There’s a diversity gap in our outdoor spaces. Participation and attendance at state and national parks is almost 70 percent White. This is alarming considering 40 percent of our national population are people of color. This gap has been perpetuated by economic inequality and legalized segregation, as well as historic and current racial discrimination.
While nature doesn’t discriminate, the systems and people who grasped control of natural spaces did. Throughout history, parks in the United States have been conceptualized, created, and managed by White men who held racist beliefs. People of color were not considered in outdoor recreation and have been segregated or excluded from outdoor recreation agencies.
Because of this history, people of color often have to plan trips or participate in outdoor activities in groups because the White majority can see them as ‘out of place.'
We are focusing our work with the Hennepin County Green Partners Grant to center BIPOC people in our neighborhood’s natural spaces. We’ve partnered with three community organizations that are BIPOC owned/operated – Better Futures, Black Table Arts, and Urban Bird Collective – to create three activities that we hope will help to imbed the BIPOC experience into the outdoor experience.
Better Futures Minnesota is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the community and the environment. They focus on reintegrating high-risk adults, primarily Black men, into society through on-the-job training in deconstruction, warehouse safety, appliance recycling and more. Part of their work is salvaging materials through deconstruction work and diverting tons of building materials from landfills.
During the first part of our project, we will be working with Better Futures to build Leopold benches, commonly used for bird watching, out of reclaimed materials to install in our community. Participants will learn about how to repurpose materials and create something to expand accessibility in our natural spaces. There are two bench building sessions: March 9 and March 18.
After the benches are built, participants will work with artists from Black Table Arts, a local Black artist collective, to paint the benches on March 25. This project is meant to uplift the voices of our neighbors through shared connection and expression. With this initiative, we hope to use art as a tool of healing by centering BIPOC experiences and cultures when designing and painting the benches. Once installed, the benches can be something that not only benefits people, but serves as a reminder that everyone deserves to feel safe and welcome in the outdoors.
Finally, our project will have several bird walks from April to June led by Urban Bird Collective, a group that works to create safe, welcoming spaces for all communities to enjoy nature and birdwatching. These communities include Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and the LGBTQIA communities and more. Leading groups on walks through our neighborhoods and parks, members of the Urban Bird Collective will teach participants about native bird species and how we can help protect them through proper waste management, clean ups, and environmental protections.
Sign ups for all of these events are available on our website, longfellow.org or for more information email Jasmine Epps-Flowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here