A Victory Against Police Violence, Won by Families

On Monday, surrounded by family members who have lost their loved ones to deadly police force, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 392: The California Act to Save Lives, authored by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber of San Diego.

This legislation is the result of years of courageous organizing by directly impacted families; and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and PolicyLink have been proud co-sponsors and partners in this campaign to protect our communities from police violence.
 
Because of our collective efforts, California will go from having one of the deadliest use-of-force laws in the nation, to one of the most protective — saving countless lives.
 
This victory was made possible by leaders like Kori McCoy, who spoke at the signing ceremony and whose younger brother, Willie McCoy, was killed last February by six officers firing 55 shots in less than four seconds.
 
Kori noted: "The reality is, officers rarely face consequences, and families like mine are left to wonder who is policing the police. This law offers a ray of solace for my family and hope that it will spare other families from bearing this burden with us."
 
Now that AB 392 is the law, California is the ONLY state to combine the "necessary standard" with requirement that courts consider officers' conduct leading up to a use of deadly force in determining its legality. This commonsense change brings a glimmer of hope and the promise of greater accountability as we keep fighting to end the epidemic of police violence.
 
This is only the beginning. We recognize that we have much more work to do so all communities — particularly Black, Latinx, and Native American — can live with dignity and free from police violence.
 
That’s why the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and PolicyLink will continue to organize to ensure the just implementation of AB 392 throughout California and advocate for community-led initiatives that invest in safety, not policing. Help us transform unjust systems and advance equity by signing up to take action with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

For Willie McCoy, Myra Micalizio, Charlie Salinas, Oscar Grant, James De La Rosa, and all of the other loved ones whose lives were cut short, let us honor them with this victory and by continuing the fight.

A New “Quess?” for Equity

Recently PolicyLink launched “We, the 100 Million”, a new equity research project and national tour geared towards highlighting the approximately 100 million people across the country who, every day, face an increasingly inequitable and evermore intractable collection of social, economic, legal, and cultural systems.

“We, the 100 Million” will entwine the spirit and motivation of various creative platforms with our National Equity Atlas data on changing demographics, racial inclusion, and the economic benefits of equity—in cities, regions, states, and nationwide.

In lifting up the lives, hopes, and aspirations of the one-in-three individuals living at or near poverty in the United States, we’re excited to announce our collaboration with celebrated poet, educator, actor, playwright, and activist A Scribe Called Quess?

Over the next year, Quess? – a National Poetry Slam Champion and 2017 Urban League Courage Award recipient -- will be working with the National Equity Atlas team at PolicyLink and communities across the country as part of the “We, the 100 Million” to incorporate art, story circles, poetry workshops, and Theater of the Oppressed techniques into the way we support grassroots equity advocates and campaigns.

Watch video of A Scribe Called Quess? here!

At PolicyLink, we believe that art and culture are essential to creating a just and fair society. Together creative platforms and data inspire us to move beyond generations of limited opportunity and towards finally achieving equity for all.

We are excited to share more details of this partnership and national tour in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!    

Juneteenth: A Rallying Point for Reparations

Today, Juneteenth, marks the end of slavery and is emerging as a rallying point for the demand that the United States reckon with the defining sins of the nation and commit to reparations for African Americans.

No matter how much the country would like to put its shameful history behind, the nation’s soul is stained by the immorality and the legacy of slavery. The United States was built on Black bondage and to this day, Black people have been subject to laws, policies, systems, and conditions that block the opportunities at the heart of the American dream, including education, personal and community safety, the accumulation of wealth, and the prospect of a better life for one's children.

There can be no hope for achieving a truly equitable society until the United States formally acknowledges the persistent economic and social impact of slavery, racism, and inequality on African Americans, and provides fair, significant, and meaningful compensation as payment for these extreme harms and as acts of healing and racial reconciliation.

In Pittsburgh, Community is the Key to Advancing Racial Equity

From the 1930s through the 1960s, Pittsburgh’s Hill District was one of America’s elite African-American neighborhoods. Affectionately known as “Little Harlem,” it was home to a vibrant jazz scene, and was one of the few integrated areas in the city. By the 1950s, however, urban renewal – in which the federal government empowered local governments and private developers to redevelop commercial districts, displacing a disproportionate number of people of color and their businesses – hit the city. In Pittsburgh, this included forcibly removing over 8,000 residents and 400 business from the Lower Hill District into already segregated neighborhoods.

