Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Recent Articles

Nelson Mandela was both Malcolm and Martin

Nelson Mandela, the icon who led the emancipation of South Africa from White minority rule and became South Africa’s first Black president, was both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was an emblem of dignity and abstention. Imagine being jailed for 27 years, being humiliated and treated like dirt, and having your friends murdered systematically. Yet his incredible sense of purpose and strength is a lesson for a lifetime. I remember years ago meeting a man in flight who is not Black and has since become a friend. He was born in South Africa, finished school, and voted for Mandela for president. Continue Reading →

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No candidates of color for Mpls Park Board elections

MPRB commissioners make ‘huge decisions’ affecting Black youth
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

 

All nine Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB)commissioner seats are up for election this fall. The group regularly makes fiduciary and other key decisions about the city parks, community centers, and other recreation activities. Although the candidate filing deadline is still over a month away, at this point it appears there will be no Blacks vying for the positions for the first time since 2009. “If we knew [someone], we would support them,” said local AARP President Charles Mays. Asked why more city Blacks aren’t showing as much interest in the Park Board elections as in the mayoral and city council elections, Mays suggested, “I don’t think they realize how important a position on the Park Board is.”

Blacks are more concerned about education and not so much about parks, believes Mary Merrill Anderson, a former MPRB commissioner. Continue Reading →

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Community involvement now emphasized in Mpls Park Board planning

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Online Editor

 

Over the years, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has had its fair share of critics. Often the criticism has come from residents concerned about the amount of effort the Board and its members have put into providing resources to the community and maintaining park grounds and facilities. Some such critical sentiments were recently expressed in a story published in the MSR (“Youth sports build more than just muscle,” April 4, 2013), where youth sports coach and community leader Laverne Turner questioned if the MPRB’s actions were matching up with their claims of providing extensive programs and activities for youth. MPRB Communications and Marketing Manager Dawn Sommers agrees with Director of Recreation Centers and Programs Al Bangoura that such concerns were warranted some years ago. “We saw the story…and we appreciate [and] we understand his [Turner’s] criticism of the time,” said Sommers. Continue Reading →

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Many unaware of Park Board’s huge impact on inner-city youth

Candidates of color encouraged to run for commissioner seats
 
News Analysis

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The public positions on this November fifth’s Minneapolis municipal ballot to which candidates will be seeking election will include the mayor, 13 city council seats, and two seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation. All nine Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) seats are on the ballot as well. The MSR recently randomly asked a few of our man-in-the-barbershop sources the following question: “What do you know about the Park Board, including the election of its commissioners?” Here’s what we heard. “Who are the commissioners? Where are they from?” asked Cameron Cook, 36. Continue Reading →

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Park Board as ‘hostile workplace’ revisited

 

 

 
MPRB officials, NAACP see positive change; workers still ambivalent
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The MSR last year published a series of stories on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) about unfair discipline of Black employees and other discriminatory concerns (“Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” Jan. 5, 2012 and “Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress,” Sept. 13, 2012). The Minneapolis NAACP last summer received numerous complaints from Black MPRB employees, and its investigation later found a history of discriminatory practices there. Recently we asked Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller to provide an update on how things are now at the MPRB. Continue Reading →

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Youth sports build more than just muscle — Laverne Turner helps students achieve academic success, learn leadership skills

 

 

By Jamal Denman

Contributing Writer 

 

As a youth, local community leader Laverne Turner was heavily involved in organized team sports, and he remembers how positive an impact it had on him growing up. As an adult in 2003, he says he noticed there were no athletic programs for youth in his community, which motivated Turner to develop a sports program for young people in his South Minneapolis Phillips neighborhood — the East Phillips Park Sports Association (EPPSA). To decide which type of sports team to organize, and if there would even be any interest among the kids, Turner surveyed the young people in his neighborhood to get their feedback. “Most kids wanted to play football, so I tried to put together a football team in cooperation with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board [MPRB] at the time,” Turner says.  

