The Observer March 3 

Our man on the ground in West Little Rock reports: “I went to the 2 p.m. showing on Sunday of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ at Market Street Cinema to see it before the Academy Awards presentation. At the climactic point in the film, where the U.N. soldiers are trying to get the hotel refugees to safety behind rebel lines, the film broke. The house lights came up. There was much grumbling in the crowd. Suddenly, a woman stood up and started speaking. It was difficult to understand her African accent but this is essentially what she said (and I am paraphrasing): ‘What you are watching in this film is real. It actually happened. I was there. I know this is a day about movie awards, but I want all of you to know that by being here and watching this movie, you have made an effort to understand what happened to these people and what is still happening to people in Africa. You should never forget that. Thank you for coming to see this movie.’ The movie then restarted. Afterwards, a group of young people, who appeared to be high school age, gathered around the woman outside the theater, under the awning in the rain, and were asking her questions and she was patiently explaining her story to them.” As it happens, Africa was much on the mind this weekend in Little Rock. The woman at the movie was perhaps in town for Saturday night’s sixth annual African Dinner, Drumming and Dancing event to raise money for orphans in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. Hundreds of folks in African garb — WASPs in dashikis and elegant black women in sarongs — took their happy feet to the First United Methodist Church at Center and Seventh streets, where the church hall was packed to the rafters with exuberant Arkansans and Africans working off their potluck African meals to the irresistible beat of the drums. An African woman sashayed about with a large bottle balanced on her head; a tall white drummer with a kofia on his head handed out shakers to the children. Teen-aged girls from Hoover United Methodist Church performed an African-inspired dance; kids and grown-ups formed a conga line. The beat was a manifestation of the heart of the crowd. Nicole Kambou has worked since the early 1990s to improve the health and happiness of the 500 orphaned children of Gaoua. Her friendship with former Peace Corps volunteer and Little Rock resident Kathryn Matchett has brought about an event that’s drummed up funds to build a pump for water in the town (sparing the children a 5-mile walk) and help the orphans make shea butter to earn money for medical needs, raised more than $4,000 to begin repairs at the village school, and made hundreds of Arkansans aware of the tragedy AIDS has wrought — the orphaning of more than 2 million children — in a country we might never even have heard of until now. While recently waiting in an airport for our flight home, the Observer heard this announcement: “Attention Southwest passengers: Flight *** is now boarding at gate **. We do love you, but we will leave you.” Much giggling was heard throughout the terminal. It’s nice to see that someone working in an airport in these multi-color-terror-alert-level days still has a sense of humor.The Observer was also surprised to find that we could carry our cigarette lighter past the security check points. Now if there had only been a place to actually use it... Whoever burgled Bill’s Barber and Beauty Service at 7406 S. University had a sense of humor, but owner Bill James isn’t laughing. James’ business was broken into last fall, and the burglar made off with hair dryers and clippers and a television, all replaceable. But James discovered recently that something else was gone: His collection of cartoons, which he’d been clipping and saving since the 1970s. The inch-thick file contained his favorite drawings by George Fisher, the late cartoonist for the Arkansas Times and before that the Arkansas Gazette, and James called the Times desperate to know how to replace them. (We told him there are several books of Fisher cartoons for sale.) But the folder also contained his collection of Dennis the Menace cartoons and his Belvedere cartoons (featuring a spotted dog) and political cartoons featuring Bill Clinton. James wants it back. It’s possible the burglar kept the file for his own amusement, but if he abandoned it and you found it, call 562-1032.


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