Today, Pittsburgh remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States. “When the city ignored advice not to demolish homes and businesses in the Lower Hill District, it raised new questions about the government's power to alter a neighborhood's social, racial, and economic fabric,” Dan Fitzpatrick explained in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But what if they used their power differently? If local government could take wide sweeping actions to create today’s inequality crisis, then government can certainly take bold actions – in partnership with local leaders – to reverse this tide.

That’s exactly what the Pittsburgh City Council has recently set into motion. In a unanimous vote, the council passed a legislative package to increase equity across the city. Introduced by Councilmembers R. Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess, supported by the Mayor’s office, and influenced by All-In Pittsburgh – a coalition of over 40 organizations dedicated to advancing racial equity and equitable development in the region. Specifically, the legislation:

  • Declares Pittsburgh an “all-In” city, demonstrating its commitment to breaking down barriers to advance racial economic inclusion and equitable growth.
  • Adds equity reporting requirements of all city department directors.
  • Creates an equity and inclusion implementation team to implement, monitor, and enforce equity and diversity goals in all city departments.

There are many existing models Pittsburgh will be able to rely on when working to foster equitable development and embed equity across city government. In 2005, Seattle became the first city in the United States to start a citywide initiative to eliminate racial inequities and structural racism. Now all city employees are trained on equity and inclusion, and all city departments use a racial equity analysis tool to consider how their work benefits or burdens various communities, and how they may contribute to racial disparities. This has led to hundreds of changes in city operations. Similar initiatives are at work across the country, in communities from Oakland, California to Fairfax, Virginia.

What makes the work in Pittsburgh particularly exciting is the commitment to working with community throughout the process. Councilman Burgess said the city will work with the All-In Pittsburgh coalition to challenge corporations, institutions, and nonprofits to set the same goals created through the legislation. As outlined in The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh, to ensure the sustainability and success of this work, local leaders must invest in multiracial, cross-sector collective action, with an emphasis in supporting grassroots and resident leadership.

Community-based leaders actively participate in the coalition, including representatives from Beltzhoover Consensus Group, Hazlewood Initiative, Hill District Consensus Group, Homewood Children's Village, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, and the Kingsley Association. Together, these organizations can play a vital role in building community cohesion, articulating a vision for the community’s future, negotiating with developers, and partnering to implement investment without displacement strategies. This will require the sustained support of philanthropic leaders investing in the institutional structures and networks that can take collective action.

There is perhaps no greater asset to coalition building towards equitable development than local residents. Resident leadership and organizing is foundational to ensuring that as a city continues to grow and change, those most at risk of being displaced know their rights and have a voice in how their neighborhoods change. Local government and private sector leaders should provide clear, widespread information about specific development proposals in neighborhoods, so residents are informed and empowered to weigh in on plans that impact them. This also requires investment in tenant advocacy and organizing to prevent displacement, engage in neighborhood planning, and ensure healthy housing.

As Pittsburgh commits to truly going “all-in,” they will need to continue to invest in community power, voice, and capacity. Building structures for collective action and developing policy leadership from within Pittsburgh’s communities of color is critical to carrying this agenda forward. Pittsburgh’s leadership has taken important steps towards ushering in an era of equity. Positioning residents and community’s leaders at the center of this work will show that the city is truly heeding the lessons from the past.

Welcome to the Bay Area Equity Atlas!

Our team at the San Francisco Foundation, PolicyLink, and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) is thrilled to share the Bay Area Equity Atlas with you!

The Bay Area Equity Atlas is a comprehensive data resource to track the state of equity across the region and inform solutions for inclusive prosperity.

We built the Atlas for everyone working to create a more equitable, just, and resilient Bay Area. Racialized inequality — along with a housing and displacement crisis — is placing our region’s future at risk. The only path to inclusive prosperity is to advance equity solutions at scale.

Data that is disaggregated by race, nativity, geography, and more is critical to charting a more equitable future. Data can elevate the debate about equity and catalyze the bolder solutions needed to make equity our regional reality. Data can also help strengthen the voice and power of the communities most impacted by inequities. As Ellen Wu, executive director of Urban Habitat and a member of our Equity Campaign Leaders Advisory Committee explains: “Data is critical to democratizing power and running effective advocacy campaigns.”