The partnership lasted for a year, and he says it “had some successes. Continue Reading →

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Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress

Some employees find workplace still hostile 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since MSR’s January 5 exclusive article on racial discrimination against current and former Black Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) employees, MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, Board President John Erwin, and Minneapolis NAACP President Booker T Hodges have met several times and developed a process to address the issue of “inconsistency” in discipline matters. Whether this process and other measures will satisfy disgruntled employees remains to be seen. The MSR article, “Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” reported that after receiving numerous calls from current and former Park Board employees, Hodges initiated an investigation. The NAACP determined that Park Board supervisors used performance reviews “to systematically target minority employees to terminate them from their jobs” as well as moving longtime Black employees “to less desirable positions.”

Following that investigation and MSR’s story, nearly 80 past and current employees received letters inviting them to set up a time to meet with Miller on their concerns. A MPRB spokesperson explained that these meetings were not “grievance hearings,” but simply “meetings.” Even though the individual could bring anyone they chose to the session, no one else was allowed to speak on their behalf as might be the case in a grievance hearing. Continue Reading →

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Advertorial – Students look forward to what comes next

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations, graduates! Each spring, our preschool students visit kindergarten classrooms to get a sense of what they can expect from the coming year’s big transition. They embrace their day-long challenge with a blend of trepidation and excitement, understanding on some intrinsic level that they are getting a glimpse of their future, seeing that it is close enough to touch. Although they may not have a full grasp of what is to come, they know that their lives are about to change. Each spring, our graduating seniors prepare for their own big transition. Continue Reading →

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Mpls Park Board says ‘climate’ change is underway

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since the MSR’s January 4  article “Black employees call Minneapolis Park Board a ‘toxic workplace,’” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials say they have already undertaken significant changes to the organization’s “internal climate” and there is more to come as “we…acknowledge and address our shortcomings.” Some workers fear the changes will be superficial and fail to go far enough. MPRB board and staff recently received an environmental and organizational analysis interim report by a local consulting team. The report, originally scheduled to be completed and released in April, confirms the findings of a six-month Minneapolis NAACP probe into employment conditions at the Park Board among Black employees. “Unfortunately, many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years,” admits MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller in a January 25 cover letter to the report. The 11-page report identifies current issues that “require immediate attention by everyone in the entire organization… It is not an overreaction to describe the MPRB as demoralized internally — where employees across racial and ethnic lines feel stymied in their ability to effectively meet job responsibilities.”

The reports recommendations include developing strategies to address culture issues, building a strong human relations department, reinstating a diversity council and strengthening and supporting the community outreach department. Continue Reading →

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Black employees call Mpls Park Board a “Toxic Workplace”

 

 

NAACP acts on numerous complaints from workers and customers
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

A six-month Minneapolis NAACP investigation into employment conditions among African Americans at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has found “systemic areas which the Minneapolis Park Board must address to remedy the concerns of our organization and those who come to us seeking assistance,” according to a December 23 letter from Branch President Booker T Hodges to John Erwin, park board chairman. The letter was prompted by “over 60 complaints from Minneapolis Park Board employees and over 100 customers’ complaints in addition to those employee complaints.”

In a series of meetings with the MSR in recent weeks, African American employees have described the current Park Board workplace as one where a “toxic” atmosphere of fear and retaliation is pervasive, where Blacks feel “disrespected” and “humiliated,” and where those who speak out against perceived inequities are targeted and punished for being “militant.” These Black employees feel that due to the lack of diversity in upper management, including the human relations department (see sidebar), there is “no one who looks like us” and no one willing to address their concerns. Black employees also report several firings and reprimands based on “trumped-up charges” and on a double standard in applying policies to Whites and Blacks. These employees say they do not trust their union representatives to address their concerns or to support them in resolving disputes with their employer. As a result they feel isolated and “bullied” by their superiors. Continue Reading →

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