By Jake Virden, Hope Community
Hope Community is a community development corporation rooted on the corner of Portland and Franklin in the Phillips Neighborhood of South Minneapolis and grounded in the practice of deep listening and engagement with neighborhood leaders. At Hope, people are not viewed as clients to be serviced, but as leaders to be developed, challenged and supported in the pursuit of their vision. One vision, shared by an energetic group of young artists of color, was to create a space where neighborhood leaders could develop their skills to become the next generation of community organizers to lead the fight for Racial Justice. This vision grew into S.P.E.A.C. (Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens), an 8-month Community Organizing training that is now in its 9th year with over 100 Racial Justice organizers trained.
The Parks and Power campaign grew out of the energy of the first S.P.E.A.C. cohort of community organizers that were working, almost a decade ago, to bring increased resources to Peavey Park. Over the 8 years of organizing that have ensued we have expanded our focus from increased resources at Peavey to a shift in power dynamics across the municipal government. The work of our campaign is to build power with low wealth communities in the Minneapolis Parks through popular education and local political action. Our foundational political value is Racial Justice. We work on the ground with people and also at the policy level. Our aim is to bring the policies to the people and the people’s policies to the seat of power. We see the Minneapolis Park Board as a tangible, challenging, entry point into local public and political life and aim to make it a training ground for grassroots leaders and a petri dish for people driven, race conscious public policy.
The summer of 2015 is another busy one for our campaign, as is becoming tradition. In 2013 we hosted the first ever Racial Equity focused forum for candidates seeking election as park commissioners, over 250 people gathered in the Phillips neighborhood and sent a message to candidates that Communities of Color will no longer accept being an afterthought of policy makers. Building on that momentum, in June of 2014 we partnered with the Land Stewardship Project, Hope’s Food Justice leadership group and others to demand and successfully implement Racial Justice goals into the Park Board’s Urban Agriculture Master Plan.
This summer we are working with Voices for Racial Justice and Park Board staff on a listening project that will inform the MPRB’s Rec Quest evaluation of Recreation Centers and Programs across the system. We are facilitating listening sessions in neighborhood parks across the city to hear from community members about what is working in their park, what is not and what the priorities should be moving forward. These listening sessions are an opportunity for us to meet and learn from new leaders and to build the base of our campaign. Please join us at one of the following opportunities: