As it is deeply rooted in young immigrant women’s experiences in nature in the Lewiston area, this project centers around underprivileged voices and strives for equity within public parks in their home city. In Lewiston, and throughout cities across the entire nation, public parks are extremely valuable for the children growing up around them. In urban environments, green spaces are few and far between, and the accessibility to public parks for Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous communities is noticeably lower than it is for White communities. In working closely with Maine Community Integration, our project aimed at rewriting the typical script that follows public park access in America. In collaboration with the ‘New Mainer Girls’—a group of immigrant high school women of color in the Lewiston public school system—our group set out to archive experiences the girls have had within Lewiston parks in written blogs. After meeting with the New Mainer Girls and discussing a brief overview of our project, we crafted specific prompts for them to answer on their own. These prompts were constantly manipulated as we learned more about what the parks meant to our participants. As our project continued, and as we narrowed our prompts down, we chose to focus heavily on Kennedy Park, which is located near Lisbon Street and is widely known as Lewiston’s most popular park. Switching our focus to Kennedy Park in particular allowed our group to zone in and study the park’s infrastructure. As the project continued, our group was met with unforeseen challenges. Before we were able to distribute prompts to the New Mainer Girls, Ramadan had begun. Because of the holiday’s importance and strict rules, the New Mainer Girls program was suspended until the end of Ramadan. Instead of suspending our project entirely, we switched our plans and created a framework for future engagement. Accompanying our prompts, we constructed a Wordpress site in which blog posts can be made, with the options to also upload pictures, videos, and audio recordings. Along with the Wordpress site, our group created a brief overview of park equity and its importance which can be handed out to participants. All of these components fell in line with a timeline that ends with distributing the archived blog posts to the Lewiston City Council, and, hopefully, earning a seat for the New Mainer Girls at the table that discusses upcoming implementations and action plans for Kennedy Park. This project is scheduled to continue in the summer of 2022, underneath the framework we have prepared and with a Bates student working alongside the New Mainer Girls. The student will be paid by a work-action grant and will work closely with Maine Community Integration to distribute prompts, discuss responses, and receive input from participants to constantly edit the Wordpress site.
Kim, Claire; Sheils, Robby; and Stein, Sophie, "Park Equity in Action: Envisioning, Utilizing, and Writing Outdoor Spaces with New Mainer Girls" (2022). Community Engaged Research Reports. 89.