Conversation: The Foundation of Healthy & Equitable Cities

Greetings friends –

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is an organization committed to the idea that community gathering and conversation, especially in parks, are the foundation of healthy and equitable cities. The recent murder of George Floyd and the anguish that it has caused the black and brown communities around the country has left both us and our community reeling and heartbroken.

For years, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has recognized that in Grand Rapids, there are fewer trees in neighborhoods of color, and parks are farther away and often contain less amenities than those in high income neighborhoods. We further recognize that low participation rates of African Americans in outdoor recreation is connected to multiple facets of oppression and historical trauma.

Racism is systemic and is not limited to violence against black lives in our streets, but extends to all facets of our community. In every way, our white community has benefited from our privilege while our black and brown neighbors have struggled. Only first by recognizing these injustices can we work together to change them.

Commitment is only meaningful if it can endure hardship. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is redoubling our focus on equity, community, and conversations – even when those conversations are unfathomable, uncomfortable, and painful. We recognize that nature-based organizations have historically lacked diversity in support and volunteers; we must reach deeper if we are going to truly connect our mission to everyone in our community.

We further recognize that human lives are infinitely more valuable than parks and trees. So in the near-term, we have been and will be limiting our social media communication to keep channels open for those directly engaged in front-line justice work.

We recommend following and/or donating to our friends locally at the Grand Rapids Urban League, Baxter Community Center, Urban Core Collective, and GRAHHI, and joining in on their work for social justice. As a staff and organization, we are donating to these organizations and supporting local black-owned businesses. Learn more here: http://www.grabblocal.com.

In solidarity,
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks staff and board of directors

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