We Need to Tell Our Stories

April 6, 2018, Department, by Leon T. Andrews, Jr.

Leon T Andrews 410

March was National Women’s History Month, and I hope each of you found an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of the women in your life. I am surrounded every day by amazing women who are making incredible contributions to our communities, our country and this world. Our field is filled with examples of women making a difference and leading the way in advocating for our health and wellness, conservation and social equity. One of those leaders, Sonya Shaw, was the focus of last month’s Parks & Recreation Member Spotlight section.

Like many of you, I had a chance to see the “Black Panther” movie and marveled at the powerful images of women, from the general (Okoye) to the genius intellect of Shuri, a princess of Wakanda. From the #MeToo movement to these cinematic images we are seeing on the big screen, our country is resetting a narrative that leaves me very encouraged as I raise my three daughters, who are seeing women in roles in our society that no longer fall into stereotypes.

While we celebrated National Women’s History Month, we also witnessed another tragic incident of senseless deaths due to gun violence of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This tragedy has forced our country to revisit, once again, our stance on gun laws, but it has also allowed us to appreciate the resilience and power of young people, who are using their voices and platforms to be bold and courageous.

My reflections on the contributions of women remind me how important it is that we take the time to tell our stories and accomplishments. It also reinforces that the assumptions and narratives we have about who we are and what we do can change. The tragedy in Florida really spoke to me as I think about those who are
on the frontlines every day for our children and our community.

I think about our field and the sacrifice our park and recreation professionals make every day. I do not think we say it enough and believe too many times it goes unnoticed, but our park and recreational professionals sacrifice their time and risk their lives every day. They serve many times as the last line of defense for keeping
the fabric of our communities together.

Story after story across this country offers powerful examples of park professionals who have taken the time to build a relationship with a young person or parent, many times going above and beyond the call of duty. We see time and time again that those relationships often can be the difference between life and death.

We need to do more to share these stories. And, by doing more to publicly acknowledge the important role our park and recreational professionals play in cities, counties and communities, we can help advance the narrative that this field is about more than just play.

We keep our communities connected, safe and thriving! So, let’s keep working to tell our true stories!

Leon T. Andrews, Jr., is the Chair of the Board of Directors.