Third Ward group pushes for better park resources in community of color


One block from my childhood home was MacGregor Park, where I swung monkey bars and learned to play tennis, in awe of watching champion Zina Garrison practice.

This was where families picnicked, the elderly hiked the jogging track, and teens, though noisy at times, crisscrossed on weekends. It was an essential part of my healthy well-being and why a park brings me so much peace even now.

If there’s one lesson I learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that parks are crucial to our health since outdoor spaces are the least risky social setting. We need parks like we need air. But often communities of color parks lack the funding and resources to provide what those communities need most: a place to sit among the trees, play basketball or other sports, get together. with neighbors and enjoy the feeling of being active, whether it’s an evening stroll or Lesson.

A 2020 Trust for Public Land study found that parks serving predominantly non-white populations are half the size of parks serving predominantly white populations and five times as many people. Another report from the Center for American Progress states that “America’s unequal distribution of nature – and the unfair experiences that many people of color have in the outdoors – is an issue that national, state and local leaders can no longer ignore. “.

MacGregor Park, like Hermann, Emancipation, and Sunnyside, is one of the largest parks in Third Ward and the surrounding area. But there are a lot of little ones who need support.

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Take Riverside Park, where a group of residents have come together to form Friends of Riverside Park Houston to help improve the park while working with the city’s parks department. For the past two years, the group has hosted family bike rides, voter registration drives, healthy activities including yoga classes, and a grant-funded Art in the Park series that has peaked with families painting COVID masks in the park. This past Halloween, he teamed up with the Houston Police Department and the Civic Association to host a Mardi Gras-style parade for area kids.

On July 31, it will host the first movie night with a number of health-related activities, children’s games and a story hour, the Houston Public Library’s mobile game bus, free screening kits for the Colon Cancer from Black Health Matters and Harambee Artworks. Art Gallery. It is organized in conjunction with Healthy Outdoor Communities, MacGregor Super Neighborhood and Riverside Civic Association, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz.


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“Often our parks don’t appeal to our residents,” said Sharon Evans-Brooks, president of Friends of Riverside Park and past president of Friends of MacGregor Park. “Just because you have a swing and a little basketball goal doesn’t mean it’s a park for the community. Our parks must therefore be designed to take the neighborhood into account. We realized that we needed programming and activities organized around the interests of the community. We want people to inspect their park and say, “This is a nice little park here. Why aren’t we using it more? “

Riverside Park, with its rolling terrain and tall oak trees, is surrounded by history. There’s the majestic Groovey Grill Mansion, which grew out of the Groovey Grill restaurant founded in 1944; the Baptist Missionary Church of Good Hope, organized in 1872; and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. house, which was acquired in the 1960s and includes the Omega Nu Phi Education Center which provides educational and charitable community outreach and which fellowship members will read to children during the event.

“We come together to collectively improve the way we use our parks,” said Glenn Gundy, chair of the centre’s board of directors. “Riverside Park is a gem in our community and we want our kids to enjoy it. It will be like an opportunity to go back to the days when parks were the destination of families. This park is how we can invest in the health and well-being of this community.

Friends of Riverside Park is not unique in its need for community support. Evans-Brooks said there are many “Friends” organizations across town that have covered these costs for their community parks.

“There is no reason we cannot make a firm commitment to black health initiatives in our small neighborhood park that help alleviate some of the health disparities that exist, like diabetes and cancer. obesity. We need to come together and be proactive to make this happen for ourselves. “

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