Springdale gains Marshallese newspaper, radio station

Larry Muller, manager of KMRW 98.9 FM, a low-power Marshallese radio station in Springdale, checks the music playing Friday in Springdale.
Larry Muller, manager of KMRW 98.9 FM, a low-power Marshallese radio station in Springdale, checks the music playing Friday in Springdale.

SPRINGDALE -- Locals started a Marshallese language newspaper and radio station last year, both hoping to be go-to sources for information in that community.

The two are like the eyes and ears of the Marshallese community, said Benetick Maddison, educational outreach coordinator for the Marshallese Educational Initiative. The initiative is a nonprofit organization focused on Marshallese awareness and education, according to its website.

Web watch

To learn more about Marshallese in Northwest Arkansas and the history of the Marshall Islands and the United States, go to meius.org and click on “Marshallese in Arkansas” and “Nuclear Issues” in the bar near the top.

The newspaper and radio station are important because they let people know what is happening in Northwest Arkansas and the Marshall Islands, Maddison said.

The radio station is culturally important because the songs contain Marshallese language, Maddison said. Hearing the language helps young Marshallese people learn it.

As of 2010, 5.7 percent of the population in Springdale, 2 percent of the population in Washington County and 0.3 percent of the population in Benton County was native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website. The Marshallese population is categorized as Pacific Islander in census records.

In print

The first volume of Chikin Melele printed Sept. 23, said Patrick Boaz Sr., who edits and publishes the newspaper.

The paper started as an idea from Gomez Zackious, a police officer with the Springdale Police Department, Boaz said. "Chikin" in the newspaper's title would normally start with a "J" in Marshallese, Boaz said. They changed the "J" to a "Ch" as a reference to chickens in Springdale. The title of the paper translates to a place of inquiry.

The paper has carried articles in English and Marshallese, Boaz said, written by fewer than 10 volunteers.

He would like to print the paper twice a month, but so far it has been printed monthly. The paper is available at local Marshallese stores.

It also is available in Enid, Okla., and in Salt Lake City because there are large Marshallese communities in those cities, Boaz said. They also have sent some newspapers to the Marshall Islands. He said they eventually would like to distribute the newspaper to all of the Marshallese communities in the continental United States.

The paper is printed in Alabama and sent to Northwest Arkansas, Boaz said. Boaz and partners Zackious and Mike Beasha pay to produce the paper. All three are fluent in Marshallese.

The paper costs $2 a copy but most likely will be free beginning with the next issue, Boaz said. There is not yet a website for the paper.

On the air

Joe Hart applied to the Federal Communications Commission for the radio license for KMRW 98.9 FM about three years ago. The station went on air Dec. 16.

KMRW is a noncommercial station, which is similar to a nonprofit organization, Hart said. It is a low-power FM station, which covers most of Springdale.

Hart has owned two other stations in the past, he said. The idea of a Marshallese radio station came about when he was trying to find an audience that wasn't being served.

The station focuses on Marshallese culture and language, Hart said. It is mostly music, but he would like to add more talk programming.

Hart said he hopes the station will become a voice for the Marshallese community. Larry Muller, a native of the Marshall Islands, manages the station.

There isn't a website for the station, but there is a Facebook page, Hart said.

The U.S. government and the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association in 1986, which allows Marshall Islands citizens unrestricted travel in the United States. This came after the United States tested nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands.

Marshallese migration to Northwest Arkansas started in the 1970s. Many came to the region for education and work opportunities. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 Marshallese live in Northwest Arkansas, which is the largest population of Marshallese in the continental United States.

NW News on 03/28/2016