An ACORN Museum in Little Rock


The old ACORN Arkansas office in Little Rock
The old ACORN Arkansas office in Little Rock

Little Rock Zach Polett worked with me for more than 30 years, so basically forever.  I was first introduced to Mary Mayeaux, who would become his wife, by my high school buddy, Danny Russell who was working with her at the welfare office in New Orleans when ACORN opened up there in 1976.  Danny and I leaned on Mary, who had been the valedictorian at Loyola University there, to volunteer for us, so when she did so, it was a coup.  Press the forward button and after some fact-checking yesterday with Zach, his sister, Jo Allison, and Mary, and we collectively remembered that I had been a late arrival at Zach and Mary’s wedding, and now fast forward even farther and Maxine Nelson, the great Pine Bluff, Arkansas leader and former national Secretary of ACORN’s board, my daughter Dine’ and I were the last just-in-time arrivals at their oldest son, Mark’s wedding.

Sitting together at a table after the wedding with some of that crowd along with Neil Sealy, the ramrod of Arkansas Community Organizations, the “only three words short” of the old Arkansas ACORN, and Jim Lynch, a long time friend, counselor, and ACORN supporter in Little Rock, it was hard for me not to reprise a conversation I had had earlier in the morning at Joe Fox and Lia Lent’s Community Bakery (also old ACORN staff!) on Main Street with John Honey, a long time ACORN supporter, friend, and former auditor for ACORN, as well as some new friends who had worked at the local paper or gone to the social work school about my visit the day before to the STFU museum in Tyronza.  And not needing to play poker or be anything less than clear, once I started on what an excellent job the Arkansas State University had done with the STFU there, I was straight to the point that while we all still had strong heartbeats and clear minds (relatively speaking), we need to start putting together the pieces for an ACORN Museum in Little Rock.

Fox or Honey had mentioned that the first ACORN building at 523 W. 15th was looking a bit worse for wear, so who knows.  Later Dine’ and I drove by, and it’s certainly not abandoned, but neither is it candidate for a home tour.  I pushed Jim, only recently retired from UALR, about what we would need to do to get them interested, and more importantly who had contacts at Philander Smith College, a historic black college, only a couple of blocks from the old ACORN office, and their energetic president who seemed committed to justice and change.  In the good news category they claimed that finally the Little Rock Central Library had claimed some interest in some old ACORN memorabilia, so the director there will have to go on my list.  I couldn’t resist telling the ironic tale of how I ended up negotiating to put the ACORN archives at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in their Social Change Collection, because UALR was so totally uninterested whenever I had inquired as early as the 1970’s.

Seems to me it’s worth getting our hands on our history while we still can, rather than regretting later how much has slipped away, gone to ground, or been lost in the shifting sands of memory.   An ACORN Museum in Little Rock, or if not there, New Orleans, would be a hard push, but worth the climb.