You Know You Are From Conway, Arkansas When...

You Know You Are From Conway, Arkansas When...

How to know you've lived in Conway, AR a little too long.
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Originally, I came from Camden, AR, but, mom moved us to Conway because she believed Conway had the best schooling system in Arkansas. (She was just looking out for her kids. Thanks, Mom!) I've been in Conway since I was four years old! I was there to attend classes at the twin schools, Simon and Ruth Doyle Intermediate School. I even got to experience the best of both worlds when the old bomb shelter high school was still up, or what we called the "pods," to the new and glamorous three story high school! So fancy! Anyway, enough about all that! Let's start talking about how you know you are from Conway, AR when....

1. You have had to explain what a Wampus Cat is at least a hundred times...

That mythical blue creature that's a cat with six legs? Yeah, that one. Four legs to run at the speed of light and two legs to fight with all its might. Surrounding towns/cities have heard of it, but no one knows what it is.

Well, the actual story of the Wampus Cat is from American folklore and is about a native woman who disguised herself as a cougar to spy on the village's men as they went hunting. Upon being caught, the medicine man cursed the woman by having the cougar's skin bind to her so she was now part woman and part cat, creating the Wampus Cat.

How we got a blue 6 legged cat out of that story is beyond me, but it's nice having a unique mascot! It's better than being one of many panthers, bulldogs, or eagles. (Sorry if you are from a school that is the panthers, bulldogs, or eagles... haha.)

2. You know what a delicious Pineapple Whip is...

By now they probably are not only in Conway anymore and are most likely all over the place, but you know of that tiny yellow trailer in the 10 Box store parking lot. A delicious dairy-free, ice cream-like treat that you just can't get enough of (at least I can't). I attend school in Magnolia, AR and when I wear my Arkansas Pineapple Whip shirt, I cannot begin to tell you how many people ask me what a pineapple whip is. Haha!

3. You get excited for the first weekend of May...

Not very much happens in Conway, but everyone knows what the first weekend of May is....TOAD SUCK DAZE! The time we celebrate the festivities of sucking toads! Just kidding! We do not suck toads!

During this time, we shut down the center of Conway, our town square, indulge ourselves in over-priced goodies, and enjoy rides and free concerts! To put the icing on the cake, we gather around in a large inflatable toad dome with the "Toad Master" to watch children blow on the bums of toads to make them hop to a finish line! In case you just wanted to know, we take toad racing very seriously. In the above picture you can see the 1st through 3rd place winners of the toad races with the "Toad Master" holding their GIANT trophies! Toad racing is so serious that "toad boxes" are passed out in schools so kids have a home for the toad they caught!

4. You give directions based on a painting of a toad in the road...

Maybe not all of us do this but, if you are like me and fail at giving directions based on street names, using land marks is the way to go! And no landmark is better than a giant toad painted in the smack-dab middle of town (a.k.a. Toad Suck Square). For those of you not from Conway reading this, if you can't tell, this is where Toad Suck Daze is held and we take Toad Sucking (I think that's right?) very seriously.

By the way, fun fact: They repaint the Toad in the road nearly every year!

5. You are around the age of a college student and are assumed to go to UCA...

If you are anywhere around the age of a college kid, you are probably starting to get asked a lot by people if you are in college. Some of you are probably still in high school and are thinking about college, some are probably fresh out of college, and if you are lucky you will answer 'yes,' because you are actually in college.

Thing is, if you answer 'yes' saying you are in college, you have probably been asked the following question: "Oh! Do you attend UCA?" Sometimes they will hit the nail on the head because you are going to UCA. Other times, you have to crush their thought about you attending UCA because you don't. I don't know why people just assume that college kids in Conway must attend UCA; they just do.

I am a hard core Mulerider (my school's mascot) and students from other campuses who live in Conway might understand this, but I hold my mascot close to my heart and sometimes I feel a sting when people ask if I'm anything other than a Mulerider. I know they don't know any better, which is fine, because that opens up a chance for a good conversion!

6. You tell people you are from Conway and the first thing they think of is the college town...

Usually, when someone from Conway talks to someone not from around Conway, the first thing the person will think of is the College Town. Example of conversation:

"Oh I'm from Conway!"

"Conway? Isn't that the place with all the colleges?"

See what I mean? And yes! We have a nice little assortment of colleges here in Conway and do not just have one, like most cities. We have UCA, Hendrix, Central Baptist... there's even a beauty school! We have options!

