Our Recommitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, Accessibility, and Inclusion
I’m a brand new board member to the Parks Foundation but bring a history of working as an anti-racist educator along with me. Recently, I was sent the packet for the final meeting in 2021 which had on the agenda our consideration of the statement on the Parks Foundation's recommitment to justice, equity, diversity, accessibility, and inclusion (JEDAI) as an organization.
I wanted to be part of this organization because of the transformational work done in the environment by a relatively young body of people who have rapidly borne out a vision of valuing, building, and restoring/maintaining our parks. I never doubted coming on board because to me parks are like libraries: our last truly public institutions. Reclaiming wetlands once lost to a golf course as a nature study area is one of the most beautiful ways to honor the idea that we have much work to do as a species understanding our place in the natural world as very much a part of it rather than resource extractors who act upon it. Part of that web of life is human interaction with the landscapes, which of course is what public parks are for.
So I’m seated at the board meeting, and this is the big annual meeting in December, and I had already read and considered a very careful snapshot of each committee meeting and budget we were given to prepare for. I had noted some text at the end of the packet PDF but it did not have a title so I confess to not having read it ahead of time. It turns out that it is our formal statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. I’m sitting there reading it, secretly thrilled.
The executive staff and I had just successfully written a grant to the Nevada Humanities Committee for a storytelling series “Rosewood Stories” to be held and videotaped at the new Rosewood Nature Study Area. This project will center the Washoe tribal pre-history of what is now Rosewood by bringing scholars together for a four-part series. The storytelling will focus on the emerging unity between cutting-edge wetlands researchers, tribal scholars, and Washoe Tribal Members well versed in both their respective academic disciplines and Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK). So having just had this grant mentioned during our meeting, and as I am reading the opening line of this text at the end of the board packet, there was an immediate acknowledgement of the past injustices people have felt from the first removals from this land to establish the city of Reno. These few honest and forthright words lept up at me off the page:
“Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation acknowledges that a pervasive legacy of systemic racism, transphobia, homophobia, and sexism has kept marginalized groups and people of color from feeling safe in outdoor spaces for hundreds of years. The Parks Foundation believes in dismantling these barriers so that parks, trails, and open spaces may be a place for everyone to enjoy—no matter who you are or where you come from.”
I was struck by how clearly the statement captured the inclusiveness I knew was the intent of the author. I said something out loud right then about it being easier to work in the communities that will be here to tell "Rosewood Stories" with the clarity of a statement like this one. I added that I thought we might include a statement of Land Acknowledgement by the Waśi:śiw ‘The Washoe People From Here’ since all of the lands where local parks sit are part of the traditional Washoe territory and homelands.
In striving towards the rest of our statement on inclusiveness, and in the spirit of that genuine invitation to teach and learn within our community about all of the stories that enrich this place, we hope to see the diversity and inclusiveness in our greater community alive in each and every park. We invite you to tell us if we can do better as we… “…see diversity, inclusion, and equity as connected to our mission and critical to ensure the well-being of our team and the communities we serve.”
So please, if you are not already a regular, feel warmly welcomed to your local park system. Please know that there are advocates for you who not only want you to feel welcomed, but who also want to hear from you if we can make your park a safer or more inclusive place for yourself and your family. My understanding of the Parks Foundation's programming and the communities that we already serve is somewhat new, but I’m already impressed. There is truly something for everyone from families with members suffering from dementia and their caregivers to the youth who are being encouraged to learn with dedicated and diverse educators.
We define diversity, inclusion, and equity as present-tense action words, and we also know that in these times the need to articulate these ideas and their definitions must come with a very real commitment to honoring them on all levels within our organization.
The parks need our cooperation and solidarity, as do the wetlands and our watershed. Please keep an eye out for more about the Rosewood Stories project that will be available late this summer. Please also look through the Parks Foundation website to learn about the incredible variety of programs and projects we support. Let’s stand together to work for a better future for all of our grandchildren, so that they might have an experience of the natural world in our parks that is transformative. In all that we do, let’s look forward to a time in the future that we will never see, but do so in a way that ensures those in the future will be thankful we were here for them.
About the Author: Laura Fillmore
Laura is a lifetime organic gardener, activist artist, film programmer, film and video exhibitor, documentarian, and photographer with expertise in non-profit development, indigenous language renewal, community organizing, and eco-artivism. Most recently, she retired from K-12 fine arts + CTE digital media public school teaching and STEAM curriculum development to work as an eco-artist on regional water and food security, continuing to plant and tend a permaculture community garden on the Washoe Dresslerville reservation where she lives with her husband, children, grandchildren, and their menagerie.