At the click of a button, you can access 21 powerful equity indicators across the San Francisco Foundation’s People, Place, and Power equity framework. Data is available for 272 geographies, including the region as a whole, its nine counties, 40 sub-county areas, and 220 places including cities and Census Designated Places.

The Bay Area Equity Atlas is a tool for social change. It equips community leaders and policymakers with facts and analyses to:

  • Assess how well Bay Area communities are doing on key measures of social and economic inclusion, neighborhood opportunity, and political voice and power
  • Spark and inform new conversations about why—and how much—equity matters to the cultural and economic vitality of the Bay Area as a whole and each of its communities
  • Inform policies, plans, strategies, business models, and investments for inclusive prosperity

Our aim is to democratize data and make it easy for you to understand, discuss, and use. Explore the Bay Area Equity Atlas to find:

  • Contextual information for each indicator explaining why it matters for building an equitable region, key trends in the region, major drivers of inequities, and policy solutions
  • Charts, graphs, and maps to share with your colleagues and add to your presentations, fact sheets, reports, and funding proposals
  • Stories about residents’ experiences of equity challenges as well as solutions
  • Analyses of equity trends and issues across the region
  • Examples of how local leaders are using Bay Area Equity Atlas data to advance equity solutions
  • And much more!

The atlas is a living resource. We invite you to share your feedback and tell us what you’d like to see on the site. Please sign up to Get Atlas Updates (bottom right corner) to learn about new features and analyses, and how people are using our data. And follow us on social media at #BayAreaEquityAtlas.

We hope you enjoy exploring! Here are two additional resources to help you get started:

- The Bay Area Equity Atlas team (Sarah, Jamila, Michelle, Rosa, Jessica, Justin, and Arpita)

UPCOMING WEBINAR: Introducing the Bay Area Equity Atlas

Data matters for building an equitable Bay Area. From informing the public debate to driving policy solutions, data broken down by race and geography is a key ingredient in advancing equity. Yet, even in the tech capital of the world, such data remains far too difficult to access and use.

Enter the Bay Area Equity Atlas – a new data tool launching on June 5, 2019. Produced by a partnership between the San Francisco Foundation, PolicyLink, and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), the Bay Area Equity Atlas equips community leaders with 21 powerful equity metrics and policy solutions for inclusive prosperity.

Join us for the launch webinar, Thursday, June 6, (12-1  pm PT/ 3-4 pm ET), to take a tour of the Atlas and be the first to learn about our analysis of the diversity of elected officials in the region, based on a unique dataset assembled by the Atlas team.

Speakers include:

REGISTER TODAY

Economic Inclusion in Southern Cities Biannual Convening Recap

Equity is the superior growth model. Research confirms that supporting residents and workers of color in reaching their full potential is more than just a moral imperative. Indeed, it is an economic imperative as well. Economists tell us that inequality hinders growth and greater inclusion accelerates it. As the diversity of this country continues to grow, and we move closer towards becoming a majority people of color nation in 2044, embracing these principles will only become increasingly important. It was to this end, and as part of their unwavering commitment to promoting racial equity, that the Annie E. Casey Foundation first launched the Advancing Economic Inclusion in Southern Cities (EISC) learning community back in 2015.  

EISC consists of municipal officials and staff, local philanthropists, and business and community partners from seven major cities in the South:  Asheville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, and Richmond. On April 2-4, 2019, EISC representatives gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond branch in Charlotte to discuss challenges and solutions for advancing increased participation of business enterprises owned and operated by women and people of color. In addition to Casey, the Federal Reserve banks of Atlanta, St. Louis, and Richmond have been partners in this project and hosted virtually all of the cohort meetings thus far. 

The convening began with a rousing video of acclaimed poet Danez Smith speaking passionately about the impact that racial inequities have had and continue to have on young people of color in cities across the country. This poem served as powerful motivation for the three-day convening and helped to ground participants in the urgent need for change present in the communities they seek to serve. The poem also underscored the importance of moving beyond representative diversity towards tangible investment in underserved communities, full inclusion of residents and workers in decision-making processes, and the removal of systemic barriers that continue to hold back low-income people of color. 

Over the course of the three-day meeting, participants were joined by committed advocates, activists, academics, and municipal leaders to help them develop viable strategies for advancing equity and inclusion. For example, on the second day Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles each spoke about inclusion efforts underway in their respective cities. For example, the city of Charlotte commissioned a disparity study to document the underrepresentation of people-of-color-owned business enterprises among those receiving contracts for city procurement opportunities.  Similarly, Memphis is also using the city’s purchasing power to help grow and expand small, and people-of-color owned businesses.

