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# Parks & Recreation

Beyond Valentine's Day – Ways To Diversify Your Winter Event Planning for Parks and Recreation

Programming for a More Inclusive Community

Authored by Civic Plus Logo


February 8, 2023
10 min

With a new year comes multiple government holidays and educational months in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Valentine’s Day, Black History Month, and Women’s History Month all fall at the start of the year and can serve as opportunities for park and recreation departments to get creative with inclusive programs and events. We all love a fresh start, and that’s precisely what January, February, and March represent — a new page to be filled and endless possibilities. Acknowledging Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) is vital when building a culture of diversity awareness and inclusivity. We’ve pulled together some event ideas to help you plan educational events around these topics to promote unity and understanding in your community.

Black History Month

Black culture is rich in historical significance. Phillis Wheatley, one of the most prolific and celebrated poets of the late 1700s, was the first African American to publish a poetry book. It’s always fun to have children learn to write poems, and being able to share Wheatley’s favorite format, the couplet, would be extra special. Delivering these poems to the local Senior Center or nursing home would be uplifting.

Your parks and recreation department could consider showcasing black musical artists, painters, sculptors, and clothing brands through a First Friday-style event or weekend market. Beautiful public murals can be displayed around the community to celebrate some of the great Black people of history, like James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree. Smith went on the build the United States’ first Black-owned pharmacy.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls in the month before Black History Month but can serve as a starting point for your Black History Month education and events. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pivotal champion for civil rights in the mid-20th century. His peaceful protests for civil and human rights challenged many traditional media coverages and public opinions. Consider funding thoughtful drive-in documentary viewings and highlighted book displays at local libraries about his nonviolent resistance.

Martin Luther King, Jr. won a Nobel Peace Prize for his activism. Highlighting his legacy can show younger and older generations alike that one person can alter history and make a change for the better. Devastating parts of Black history should also be shared and discussed, like the Tulsa Race Massacre, which many schools do not cover. Education about this can be done through art gallery displays, book readings, and local, knowledgeable speakers.

Valentine’s Day

Who remembers receiving Valentine’s Day cards in elementary school? Parents and children love a good arts and crafts moment (got to keep those curious minds busy), and cutting, coloring, and designing love cards is a fun community event to hold. Consider setting up an inter-generational event at your local senior center, where the young and wise alike can create Valentine’s Day cards together. Local elementary and middle schools could also deliver their cards to nursing homes. Teaching children the importance of civic engagement and volunteer work is incredibly valuable.

Valentine’s Day is centered on love and fostering healthy, mutually respectful relationships in today’s culture. This could be an opportunity to educate the public on warning signs of domestic violence and share resources and hotlines people can call if they find themselves in such a situation — about 20 people per minute experience domestic violence in the United States. People can save lives by understanding the early signs and ways to leave.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is in March and is an excellent opportunity to educate the public about the women’s suffrage movement. The fight to achieve women’s rights was only won a little over 100 years ago. In 1984, Mississippi became the last state to ratify the 19th amendment. So in perspective, this recent history should be more freely discussed.

Your department can hold Ted Talk-esque presentations and bring in knowledgeable speakers from your surrounding colleges and universities to share more information on women’s history and voting rights. It’s never too early to start sharing the fundamentals of our government structure with children and the importance of civic duty and voting.

People love themed 5ks. Women’s History Month is a unique opportunity to bring in runners from your area to educate through informational imagery and have fun running dressed up as your favorite female historical figure.

Don’t Be Afraid To Think Outside the Box

People don’t know what they don’t know. As a local government entity, your parks and recreation department owes it to your community to share parts of our American history that are not widely discussed. Many unique events and programming can be centered around the New Year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Valentine’s Day, and more. Your residents want to learn and have new activities to participate in with their friends and family.

Don’t hesitate to get creative and new plan programs that celebrate Black History and Women’s History Month. Whether it’s a documentary viewing, a TedTalk, or something entirely different, the most important thing to remember is to include representatives from all demographics and marginalized groups in your recreational planning. A unified community is the ultimate goal, and local events are a great place to start.

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Authored by Civic Plus Logo


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