HARRISON, Ar. — Racism-- it's as dirty a word in Harrison, Arkansas, as it is everywhere else, but it stings a little more for community leaders there.
That's because for the past decade the city has been working to overcome what it calls its bad rap because its close the home of the head of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
But this February Harrison will be the sixth city in arkansas to host a non-violence summit in partnership with the Martin Luther King, Jr. commission out of Little Rock.
500 kids 6th through 12th grade will learn about acceptance, something the community of Harrison has made great strides toward achieving within itself.
Harrison, Arkansas, population 12,943, where the people are friendly:
"Everybody's like 'hey, how you doing?' Complete strangers," one couple tells us.
Your family is safe:
"It's a good town, great place to raise a family," another man says.
And the town square is still a nice place to enjoy your Wednesday night; you and 12,448 of your white friends.
"I looked at the census this afternoon and actually we're 95% white," says Patty Methvin, president of the city's chamber of commerce.
That's an improvement, thanks to a group that's worked for nearly a decade to fight what they call Harrison's unwarrented racist rap.
Methvin, Carolyn Cline, and Layne Ragsdale are three of the founding members of the Task Force for Race Relations.
"I think a lot of people who became involved in the task force saw the criticism of Harrison as not the Harrison they knew," explains Cline.
The black population in Harrison grew with the railroad in the early 1900s.
"Just almost instantly according to stories there was a group that developed who decided to run them out of town," Cline continues.
Today, the task force, in partnership with the local chamber of commerce is looking to repair that relationship.
They've set up a black history display, had community viewings of documentaries on racial issues, helped the high school form a diversity council, and now a statewide non-violence summit is coming to the college.
"To me it's a big deal for any community, getting to work with youth and training our youth to be leaders is wonderful, but for Harrison in particular," says Methvin of the Summit.
So don't let the numbers fool you; slowly, but surely, Harrison is diversifying.
"I think we're on the right track, for sure," a man on the square concludes.
The task force is on a mission to find as many of the relatives of the black families who felt forced out of Harrison as possible.
The goal is to bring them back to Harrison for a welcome home celebration.
Here's some perspective: West Plains, Missouri, is similar in size to Harrison and similar in its racial makeup.
The 2000 census showed it's almost 96% white, 1.5% hispanic, and around 1% each black and asian.
But compare Harrison to the state of Arkansas in the most recent census and there's a major difference.
Statewide 77% are white, 15% black, 6% hispanic, and about 1% asian.