Other noteworthy strategies for advancing racial equity and economic inclusion include:

  1. Local and targeted hiring – require or incentivize businesses that receive public resources, such as government contracts or tax breaks, to hire workers living in a particular geographic area or from specific populations within the community.
     
  2. Anchor institution procurement – leverage the tremendous purchasing power of universities, hospitals, community colleges, and large private sector employers to help not only grow new businesses through contracting, but also fill open employment opportunities at these institutions. The Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) is a noteworthy example of this strategy in action. 
     
  3. Tailor workforce strategies – career training and education opportunities should be targeted for industries slated for growth, or those that have historically had barriers to entry for low-income people of color similar to the EARN Maryland program.
     
  4. Asset-building strategies – take an intergenerational approach to ensure that economic inclusion strategies will address the racial wealth gap through efforts such as individual development accounts for low-income families, or city-wide efforts such as the Richmond Office of Community Wealth Building or Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative.

To learn more about economic inclusion in general and the challenges and opportunities facing Black-owned business enterprises in particular, please check out the latest report from the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success.

Equity, Artificial Intelligence, and Transportation

From autonomous vehicles and bio-transit tickets, to airport face scanning and smart highways and cities, artificial intelligence (AI) is making its way into the transportation sector, one innovation at a time. As exciting as these technologies are, the big challenge will be to ensure that rapid innovation does not perpetuate existing inequality. Instead, artificial intelligence should be applied to providing benefits to the communities that too often have carried the negative burden of our traditional transportation infrastructure and systems without enjoying the benefits they provide.

With the growth in popularity of ubiquitous apps and services like Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Postmates, and DoorDash, companies are looking for ways to grow their client base and outdo their competition. In today’s era of convenience and efficiency, this means being faster and more automated. As companies focus on expansion and increasing their profit, we must ensure that their growth does not cause new harm to our most vulnerable communities. This means considering how artificial intelligence and automation affect the transportation systems low-income people and people of color depend on. Will new technology increase the mobility and connection of disinvested people and places or will it undermine the buses, trains, carpools, and shuttle services people depend on? Will it improve access to high quality jobs that pay fair living wages and treat workers with dignity and respect or will it leave new generations of people behind? Will it support a more inclusive society or deploy new surveillance tools and predictive policing that perpetuate algorithmic bias and propagate the wrongful criminalization of people of color? 

Despite these challenges, there are clear opportunities for artificial intelligence technology to help solve the transportation issues that have negatively impacted low-income communities and communities of color for generations:

As we think about the potential impact of AI on transportation and transit systems, it’s helpful to look to the principles set forth by the Transportation Equity Caucus, a coalition chaired by PolicyLink and composed of more than 125 national, state, and local organizations working to embed racial equity into federal transportation policy. The principles and their AI implications are:

1. Create affordable transportation options for all people. We must ensure that the cost of using autonomous vehicles (AVs) and AI technologies for daily travel is accessible for people of all income levels, particularly if they are to be an extension of the public transit system.

2. Ensure fair access to quality jobs, workforce development, and contracting opportunities in the transportation industry. As AVs other AI technologies are deployed in our cities, we must ensure that the jobs and contracts associated with their growth are high quality and are accessible to workers and firms who have historically been shut out, namely people of color and people with disabilities.

3. Promote, healthy, safe, and inclusive communities. Just like there are food deserts, there are transportation innovation deserts. Too many communities of color already lack access to quality transit services, safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and well-maintained roads. These same communities are the last ones to have access to on demand rides, bikes, and scooters. As AVs and AI technologies are deployed it is important to think about the spatial distributions of affordable transportation options and the impact they will have on the transportation services that communities of color already depend on.

4. Invest equitably and focus on results. As AI has moved into many parts of society, concerns have been raised about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the tech sector. Specifically, people have pointed to several incidents related to image recognition systems where unconscious racial bias showed up in tech projects. In the transportation space there is early evidence that bias is embedded in computer algorithms that should drive automated vehicle technology. Research has found that autonomous vehicles are less able to detect people with darker skin color, compared to people with lighter skin color. Facial recognition and predictive policing technology deployed through our transportation infrastructure can also perpetuate discrimination and increase police surveillance in communities that are already subject to disproportionate policing. To address this, we must be thoughtful in considering both the functionality of technology and its application and impact. We must ensure that people of color, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations are co-designers of the deployment of AI in our communities and cities.

