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Out & About in Cleveland

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Diversification of America's Parks; MotivAsians Wine and Cheese Tasting Party

On Wednesday evening, September 20th, we paid our first visit to the Edgewater Beach House (created by "Cleveland Metroparks") in Edgewater Park for me to attend a City Club program regarding the diversification of America's parks.

As the notes about the program read, "African-Americans represent 13% of the national population but only represent 7% of visitors to the National Park Service. The reasons for this disconnect are varied; for many, the outdoors evokes lynchings, trauma, and flight from slavery and discrimination. Others feel excluded as parks and outdoor activities are largely led by whites. Access to the outdoors and green spaces is vital to the social fabric of the community and to individual's health and well-being. Many initiatives are underway at both the national and social local level to increase the use of parks by minorities and to diversify the employment staff of the park systems..."

The community partner was "Land Studio" on West 25th Street represented by Mr. David Wilson who said that he had heard Mr. Dudley Edmondson; photographer and author of "Black & Brown Faces in America's Wild Places" speak in Pittsburgh in a few years ago and was very moved by what he had to say so he arranged for Mr. Edmondson to come to Cleveland and take part in programs like the one that very night. 

Accordingly, we went to Mr. Edmondson's website at www.dudleyedmondson.com where we read that, "the book's purpose is to create a set of 'Outdoor Role Models' for the African American community. He feels it is important for them to see individuals who LOOK like them with similar life experiences talking about their passion for nature and the outdoors. He is convinced that the future of conservation in America is tethered to People of Color reconnecting to their outdoor cultural traditions. Their influence and political power as population demographics shift will determine the sustainability of America’s environmental protection policies which influence an entire planet."

The other panelists for the City Club program were Mr. Brian Zimmerman, CEO of "Cleveland Metroparks" and Ms. Whitnye Long Jones, the Community Coordinator for "Let's Move Outside" a campaign initiated by former First Lady Michelle Obama to get millions of young people to engage more often in outdoor activities.

What was said during the course of the discussion pretty much backed up what was written earlier regarding the inaccessibility of parks, forests, and green spaces being just as much a psychological issue as physical distance. Fortunately, Mr. Zimmerman seemed very aware of the problem and contended (correctly) that the methods of community outreach for the Metroparks as well as the thinking of its management and its staff are constantly evolving and seemed confidant that in time much of this will be worked out. Overall, it seemed that the big issue is motivating ethnic groups such as African-Americans to take advantage of the opportunities that are already out there which is what Mr. Edmondson and Ms. Long Jones are devoting themselves to accomplishing. 

During the Q and A, however, a couple of people testified that it has been their experience that cultural clash situations have the potential to occur the parks because to have a good time in one culture might mean harmless but loud frolicking with friends and family whereas for others a good time might be to kick back and simply be one with nature.

Yet we are thankful for organizations like "Youth Outdoors" of which several members were there with us that night at the "Edgewater Beach House". From talking to them we learned that it is a partnership between "4H", the "Cleveland Metroparks"; "Ohio State University"; and the "City of Cleveland" created to as a youth development program to connect inner city kids to nature.

Even though the conversation centered on people of color, the foreign born were hardly mentioned although it would be interesting to see statistics on the number of times that they visit places like the Metroparks and we wonder if certain refugee groups might have a bad association with forestry outdoor places comparable to that of African-Americans. Another point worth noting was that it was mentioned in the Q and A that in Texas, border guards have uniforms very much like park rangers and steps are being taken to make them more distinguishable. 

After we left the Edgewater Beach House we had only a short way to travel to get to our next event which was a wine and cheese tasting party organized by "MotivAsians for Cleveland" at the "Astoria Market and Café" near 54th and Detroit. It was the second time that we had been there lately because, less than two weeks earlier, it was the venue for the "Freedom Fund Reception" of the "Stonewall Democratic Club".

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On this occasion, we were shown to a meeting room in the back where the get together had been in progress for a little while. Unfortunately, we did not know what time the City Club event would end so we didn't make a reservation for this one but Ms. May Luo, the President of "MotivAsians ..." greeted us warmly and was glad we were able to come. 

While we were there, we also enjoyed re-connecting with Dr. Jessica Kumar and her husband, Mr. Charles Greathouse, with whom we participated in a march to call attention to the Ebola crisis a couple of years ago.

As far as the sampling itself, we admired Mr. Lee S. Daniels for knowing a great deal about cheeses we were tasting and imparting to us his knowledge.

Even though we do not drink wine, it was fascinating to listen to Mr. Fred Marino, a wine distributor who works with the "Astoria", talk about the three wines (which came from Italy, France, and Spain) because he was a true connoisseur with genuine passion.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

 

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