For those of you who left Conway to attend school, I bet good money that you were asked why you didn't attend a school in Conway. Why would you leave with all our options? Or the better question is why you wouldn't you leave? For me, my two biggest reasons for leaving were because

1. Conway doesn't have an agriculture program at the college level.

2. It was time for a change in scenery.

So I moved all the way down south to Magnolia! Those that left all have their reasons and again, it's a good way to start a conversation with others when you explain why you don't attend a college in the college city.

7. You were proud when Kris Allen won American Idol...

OK, maybe you weren't proud of Kris Allen, but you were proud that Conway, AR was getting some air time. It's not very often that Arkansas (let alone Conway) is on national TV, so when Kris Allen was on American Ideal and won, I feel like Conway residents lost their minds.

Now, some of us actually personally knew Kris Allen by going to church or were family/friends, so it became a big deal when he (and Conway) where on TV. Also, you know you are from Conway when you know that the Kris Allen stage in Downtown Conway is not the stage's original name.

8. You are annoyed with the never-ending construction on the roundabouts...

Arial view of Hendrix and of their roundabout.

For real now, will the construction ever stop?! We are basically turning into a mini-Europe because we are getting round-abouts at literally every cross roads. They are very beneficial to controlling traffic, but I am pretty sure I can't drive anywhere around Conway without running into construction on the roads. Though they do look nice when they turn them into floral gardens or plant trees.

9. You love, yet hate, that giant Christmas tree...

We can all tell that Conway is trying to freshen up by looking modern and historic at the same time. There always seems to be something new being built, but the one thing that caught everyone's attention is that giant, massive, way-too-big Christmas tree in Downtown Conway.

It easily towers over buildings, standing at a whopping 54 feet! The tree showed up in Conway two or three years ago and has had made a point to stay. We all love it, but at the same time we hate it.

We hate it because it cost $130,000 (source: Log Cabin Democrat) but at the same time we all love it because it has become a special icon in Christmas photos, a place for people to sing carols and for horse-drawn Christmas carriages to wait to carry you around downtown. Either way, it's a beautiful, monster-sized tree!


If you are from Conway and think I left something out, please let me know in the comments below!!

Cover Image Credit: The Cabin

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam

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Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

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https://unsplash.com/photos/JFirQekVo3U

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Representation In Media Matters

I can finally see a character who looks like me and isn't stereotype.

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Growing up my parents made a conscious effort to buy dolls, books, and watch TV shows and movies with characters that looked like me. Both my parents were born in the heat of the civil rights movement, and let's just say the media was and still is controlled predominantly by white, straight, cis-gendered men. Hollywood (television & film) being one of the most successful exports for the United States. That being said, the media should feel obligated to represent the people that consume it, not just white, straight, cis-gendered men.

A prime example of how representation impacts community, was the release of "Black Panther." Personally, I saw the film THREE times and in two countries. I guess you could say I was a bit excited to see characters that 1) looked like me and 2) weren't the stereotypical rolls already portrayed in media. The film has broken several records: highest-grossing Superhero film in the U.S., first film since "Avatar" to spend five consecutive weeks at Top of Box Office, and top-grossing Opening Weekend for a film with a predominately Black cast. Clearly, there's a market for Black films. *side-eye @ Hollywood*

For the first time, Black characters were the heroes and kings and queens in a major blockbuster, not the villains or sidekicks. Also, the relationship between male and female characters weren't divisive and or used as an opportunity to belittle each other. Many of my family and friends raved about how they felt acknowledged by mainstream media. So many posts on social media praised the film and showed appreciation for its representation. More films and televisions need to be released to tell the stories of all minorities (racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religion) but their needs to be a change in the development and production departments to accurately depict these stories. There's a need for underrepresented populations to be in charge of their stories and the means of delivery.

This past June, I attended a conference hosted by the T. Howard Foundation, who focuses on diversity in media by providing college students with internships through partner companies such as but not limited to: Turner, Viacom, and NBCUniversal. During many of the panels, some questions included "how does it feel to be the only POC in the room? How do remain true to your own voice? Why are you interested in media?". The majority of answers to these questions all began with, "growing up I didn't see myself...". Authentic stories and portrayals come from the people who experience them.

No child should have to grow up feeling invalidated or that their experiences don't matter because they are represented in the media.

The reason I pursued a degree in Communications is that I want underrepresented populations to have media as an outlet to express themselves. We consume so much media every day and the landscape is rapidly changing. We have the opportunity to make sure the next generation isn't in the same position as we are now.

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Photo by Steven Van on Unsplash

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