An Urgency to Act

January 21, 2021, Department, by Alyia Gaskins and Tiffany Pertillar

2021 February Health and Wellness An Urgency to Act 410

For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” — Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The year 2020 was difficult for all of us, individually and collectively. In addition to a global pandemic that not only illustrated, but also exacerbated, the grave health inequities that exist in communities across the country, we also saw firsthand that deep, pervasive and polarizing racism still exists, as we laid witness to numerous killings of Black individuals and people of color at the hands of police officers and vigilante citizens. This year marks the 58th anniversary of the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech that was delivered by Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. In his speech, Dr. King spoke about the complex but defining moment our country was facing at the time. He described for the nearly 250,000 people in attendance the fierce urgency that enveloped the moment and the devastation that loomed ahead if they chose to remain irresponsive to the call.

There is urgency in the moment in which we find ourselves today. It’s a fierce urgency to act, to stand, and to speak out against injustices that have served only to divide our great nation instead of uniting it. As we embark on Black History Month and honor great Black leaders — both past and present — NRPA stands committed to answering that call and providing its members with tools and resources to do the same.

NRPA’s objective is to create a future where all people have access to the benefits of quality parks and recreation. Doing so requires that all of us — NRPA staff, board and members — commit to intentionally engaging in the work required to recognize and challenge the systemic inequities that have created very different realities for communities of color. It requires that we put equity at the center of all we do, from how we strengthen the organizational culture within NRPA to how we prepare the park and recreation field for the future. It also requires that as we build up and promote equity-centered outcomes, we work to dismantle barriers to equity.

NRPA asks that you partner with us as we strive to answer Dr. King’s call for “vigorous and positive action.” The organization is currently developing two important trailblazing resources.

The Park Access Resource assists park and recreation professionals in exploring personal and community history. The resource helps those in the field to better understand the root causes of inequities and guide professionals toward intentional action in addressing inequities in park access.

The Health Equity Framework guides local park and recreation professionals in applying an equity lens when designing, implementing and evaluating programs and services. It is divided into four parts: Self-Assessment, Agency Assessment, Health Equity Integration and Committing to the Call. Learn more at

Now, more than ever, it is critical for park and recreation professionals to create more equitable access to high-quality spaces, programs and services where all people can experience the physical, environmental, mental and social health benefits that parks and recreation uniquely provides.

NRPA encourages you to engage with your agency staff, colleagues and community members as you work to increase access, reimagine inclusion, advance equity and promote health through your parks and recreation programs, services and facilities. Just as there was fierce urgency in that moment in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, there is fierce urgency in this moment in 2021. We have an opportunity to create lasting change in the United States. This moment demands something from all of us. Will you partner with us to answer the call?

Alyia Gaskins is the Founder and CEO of CitiesRx. Tiffany Pertillar is CoFounder and CEO of Epic Health Solutions.