The Seeds for Urban Play Conference, hosted by the Children at Play Network (CAPN) and Play Cousins Collective (PCC) brought nearly 100 people from the region – some as far as Nashville – to hear national leaders discuss how inequities and lack of access to safe spaces to play affect children of color disproportionately and what local organizations are doing to address the issue.
Kristen Williams, Executive Director of Play Cousins Collective, opened the conference stating that free play is liberation and should be available to all children. Dismantling a system that fails to preserve a children’s right to play requires open, honest and difficult conversations, which she said has been the hallmark of the partnership between PCC and CAPN.
Keynote speakers Dr. Harrison Pinckney of Clemson University and Dr. Corliss Outley, of Texas A&M led the morning addressing how the policing of black youth – not only from public safety officials, but also citizens in the community – has turned what should be a time of innocence and free play for children into potentially life threatening situations.
Courtney Gardner and Ben Dalbey, co-founders of Free For All Baltimore, described how they have worked to provide safe and equitable free play opportunities for children in their segregated city.
Afternoon presenters included Sadiq Reynolds, President and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, which is planning a new sports complex in the Russell neighborhood, and Louisville Olmsted Parks, which is hosting Free Play Days in Metro Parks, as well as presenters from nine other organizations
At the end of the day, participants engaged in small group work discussing the challenges ahead, identifying opportunities for action and commitments for positive change for children.