In society, as in nature, diversity is a strength.
At this difficult time in our nation, we stand in solidarity with those who are marching to demand justice and who are speaking out to eliminate once and for all, the injustice of systemic racism affecting Black people and people of color everywhere.
As a society, we are struggling with multiple crises of our own making and we recognize that they are inseparable: the utterly intolerable acts of violence and racial injustices against people of color, and the COVID-19 global health and climate crises, which are and will continue to disproportionately affect low income communities and communities of color. These crises are inextricably linked, and one cannot be addressed without recognizing the other. One of my staff shared with me this week a quote from Sonrisa Cooper, Community Development Program Manager at the Greenlining Institute in Oakland, who said “Whether we are talking about a global pandemic, climate change or police brutality, people of color, especially black communities, are always hit first and hardest, and this has to change. We have a collective moral imperative to do better by all Californians and rebuild our future into one where the most vulnerable communities can thrive.”
So what then is the responsibility of an agency like the Open Space Authority in rebuilding a more equitable and resilient future for all? The Authority’s mission is to conserve nature and connect people to it. As a public agency, it is our responsibility to serve the whole community, to ensure all people, including indigenous peoples and persons of color, feel welcome and safe to enjoy the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of our collective investments in nature. But to fulfill this responsibility, we must understand and be aware of both the visible and invisible barriers and biases that communities of color face, including equitably accessing the public spaces that belong to them. At this time, it is most essential that we listen to understand. Ours must be a long-term commitment to inclusion and equity in every facet of our work and we will look at our own internal practices as well as be in dialogue with the communities we serve, in order to make nature a welcome place for all.