Reflections on the 2018 Keynote Panel, “The Implications of Race on Play for Youth of Color”

A year ago, I shared an e-mail to a professional listserv with the subject heading, “The State of Play for Black Youth”. This message was a direct response to a Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer’s body camera footage. As a quick recap, five black boys (ages 12-14) were forced to lie on the ground a gunpoint while returning home from playing basketball at the local Kroc Center. These boys fearful for their lives were loudly sobbing in the video and repeating “I don’t want to die, bro”. These youth had not committed any crimes and when parents arrived the officer stated their sons were “at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

One result of the e-mail was an invitation to provide a keynote presentation at the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play. On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, I along with three colleagues discussed the impact of Race on the play of black youth. To set the stage, the discussion began by exploring some of the benefits of play such as opportunities to learn about roles, boundaries, and expectations. Contemporary examples were provided including the portrayal of “black”-voiced characters Skids and Mudflap in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the original lyrics to the popular nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo,
Catch a n***r by his toe,
If he won’t work then let him go;
Skidum, skidee, skidoo.

Altogether these examples, raised the question what lessons do black youth learn through play? Equally important is, how did we get here? The panel methodically addressed these two questions.

Dr. Rasul Mowatt (Indiana University) began by providing a historical perspective of what play has meant for youth of color in the United States. Among the multiple examples presented was “The Kissing Case” which took place in Monroe, NC in 1958. While playing at the local playground, Sissy Marcus (a white girl) kissed 9-year-old James Thompson and 7-year old David Simpson on their cheeks. Both boys were African American. Sissy’s mom became upset when she heard about the “game” the kids had played. As a result, the two boys were arrested, held for six days without seeing their parents, beaten during the while in police custody, charged with molestation, and sentenced to reform school until they were 21. The governor of North Carolina pardoned the boys after they spent three months in detention. Reflecting on this incident, James’ sister, Brenda Lee Graham said…

“it was like seeing somebody different, that you didn’t even know. He never talked about what he went through there. But ever since then, his mind just hadn’t been the same.”

James also reflecting on the impact this incident had on his childhood said…

“I always sit around and I wonder, if this hadn’t happened to me, you know, what could I have turned out to be? Could I have been a doctor? Could I have went off to some college, or some great school? It just destroyed our life.”

Dr. Myron Floyd (North Carolina State University) shifted the attention towards the racialization of landscapes and outdoor play. Referring to a paper by Inwood & Yarbrough (2010), he began by arguing that racialized landscapes:

  • Define and reinforce racial hierarchies
  • Facilitate domination and exploitation

Examples were presented to show that public spaces such as state and federal parks, transportation, and housing were legally segregated in both the North and South. The segregation of private and commercial spaces such as movie theaters and resorts were also highlighted. A key statistic presented is that in 1921 only 13% of playgrounds in the US were open to Black children (Murphy, 1974). After providing a pre-Civil Rights overview, Dr. Floyd offered the question, “How much progress have we made?” Relying on data from the 2010 US Census and other national surveys, he presented evidence that communities across the US continue to lack racial and ethnic diversity. He also pointed out that black and Latinx families are significantly more likely to have no access to recreation facilities or open space as a result of these segregated communities. Of equal importance is that these families are also less likely to view their neighborhoods as safe. Limited recreation space coupled with perceptions of safety, restricts the play opportunities of black and Latinx youth. In short, little progress has been made.

Dr. Corliss Outley (Texas A&M University) closed the discussion by pointing our attention to the loss of childhood that black youth, in particular, experience as a result of their racial status. After sharing the video of aforementioned Grand Rapids, Michigan incident, Dr. Outley emphasized the importance and benefits of play in childhood including…

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

Attention was then turned to understanding how these and other opportunities are curbed for black youth. The differences in play opportunities was attributed to black youth being stereotyped as more violent, sexually aware, and guilty than white youth. Dr. Outley showed that these perceptions, directly led to negative consequences for black youth in the education, foster care, and juvenile justice systems. In each of these institutions, black youth are more likely to receive the harshest consequences for negative behaviors (education and juvenile justice) and less likely to be adopted by families (foster care). While the initial claim was that there’s a loss of innocence for black youth, examples such as the story of Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis were provided to show that for being black could lead to loss of life for some youth.

For the members of the panel, this was a special time of sharing. First, we appreciated Stephanie Garst and the US Play Coalition providing a space and audience for such an important discussion. The state of play for black youth is often discussed in local community meetings, school board hearings, and church gatherings; but rarely is an opportunity afforded to carry this conversation to individuals and groups outside of the community. Secondly, this panel is the only time that any of the panel members can recall witnessing or serving on a panel of all black faculty in the parks, recreation and tourism discipline. That in itself holds a level of significance for each of us.

This panel never intended to provide solutions about how to address the needs of black youth. Instead it was designed to begin the conversation. Based on the Q&A period that followed along with inquiries and comments received after the session, we believe we were successful in our aims.


