NAACP to Boycott Minneapolis Parks

Civil rights group accuses park board of unfair treatment of minority employees.

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minneapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has accused the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) of unfair treatment of people of color and called for a boycott of the board.

The Minneapolis NAACP says the board has engaged in unfair hiring, promotion, and discipline procedures against employees of color, reports the Star Tribune.

The boycott began Monday and will include skipping park board meetings, park activities, and asking park employees to refuse to take on new duties until several demands of the group are met. The Minneapolis NAACP posted a letter dated Monday from chapter President Jason Sole on their Facebook page Wednesday.

“We will be shutting down the upcoming City Parks Alliance International Urban park Conference: Greater and Greener,” wrote Sole, “additionally, effective today, the Minneapolis NAACP will be officially boycotting the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.”

Sole’s letter claims that the Minneapolis NAACP made 27 separate attempts to meet with the MPRB.

The board issued their own statement on Wednesday.

“Our record will show we have made incredible strides in addressing racial equity efforts, and we have no intention of slowing down,” reads the statement, according to KSTP. “The demands referred to in today’s NAACP announcement center around four (employees’) disagreements with disciplinary measures taken by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Three of these employees are no longer employed by the Park Board, and in one case it’s been almost 10 years. These disciplinary measures have been reviewed multiple times internally and externally through the civil service process, court system and/or other investigative agencies.

The MPRB has pages and pages of content on their website targeted at ensuring racial equity in their processes. This includes internal staff issues, but in July of 2016 the board also began a 20 year process of targeting parks in “racially concentrated areas of poverty.” The plan is a deal between the parks board and the city of Minneapolis, which directs $11 million be spent to address such concerns.

That is not the issue relevant to the NAACP currently though. The lead up to the boycott has been a drawn out one, with current Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds getting into a shouting match with then-Park Board President Liz Wielinski over supposed disparities in park staffing and facilities, reports the Star Tribune. Wielinski resigned shortly after.

“It is unfortunate that a group of individuals is confusing personnel issues with issues of racial equity,” the MPRB’s statement said.

Minorities made up less than one-quarter of park employees as of March 2016, reports the Star Tribune.

Anders Koskinen