“The air smells of dog food and broken spirits. I believe we are in Fort Smith”  says JedediahUlyssses of UrbanDictionary.com. I’m not one to believe everything I read online, but I can’t exactly say this is a lie.

I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas so there is a special place in my heart for the city known for “Hanging Judge Parker”, but Fort Smith shares this special place with other things like getting snowed in on a Sunday with no plans and nothing to do. After about 24 hours, I’m bored, cold, and over it. That’s how I feel about Fort Smith, Arkansas right now: I’m over it.

Post Donald Trump Depression is unavoidable in a state that elected him at an almost 2:1 ratio. I look to my left, I look to my right, and there’s not a person in sight who didn’t vote for him. So when JedediahUlysses of UrbanDictionary.com says, “The air smells of… and broken spirits”, he means it. I’m a broken spirit. Living in a predominately white community in which the majority of it’s citizens elected this person who makes me sick to my stomach is uncomfortable.

Jamey Hatley

Now, of course not all of Fort Smith is uncomfortable. I’m a student at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and a member of the student ran literary journal Applause. This past weekend we hosted a Southern Literary Festival dating back to 1937 featuring 33 schools in the South. The purpose of this festival is to build a literary community dedicated to promoting Southern Literature. In the past few decades, members of this festival have broadened what they think it means to write from a southern perspective. Featured speakers this weekend included Geffrey Davis and Jamey Hatley.

If you don’t know, these brilliant and wonderful authors of color have been published in the Oxford American, Mississppi Review, and The New York Times Magazine. This year’s Southern Literary Festival was the furthest west it’s ever been hosted, and to my knowledge this is the first Southern Literary Festival to feature two authors of color.

Geffrey Davis

While sitting in the workshops and presence of all of the authors this weekend, especially Jamey Hatley and Geffrey Davis, I thought about how in all my years as a student and lover of books I had never been in the presence of authors of color. Growing up, I used to write stories ever chance I got. I’ve never been much of a creative type; I don’t paint, I only sing in the shower and sometimes that’s pushing it, but I’ve always loved writing. Flash forward 10 years in Fort Smith and I no longer write like I used to. Is it because I’m busy or is it something else? The human spirit must be stimulated and allowed to grow, yet in Fort Smith it seems to stifle and smother those who live here. As a woman of color, I know all too well about the desire of others to silence my voice and smother my spirit. But this weekend was a breath of fresh air to the little girl inside who has been silenced for so long. It also makes me think, will Fort Smith ever change? There’s no doubt that Fort Smith, Arkansas is growing, but I doubt it will ever change.

 

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