Planning and Community Development Launches We Belong Here: The Takoma Park Equity Walk!
The true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active … the supreme pleasure comes from the talk.
The idea sprang from a chance encounter with a veritable parade of students behind the Community Center. The teacher’s explanation of what this stream of happy, chatty kids was all about was the kernel for what has become the culmination of a year of work — We Belong Here: The Takoma Park Equity Walk.
“It’s Unity Day! We are walking for Unity Day,” she yelled above the students’ voices. Unity Day is about anti-bullying — these kids were outside in the late October sun, talking and smiling as they walked for a cause.
That became the goal: with a $1500 grant from America Walks, create a place for students and their teachers and parents to feel free to play and talk about things that matter to them. We would create a tool kit to accompany the walking route to guide teachers and parents through the many topics related to equity, but specifically race, gender and disability.
The pandemic gave the project a new dimension. Our students needed a socially-distanced activity to help fill their days. The scope of the project would be modified to ensure completion by Fall. A second route was added in another Takoma Park neighborhood on Anne Street. Materials and methods were chosen to conform with current protocols.
In late May, we witnessed the death of Geroge Floyd and the national outcry that elevated the Black Lives Matter movement. There was an even greater responsibility to get it right. We Belong Here: The Takoma Park Equity Walk provides an opportunity to talk, think, read, examine your own beliefs and actions.
The theme of belonging emerged out of a conversation with Kori Johnson, the Community Engagement Manager for Safe Routes to School Partnership. The content of the project was reviewed by many, most notably the Montgomery County Public Schools Equity Initiatives Unit. Their examination and feedback provided the green light to proceed. They even said, “The Equity Walk is a fantastic idea and we are excited to actually go on the walk and do the activities with our loved ones.”
Now we have an outdoor activity that families can enjoy in a socially distanced way. They have a place to talk and a platform to jump into the learning and growing that follows.
We have an online interactive map that can be easily accessed via a QR code on a mobile phone.
Soon a helpful brochure will be available for those without the use of a cell phone. All this can be viewed on the We Belong Here page on the City website in order to plan your visit to the engaging, fun and educational activity we call We Belong Here: The Takoma Park Equity Walk.
Let’s get walking. Let’s get talking.