Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Ethnic Minority Society Recognizes 25 Years of Cultural Diversity

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Ethnic Minority Society Recognizes 25 Years of Cultural Diversity

Article excerpt

Sorrow over the loss of one of our nation's most prominent African American leaders, late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and excitement over the 25th Anniversary of the National Recreation and Parks Ethnic Minority Society are the bittersweet emotions that prevail at the time of this writing. In one sense, the loss of Mr. Brown lessens the significance of a 25th Anniversary celebration. However, the passing of a great leader strengthens our commitment to creating new leadership. It is this commitment that we celebrate.

I'm sure that in that small room in Chicago during the 1969 Congress for Recreation and Parks, there must have been a feeling of something great happening. No one could have really known. It was not possible to see that the Black Caucus--born out of the efforts of individuals like Ernest T. Atwell, the first director of the Bureau of Colored Works, and James Madison, director of recreation field services for the BCW in war-impacted communities--would be the catalyst for monumental change in the delivery of public recreation services and the leadership that would impact the industry. No one knew that years later, it would be impossible to think of having a national organization for parks and recreation officials without including leadership from all communities, especially the African American community.

The Bureau of Colored Works was established by the National Recreation Association in 1919 to provide service to African Americans. There was good reason for its creation, especially since the recreation leaders of African American descent were not allowed rooms in the hotels, or access to meetings. By 1967, pressure began to mount for inclusion of African Americans. Ira Hutchinson, one of the great leaders in the field, was appointed the first executive secretary of the National Therapeutic Recreation Society; one of his primary missions was to assist in the efforts toward inclusion.

In 1969, the National Recreation and Park Association held the first Urban Affairs forum to address the growing concerns of parks and recreation services in cities. The forum took place during one of the most contentious social periods in American history and resulted in the 1970 formation of the National Recreation and Parks Urban Affairs Department. Both the forum and the newly established department spoke volumes to the insight of parks and recreation leaders; they began knitting the value of recreation into our social fabric.

In 1971, the NRPEMS was formally established as an affiliate of the national association with the goals of "productively representing the recreation, park and related leisure service interests and rights of minorities while participating in the overall efforts of the park and recreation profession. …

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