Minneapolis NAACP Announces Boycott of Park Board

Mpls NAACP members at a September press conference. Photo: KSTP
Mpls NAACP members at a September press conference.

May 17, 2017 05:23 PM

The Minneapolis NAACP said it will boycott the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and shut down a board-sponsored international conference this summer in St. Paul until the board responds to and addresses a variety of long-term concerns.

The chapter on Wednesday posted to Facebook a letter from its president, Jason Sole, to the park board dated Monday. The letter states the Minneapolis branch has made 27 attempts to meet with the park board to address issues of racial inequity, and that the board is responsible for a dereliction of duty by ignoring those issues.

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Minneapolis NAACP leaders have said issues include discrimination, racism, disciplinary discrepancies, and retaliation against people who speak up with concerns.

The letter says the NAACP will shut down the upcoming City Parks Alliance International Urban Park Conference: Greater and Greener to be held in July in St. Paul. It said the boycott of the park board means the group will “not support, advocate, patronize or meet with the Board until issues are addressed.”

Cynthia Wilson, a co-chair of the Minneapolis NAACP Labor and Economic Committee and 27-year park board employee, said that although she has long enjoyed her work at the board, there exists a hostile environment. She also said she’s seen the issues first-hand.

Racial equity activists have been calling for board Superintendent Jayne Miller to step down, and Wilson said a simmering culture of discrimination has become exacerbated since Miller took the post in 2010.

RELATED: Protesters Cited, Removed from Mpls. Parks and Rec Board Meeting

Wilson said after 26 unsuccessful attempts in the past year or more by the chapter to personally meet and share concerns with board leadership, Miller called for a meeting with Sole, which occurred in late January.

Wilson, who was in the meeting on behalf of the chapter, said it was terminated when it became clear board representatives did not understand what the issues were. That’s when Sole decided the NAACP was done asking for meetings.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the park board said: “Our record will show we have made incredible strides in addressing racial equity efforts, and we have no intention of slowing down …

“The demands referred to in today’s NAACP announcement center around four (employees') disagreements with disciplinary measures taken by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Three of these employees are no longer employed by the Park Board, and in one case it’s been almost 10 years.  These disciplinary measures have been reviewed multiple times internally and externally through the civil service process, court system and/or other investigative agencies.  After exploring these matters, some for now almost six years, we consider the matters closed.”

Wilson said over the phone Wednesday that park board leadership often says it will address issues but continues to ignore them.

“They’ve recognized the issues, but are dancing around,” she said. “It’s almost like putting a Band-Aid over cancer. You can’t do it. It’s going to spread.”

The full park board statement is below:

Our record will show we have made incredible strides in addressing racial equity efforts, and we have no intention of slowing down. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Racial Equity Action Plan outlines our focus areas for 2017-2018. This plan, as well as initiatives implemented over the last several years, is available at www.minneapolisparks.org/racial_equity.

It is unfortunate that a group of individuals is confusing personnel issues with issues of racial equity.

The demands referred to in today’s NAACP announcement center around four (employees') disagreements with disciplinary measures taken by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Three of these employees are no longer employed by the Park Board, and in one case it’s been almost 10 years.  These disciplinary measures have been reviewed multiple times internally and externally through the civil service process, court system and/or other investigative agencies.  After exploring these matters, some for now almost six years, we consider the matters closed.

Credits

Michael Oakes

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