The AI train is already running at full steam and there is no sign of a slow down. We can either watch it pass us by or get on and help program its direction. It is time for community leaders, advocates, and policymakers to chart a new course that will deliver real transportation equity to the millions of Americans who have been harmed and neglected by our past infrastructure investments, policies, and practices.

Safe and Affordable Water is a Critical National Imperative


With mounting and devastating water challenges in America, we can leverage Infrastructure Week to turn urgent attention to ensuring both the human right to clean water and to focusing on the climate mitigations to address the droughts, floods, and sea-level rise that threaten our water futures.

For an increasing number of communities in the United States, their water is unsafe and having negative impacts on health. Nearly 77 million U.S. residents are served by drinking water systems with one or more Safe Drinking Water Act violations. Race and income are central factors in both urban and rural water vulnerabilities, and many studies have found links between poor water quality and low-income communities of color. Over the last few years, lead has been documented in school water in 26 states. Today, the U.S. ranks 36th in the world in terms of access to water and sanitation.

The crisis of water affordability is mounting. The lowest 20 percent of income earners pay 20 percent of their monthly income for water. If rate hikes continue at their pace of the last decade, more than one-third of all U.S. households, 35.6 percent, will be unable to afford running water in the next five years. Estimates of the cost to replace aging infrastructure in the United States alone project over $1 trillion dollars needed in the next 25 years to replace systems built circa World War II, which could triple the cost of household water if current rate payers are required to shoulder the bills. An estimated 15 million people in the United States experienced a water shutoff in 2016 with the highest shutoff rates in lower-income cities with higher rates of poverty. The decline of federal investment has removed a valuable funding source to support maintenance and replacement of safe drinking and wastewater systems. Cities, states, and water customers are increasingly shouldering the bulk of costly maintenance and repair responsibilities to protect the health, quality, and accessibility of their water.

Climate-related flooding, sea level rise, and waste water exposures are steeply increasing—threatening both drinking water and wastewater systems. An increase in the number of extreme weather events can overwhelm water systems and impact those residing in vulnerable neighborhoods—including sewage backups, sewage overflows into water sources, and the flooding of homes, businesses, and neighborhoods with toxic runoff. The capacity for lower-income communities to recover is severely compromised. Almost five million people and 2.6 million homes are within zones vulnerable to sea level rise predicted to be inundated by the end of the century. Studies estimate that adaptations to water systems to deal with climate change will warrant investment in the United States of more than $36 billion by 2050.

The critical imperative to increase water infrastructure investment offers an opportunity to align major economic opportunities with the demographic shifts underway. With chronic labor shortages and an aging workforce in the water sector, new investment creates an opportunity to tackle the legacy of racial and gender discrimination in the water infrastructure and construction industries and the need for good employment for young workers. While opportunities remain underdeveloped, demonstrated success in local hire measures, local procurement policies, and supply-side training and support all offer pathways to both increase the equitable outcomes across communities and address the climate resilience of diverse environments.

Policy Priorities for Water Equity and Climate Resilience

As Congress and the President discuss a potential new infrastructure bill, and as architects of the Green New Deal flesh out policy proposals, they should ensure they address the water threats to communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities to deliver improved water equity and climate resilience.

  • Guarantee universal access to safe and affordable water. Ensure water infrastructure investments are equitable and prioritize vulnerable communities for safe and affordable drinking water, sanitation, and storm water management. Philadelphia has an exemplary ‘tiered-assistance’ program for affordability and universal access.
     
  • Ensure vulnerable communities—low-income communities and communities of color, and those proximate to climate threatened waters—engage in water planning, governance, and implementation of resilience measures. Cleveland’s Climate Action Plan embedded equity provisions into its plan and targeted vulnerable communities in its water provisions.  
     
  • Address historic economic disparities and dislocations by increasing educational, job, and business opportunities for low-income people and people of color in designing, building, operating, and maintaining communities’ next generation of green and sustainable water infrastructure. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has structured targeted local hiring and inclusive procurement;  and the Emerald Cities Collaborative runs training for businesses of color to successfully compete in water infrastructure build out contracts to address economic inclusion of communities left behind in the current economy. The EPA Brownfields Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants and the Environmental Health Sciences Environmental Career Worker Training Program both provide effective opportunities for disadvantaged workers and opportunity youth to enter the water and green infrastructure careers.  
     
