Like many park professionals, I’ve been having the diversity conversation for a while now. We’ve been striving towards more inclusive green spaces my entire professional career, and, despite making great strides, we’ve still got a long way to go. This work is tireless, and I’m acutely aware of how frequently the finish-line keeps moving. I love this work, but sometimes even the strong have doubts.
I fantasize about no longer needing to have the diversity conversation. I fantasize about diversity being solved like I fantasize about winning the lottery; one fortuitous event, eliminating all my problems with no effort on my part. I know these fantasies are silly, but I also know I’m not the only one buying Powerball tickets.
So I was tired last week when I headed to Washington, DC to meet about the National Park Service Urban Agenda. I was not excited about yet another diversity conversation with my heart rubbed raw by the recent Orlando shooting. Doing equity work while also working through grief is an unfortunate, yet common, occurrence. But I was comforted to see all the altars, hand-made signs, and pride flags sprinkled across DC’s national parks. It was a powerful lesson of how parks can be places for healing. It was a needed reminder of the importance of telling a national history that’s as diverse as our country.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Goerisch-Hassanein, NPS
I got another powerful and timely lesson from our NPS Urban Fellows. It was a lesson about grit: about persevering in the face of mighty obstacles. As each Urban Fellow talked about their experience of building relationships with their communities and implementing the Urban Agenda, the challenges they mentioned were huge and complex. They were drawing upon large stores of determination and resilience. The Urban Fellows were carrying out the Urban Agenda one small success, one community partner, and one co-worker at a time. I needed to be reminded that this diversity conversation is going to continue to be hard, but, with a little grit, great things can be accomplished.
Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, I’m thankful for all the diversity conversations (both visual and verbal) that I had in DC. It was the pep talk I didn’t know I needed.
Lastly, I’m most thankful for our newest National Monument at Stonewall Inn. It’s what our nation needed and a shining example of what tireless work can accomplish. I’m grateful to all the folks and the LGBTQ community that, through determination and grit, caused this breakthrough to happen.