A Welcome in our Green Spaces
Judy Ling Wong CBE
President Black Environment Network
Many members of the BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities do aspire to access green spaces and the countryside as a result of the work of the Black Environment Network (BEN) in partnership with the environmental sector over the years. However, BAME communities, as a whole, are a moving target. The people we need to work with now are not the same
For green spaces within walking distance, site managers need to be savvy about who are new to the locality, and which BAME groups may have been historically neglected. The most important and basic move to make is to allocate time to consistently develop relationships with local BAME community groups. Welcoming them into the spaces, and approaching community leaders to hear directly about their needs over a cup of tea, introducing them to key staff and e
People love having a choice of things to do besides relaxing and walking. Groups are often shy of asking to use a green space unless there is a friendly relationship. When they built up courage to finally ask, one BAME group was delighted to find that they were welcome to celebrate Congo Independence Day with a BBQ in Hainault Forest.
Some years ago, Brixworth Country Park in Northamptonshire worked with local BAME groups to put together a multicultural festival that completely broke the ice for everyone. The annual festival expanded from year to year until in the end it grew too large to manage!
Organised trips, targeting suitable first places to visit with a range of i
The work of BEN in partnership with the environmental sector over the years has enthused enough ethnic minority groups to love the countryside so that working together with the Campaign for National Parks, through the Mosaic Project, over 200 BAME individuals were identified and trained as National Park Champions to do in-reach into their own communities. They were introduced to every aspect of their nearest National Park, health and safety, fundraising, the range of activities available and the key staff to work with, so that they can confidently organise trips with programmes of activities for their community members to enjoy our great National Parks. This idea of training knowledgeable experienced champions can be extended to more local places and the city fringe, so that BAME members can lead on accessing a range of green spaces and advocate for what they need and wish to do.
Access to green spaces and the countryside by BAME communities remains an issue, but the context in which it takes place is evolving, demanding new kinds of partnerships with new opportunities for action.