and hostility by a then conservative and aggressive Fayetteville Police Department. We fought hard to legitimize the NWA Pride Parade by having consistent communications with the City and the FPD, negotiating regulations, and ensuring operations were as compliant as possible. When current Mayor Lioneld Jordan was elected in 2009, we began providing LGBTQ sensitivity training to the Fayetteville Police Department. Evelyn Stafford currently serves as our representative to the Chief of Police's Diversity Round Table. With mutual support and understanding between the organizations, Northwest Arkansas Pride has grown to over 20,000 participants. We've seen a significant decline in Fayetteville police-related surveys and reports on LGBTQ hostility.
In 2010, with 12 people in attendance, we established Northwest Arkansas' first National Transgender Day of Remembrance events, which memorializes transgender individuals who have been lost to murder, suicide, or healthcare inadequacies. This event's success helped Northwest Arkansas shed light on serious deficiencies and discrimination the trans community faces daily. With over 200 participants, NWA Equality works with the Transgender Equality Network to produce this annual event and provide solutions and resources to prevent these deaths.
Beginning in 2011, after a ballot box failure in 1998, NWA Equality began leading an initiative for the Human Rights Campaign to organize legislation for a city-level non-discrimination ordinance. HRC formed a coalition, ultimately leading to the 2014 Fairness Fayetteville Campaign. When that failed at the ballot box, we charged ahead. We helped lead the way to success in 2015's For Fayetteville Campaign, which enacted Ordinance 5781, preventing local businesses, landlords, and employers from discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. The conservative Arkansas legislature responded by enacting laws to invalidate the ordinance, and the elected Arkansas Supreme Court has since ruled, by unethical and questionable judicial procedures, the ordinance illegal. However, our community and allies persist as these cases work their way through higher courts across the country.
We were fortunate enough to partner with the University of Arkansas to bring the NOH8 Campaign to Fayetteville in 2011. This event launched a fundraising effort for NWA Equality to provide GLSEN Safe Space Educational Kits to 40 school districts in Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington Counties. Cox Communications made a generous gift toward this funding effort that helped many educators and staff better see suicide and bullying signs and find ways to support LGBTQ students.
Since our founding, it has been the organization's goal to enhance the quality of life for the LGBTQ community. Support programs go a long way but creating outlets through events and activities bring the population together and create community culture. In the beginning, this need was met through small community events and potlucks. As our community grew, those events expanded to happy hours, parties, educational speakers, arts events, and the largest Pride Parade in Arkansas. In 2010, NWA Equality brought local drag shows out of nightclubs, making drag accessible to a new audience with Arkansas' first Drag Bingo. Today, the Dickson Divas have expanded their season to drag brunches and other charitable events, turning the art form into highly produced theatrical productions and comedy shows, placing them at the forefront of Northwest Arkansas' social calendar. Since 2014 we've been fortunate enough to enhance the caliber of Northwest Arkansas' LGBTQ entertainment offerings with celebrities such as Tom Gross, Chely Wright, Trixie Mattel, Leslie Jordan, Joe Ross, Fortune Feimster, and Shangela. We are currently working with local arts organizations and promoters to continue to enhance entertainment options and ingrain LGBTQ artists and events into the fabric of Northwest Arkansas' life.