WRPA's Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Committee

Q&A with Chair Shanyanika McElroy

What is the Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee?

The WRPA Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EIB) Committee was formed to support WRPA’s capacity to uphold equity as a core value and support the work change agents throughout the professional community. It builds on the legacy of WRPA’s Cultural Competency Committee formed 20 years ago.

Why is it the time right for this committee?

It has always been the right time for this work.

Since our inception, government institutions have been complicit in building a legacy of inequity and harm to marginalized communities. Work to undo that legacy has always been urgent for those who hold the burden and pay the cost of institutional oppression.

Now is a great time to deepen the work. The challenges our world faces have created an awakening within many folks who did not perceive this harm before. A newfound consciousness of the experiences of marginalized peoples is really striking the hearts of folks right now. Right now, people are feeling very motivated to act, to do something. Which, is such a beautiful thing.

There is work to be done.

While none of us were the genesis of these issues, we are complicit if we do not work actively to undo them.  There's so much to come to terms with and so much change to be enacted.  Shifting culture is hard. It has always been the right time to shift our culture to one where success cannot be predicted based on a person’s cultural identities. The work of undoing intuitional oppression is arduous and has been iterative. Right now, many things in our country are different than they ever have been before. It’s time we work to ensure one of those differences is the end of oppression.

The WRPA EIB committee offers a space for parks and recreation professionals to support each other as we are working to make our institutions better.  

What has the committee been working on?

The EIB Committee is brand new. The first meeting was held in June.

Our first venture was establishing racial identity caucuses. We created two caucus discussion groups: a Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) caucus and a White Ally caucus.

Racial identity caucusing is a powerful anti-racist tool in confronting the effects of internalized racial oppression and internalized racial superiority in an organization. Members work separately in their respective racial identity groups, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) or White Ally, to examine the dynamics of their organization, unpack them, and plan for action.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to caucus in separate groups, there are good reasons to do so. Within their respective racial identity groups, individuals learn to work towards dismantling racism from their particular positionality. When they come back together, both identity groups have the skills and tools to move forward together to name, address, and dismantle institutional oppression. This time to explore and unpack is known to increase the resilience of individuals doing the difficult work of undoing institutionalized racism.

The EIB committee hosted the first round of racial identity caucuses at the end of July. The White Ally Caucus had 85 registrants and the BIPOC caucus had 23 registrants. Afterward, there was an outpouring of requests to host more. As a result, the EIB committee is committed to hosting caucuses regularly. 

Endless thank yous and major kudos to the amazing group committee members who pulled together the event and curriculum in under two weeks:

  • Kelly McGinley Ashe
  • Hazel Bhang-Barnett
  • Melissa Bianconi
  • Belinda Chin
  • Adriano Eva
  • Gabbi Gonzales
  • Tiffany Hanzo
  • B Hill
  • Brian Judd
  • Jen Lee
  • Shanyanika McElroy
  • Jen Montressor
  • Carissa Ware
  • Rachiah Whipple
  • Aimee Wilson 

What actions will be taken moving forward?

Our next adventures may include:

  • Building relationship with the larger WRPA membership and crowdsourcing priority equity actions.
  • The formation of sub committees around the actions that the membership chooses as priorities.
  • The development of recommended equity strategies for WRPA’s larger strategic planning process.
  • The development of a 2020-2021 action plan for the EIB committee.

The committee’s next actions largely depend on the will of the WRPA Membership and the committee members.

Please help us shape our equity, inclusion, and belonging goals by taking the WPRA Equity Innovations Survey.

What is one thing that you have taken away from working with this committee?

Inspiration and an increased desire to do this difficult work has been my take away so far. I heard many stories of people leaving the caucuses feeling contemplative, supported, and empowered.  The caucuses showed me the deep capacity for compassion and resilience that the participating members possess. That kind of support is so crucial while we, as individuals, work to examine issues that can be heavy. I witnessed the participating members’ willingness to do that difficult work. The empathy and caring makes me feel lucky to be connected to this group of folks. It has kept me feeling energized and inspired.

The EIB committee is brand new, still in our forming and getting to know you stage. Yet, there are really brilliant ideas and initiatives that coming from the interactions. I suspect this will only grow as more people connect. I know WRPA holds its greatest resource in the contributions of its membership.

How can people get involved in the Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee?

First way, please help us shape our equity, inclusion, and belonging goals by taking the WPRA Equity Innovations Survey.

Second, our meetings are established on the third Thursday of every month from 4:00-5:00 PM. Please contact the WRPA Office at [email protected] and request to be added to the Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee meetings. Talk soon!  

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