  • And finally, honor the cultural and spiritual access to water that communities depend upon in public lands policy and protections.

Making Progress Towards Park Equity

“Successful parks are markers of healthy communities: children play; families spend time together; people of all ages exercise and relax; and the environment adds to the beauty, security, and economic value of the neighborhood. On the other hand, neglected, dangerous, poorly maintained, or badly designed parks and recreation facilities have the opposite effect: families and young children stay away, illicit activities proliferate, and the property becomes a threatening or discouraging eyesore. To remain community assets, parks and recreation facilities need adequate budgets, good management, and a strong connection with residents.”

Since PolicyLink wrote those words in 2006, parks equity has become more widely understood as a core component of good city-building policies and practices. During 2019 Infrastructure Week, we should celebrate that awareness but double down on our commitment to achieve more tangible results. The case for community parks and trails as drivers of economic growth and rising property values has been repeatedly and effectively made and signature projects such as the Atlanta Beltline and the New York High Line have shown how places can be revitalized through the smart activation of green space. But with the growth bonuses from parks have come sharp questions about who gets to live near them and enjoy their benefits, as gentrification and displacement concerns have become more urgent in many cities. The essential role of parks in creating conditions that advance health and well-being has similarly been well documented.  Children, youth, and adults of all ages need easy access to places to exercise, play, gather as a community and seek respite from the stress of daily life. Here too, though the equity challenges remain, as parks not favored by wealthy donors are often chronically underfunded, which undercuts operations and maintenance as well as acquisitions.

Progress towards parks equity can be found in the arena of public policies, as local governments have explored new models for financing, from new twists on familiar taxes, bonds and fees, to new guidance for conservancies and public-private partnerships, to more innovative methods for capturing the value of adjacent development or establishing land trusts. Each of these mechanisms can be assessed with respect to who bears the financial burden, who benefits, and who makes the decisions. Cities should adopt the more equitable paths to new funding and allocation of resources, and states and the federal government should encourage and incentivize the right choices with their bond and grant program. [The Urban Institute is exploring strategies for investing in equitable parks for City Parks Alliance, and a report will be released later in 2019].

The most exciting frontier for parks equity might be at the level of individual projects where local organizations have built or revitalized parks in low-income communities by incorporating arts and cultural strategies into their approach. For example, Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, is a place of powerful cultural and spiritual resilience. The Zuni nation has survived hundreds of years of systematic oppression and disempowerment while maintaining cultural and linguistic integrity. In the past few years, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) has worked with partners to offer youth programs that emphasize the importance of Zuni language acquisition, traditional agriculture practices, Pueblo art forms, traditional songs and dances, culturally significant sites, oral storytelling, and connection to the elders. These culturally enriching activities are designed to promote physical activity, improve nutrition, and provide a safe space where Zuni youth can connect to positive role models. Recently, ZYEP used philanthropic resources from ArtPlace America to build a new park and community center. They were advised by a committee of six Zuni artists who were partners through every phase of the park’s development. The artists acted as mediators, organizers (introducing staff to new community partners), designers who worked with the architects, and even builders who constructed parts of the park. Because of the artists’ cultural and creative lens, the park has wrapped the resilience of Zuni cultural traditions around present and future Zuni generations.

In Philadelphia, the Fairmount Park Conservancy believes that parks have the potential to serve as the city’s great connector and equalizer, and as catalysts for positive change. As a champion for the city’s public parks and recreation system, the organization’s mission and work has evolved beyond fundraising to becoming a collaborative leader and partner, focusing more strategically on planning, project management, program development, and community engagement. FPC used support from ArtPlace to utilize the arts to strengthen the organization’s mission and values. By forging new partnerships with artists and cultural producers, they worked with residents of the Strawberry Mansion area to illustrate their neighborhood history and opened up a previously unfamiliar historic house as a welcoming center for community performances and exhibits. The Conservancy became better equipped to tap into critical community voices to ensure that current and future planning and decision-making processes for new park investments are truly collaborative.

These stories from Zuni and Philadelphia are featured in the December 2018 issue of Parks and Recreation, the National Recreation and Park Association magazine.

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