Pryor Center's Arkansas Atoll Podcast Shares Stories From Marshallese

Dr. Sheldon Riklon and his family celebrate his granddaughter's birthday.
Photos courtesy of the Pryor Center.

Dr. Sheldon Riklon and his family celebrate his granddaughter's birthday.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – During the COVID-19 pandemic, one Arkansas community has been hit much harder than others as half of the state’s coronavirus deaths have been members of the Marshallese community in Springdale.

The new Arkansas Atoll podcast explores why and shares stories of the Marshall Islanders in Northwest Arkansas.

The podcast is a production of the Arkansas Story Vault at the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History and is co-produced by the School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

Through community members’ voices, the series addresses the COVID-19 crisis and healthcare disparities in the Marshallese community, the history of the United States and the Marshall Islands’ political relationship, and the status of the Marshallese as both nuclear and political refugees.

“I think the first step is to educate,” said Benetick Maddison, a member of the Marshallese community. “You know, what happened in the Marshall Islands is part of American history. And it's really frustrating and sad that when I open a history book or when my fellow Marshallese open history books, the only image of a bomb we see is the one in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but it's like, where's the other 67 nuclear weapons that were tested?”

Maddison is the project specialist for youth, climate and nuclear issues at the Marshallese Educational Initiative in Springdale. The history of the Marshall Islands’ relationship with the U.S. began in the 1940s with 12 years of nuclear testing in the islands.

Arkansas Atoll dives into the legacy of the nuclear tests and their lasting effects.

“As I was working on this project, it really shocked me to learn of the traumatic events and the everyday reality of marginalization the Marshallese people have faced,” said Obed Lamy, one of the podcast’s student producers.

“Coming from Haiti, an island which has also experienced colonization and struggled with forces of international domination, helps shape my perspective on their situation and relate to them on the human level,” he said. “But we don't necessarily have to walk in someone's shoes to understand their life. This podcast series is an opportunity to learn, sympathize and act.”

In addition to Lamy, the podcast was produced by student interns Neba Evans, Octavia Rolle, Shane White and Sam Whitesell and supervised by Sarah K. Moore of the Pryor Center and Colleen Thurston, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media.

The project began as a video production of the Pryor Center’s Arkansas Story Vault project in January 2020. When the pandemic hit and the university went remote, the students decided to turn their video project into a podcast.  

“Working with this group of students on the Arkansas Atoll podcast has been such a rewarding experience,” Moore said. “I was impressed and inspired by their dedication to getting these stories of the Marshallese community out there for all to hear. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did!”

Arkansas Atoll is now available on the newly launched Arkansas Story Vault website at

Episodes will also soon be distributed on major podcasting platforms.

About the Arkansas Story Vault: The Arkansas Story Vault produces documentary projects rooted in the stories told by the people of Arkansas. Founded in 2019 as a student-driven initiative of the Pryor Center, ASV provides students with hands-on experience in media production and community storytelling. The students work in partnership with the School of Journalism and Strategic Media in support of the Pryor Center’s mission to document the cultural heritage of Arkansas. Arkansas Story Vault is made possible by funding from AT&T, The Walton Family Foundation, and Melissa, Melinda, and Michelle McIlroy.

About the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History: The David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History is an oral history program with the mission to document the history of Arkansas through the collection of spoken memories and visual records, preserve the collection in perpetuity, and connect Arkansans and the world to the collection through the Internet, TV broadcasts, educational programs, and other means. The Pryor Center records audio and video interviews about Arkansas history and culture, collects other organizations' recordings, organizes these recordings into an archive, and provides public access to the archive, primarily through the website at The Pryor Center is the state's only oral and visual history program with a statewide, seventy-five county mission to collect, preserve, and share audio and moving image recordings of Arkansas history.

About the School of School of Journalism and Strategic Media: The School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research and media discourse. Students in our journalism degree programs receive instruction, guidance and access to hands-on experience from our seasoned, award-winning faculty and staff. Areas of study include news editorial and reporting, broadcast, public relations, advertising and digital media.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs.


Susan Kendrick-Perry, operations administrator
Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History

Andra Liwag, director of communications
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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