Conference to target minority tobacco use

An annual gathering for advocates fighting minority tobacco use will celebrate its 10th anniversary in Pine Bluff on May 16 when the Clearing the Air in Communities of Color conference opens its doors at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Sponsored by the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the gathering raises awareness of the devastating effects of tobacco product consumption on the people of Arkansas, particularly within minority communities, according to a press release.

MISRGO at UAPB was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement and is responsible for addressing tobacco consumption within Arkansas’ minority communities by preventing the initiation of use among youth, promoting cessation, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating disparities of tobacco use among different population groups.

UAPB Interim Chancellor Calvin Johnson is also the MISRGO program director.

“Tobacco consumption continues to plague minority communities across the state,” Johnson said in the press release. “Health complications attributed to tobacco consumption are dramatically affecting lives each and every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control smoking causes about 443,000 deaths each year, including 47,000 African-Americans.

“This year’s conference will again encourage our community to take a stand against tobacco consumption to decrease this impact and secure healthier lives for all,” Johnson said.

The guest of honor will be Tommy Ford, best known as an actor on the Martin Lawrence Show and now founder and president of Be Still and Know, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to building better communities for youth.

Ford has worked on anti-tobacco initiatives with the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network according to the press release.

Other guest speakers include Rod Lew, executive director of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership; La Tanisha C. Wright, anti-tobacco advocate; and Dr. Adewale Troutman, health equity advocate.

“The conference is our opportunity to further advocate tobacco-free lives amongst Arkansas’ minority communities,” said Marian Evans-Lee, MISRGO program coordinator. “Each year we challenge ourselves to address the issues we believe will resonate with attendees while also providing helpful resources and educational tools.”


The conference is free to attend; however, registration is required by visiting or calling (870) 575-8933.

Deadline to register is May 13. There will be no on-site registration.

Non-profit organizations and church groups are encouraged to attend.