09/06/11

Biking, Walking & Blogging: Race, Class, and Culture: Take-aways from the National Safe Routes to Schools ConferenceBiking, Walking & Blogging: Race, Class, and Culture: Take-aways from the National Safe Routes to Schools Conference

 

Race, Class, and Culture: Take-aways from the National Safe Routes to Schools Conference

 

Jamez Smith, Program Support Assistant

 

When the SRTS conference came to Minneapolis in August, I attended a panel about  "How Safe Routes to School and Social Equity Can Walk and Bike Together," (to quote from the panel subtitle). The presenters included: Robert Ping, SRTS National Partnership, Oregon; Ed Ewing, Cascade Bicycle Club - Major Taylor Project, Seattle; Antonio Rosell, Community Design Group, Minneapolis; Anthony Taylor, Major Taylor Bicycling Club, Twin Cities

 

Panelists spoke about the disparities in diverse and low-income communities that tend to discourage participation in SRTS programming. Knowledge and awareness of SRTS programs is the first obstacle. Once past that barrier, the application process itself can be quite daunting to people  not used to dealing so directly with government processes.

 

Cutting through bureaucratic red tape is made all the more difficult when many in a community are struggling to make ends meet, trying to maintain a home, and raise children. Some just can't spare the time and energy required to digest and process the paperwork to enroll in SRTS programs.

 

Strategies suggested for addressing the issue include:

  • Talk to people within the community to find out what they consider to be their most important needs. Include youth and seniors in these discussions.
  • Find an advocate from within the community... someone who is willing to take the lead. Provide guidance and training as might be necessary for navigating procedure.
  • Come up with accessible, useful and fun activities to build awareness.
  • Offer meals and childcare at community meetings and workshops.
  • Provide gifts, or some other take-away, to show appreciation for the time and effort of the attendees.
  • Gather, publish, and disseminate any results and outcomes.

 

We are all encouraged in our work to consider issues of culture, as well as, race. All people of color do not all share the same culture: All Black people do not share the same culture. All Asian people do not share the same culture. All White people do not share the same culture.  Nor are we all from the same socio-economic class.

 

What may be a successful strategy for reaching out to parents in one community could be disastrous in another community. Therefore, before going in to any community, take the time and make the effort to learn something about said community. Rather than being Missionary, armed with good intent to make things better, all would be better served being Mission Driven, maintaining awareness of the goals set forth, while remaining conscious of the fact that those whom we wish to help have valid views and perspectives of their own.