Outstanding Play Researcher and Practitioner Awards Announced at 2018 Play Conference

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to introduce its 2018 PLAY award recipients, announced at the Celebration Gala of the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play.  Established in 2017, the awards program recognizes outstanding play researchers and youth practitioners.  The winners not only receive a physical award, but also have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.

Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research

The 2018 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to Dr. Olga Jarrett, Professor Emerita of early childhood/science education at Georgia State University, evaluator of an NSF project in Belize, and a past president of The Association for the Study of Play and the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play.

The award, named for Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy, recognizes a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play. Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the coalition’s beginning in 2009.

When Joe Frost himself learned of the selection committee’s choice, he wrote, “The committee has made a GREAT CHOICE. Olga is a great teacher, researcher and friend.”

Dr. Jarrett’s nominator said this in his nomination:

Dr. Jarrett has a 25-year career devoted to play advocacy and play research.  Much of her research has focused on play deprivation and its effect on economically deprived and minority children.  Using her research as support, she initiated and helped to draft legislation in Georgia that would make playtime and recess mandatory for all school children.  Her research has shown that poor and minority children are more likely to be play deprived than more advantaged children.  Dr. Jarrett has supervised many doctoral students who have conducted play research and who also have been involved in play advocacy.  Dr. Jarrett has also extended her advocacy internationally.

YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award

The U.S. Play Coalition also teamed with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute to present the Youth Development Practitioner Award. The award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

“There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.

The 2018 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award recipient is Pat Rumbaugh, a play advocate and co-founder of Let’s Play America. She is known as “The Play Lady”, has for more than 10 years, been an advocate, author, and participant in play activities for youth and the young at heart. Pat has made youth development and play her life’s work, from the time she began her career as a physical education teacher to now as she provides multiple avenues for youth to grow in their play lives, but also, hone valuable business skills, learning advocacy and community involvement from one of the best.  She also wrote a children’s book called, “Let’s Play at the Playground,” which encourages children to choose outdoor play and sparks their imagination while looking at the full page photographs.


Water: Discovering the Extra Dimension of Play

Did you know that by adding water, you are actually adding an extra dimension of play?

Water is timeless…it has a universal appeal…it transcends cultures and generations, transcends age groups. It brings an endless supply of sensations, thrills, and excitement. Water draws people in and brings people together. And yet when we think of the word ‘play’ even here, our minds don’t firstly associate that with water, we might think of sports or playgrounds or games we play at home or in schools. But we kind of underestimate the importance and fun and benefits of water play.

“Because unlike playing sports or with toys or in a sandbox, we don’t move water. Water literally moves us.  Physically. Emotionally. Socially. Across age gaps. Even across demographics” says Marie-Catherine Dubé, Vortex’s lead designer and play advocate.  At the 2018 Play Conference, Marie-Catherine and others shared the social and physical developmental aspects of water play and the revitalizing role that water-based playscapes are having in our communities.

With 7,000 installations in 45 countries, Vortex Aquatic Structures International is a world leader in aquatic play solutions.  Learn more about Vortex at vortex-intl.com


Clemson University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences Continues to Sponsor the Play Conference

A message from Dr. Brett Wright, Dean of Clemson University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Clemson University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s Conference on the Value of Play hosted by the US Play Coalition, whose mission is to help strengthen communities — physically, socially, economically, and culturally.

We, as a college, are focused on building people and building communities, and focused on becoming a national and international leader in solving the problems faced by individuals, families, communities and societies. One such problem is play deprivation among children.

Through our unique combination of departments and schools, we are working to further Clemson’s land-grant mission, strategic vision, and global impact – and make a tangible difference in the lives of people every day!

As a college that strives to make a difference, we recognize the importance of play and how it makes a community stronger. We have faculty involved in research in this field, and we are happy to partner with the US Play Coalition.

Dr. Brett Wright
Dean
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Clemson University


CEUs for Architects and Landscape Architects Available to Registered Attendees at The Play Conference

Want a PLAYful way to earn AIA and LA CES CEUs?!  Come to the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11 at Clemson University.

More than 18 hours of our sessions have been approved for LA CES credits.  Over 9 hours of our sessions have been approved for AIA learning units – two sessions also approved for HSW credits (NCBLA credits are pending too!).

Check out these LA CES approved sessions below.  AIA designation indicated where applicable.  All are one hour unless noted:

  • Effective Playground Protective Surfacing: The Key Element for Risk Assessment under the new ASTM F1487 (*3.5 hours, separate registration required – AIA HSW and LU)
  • Inclusive Design for the Aquatic Splash Pad (AIA HSW and LU)
  • Community-Based Strategies for Building and Activating Inclusive Playgrounds (AIA LU)
  • Learning to Build (AIA LU)
  • Lighting Play Environments for Today & the Future (AIA LU)
  • Shhh! There’s a Playspace coming to the Library! (AIA LU)
  • Your Senses at Play! Explore playground designs and programs that support children with Autism (AIA LU)
  • A Walk on the Wild Side: Connecting Play and Zoo Walkways
  • Availability and Quality of Urban Play Spaces in The East Africa Community: A Critical Assessment
  • Just Play Project: Ithaca: Designing the Child-Friendly City!
  • US-PLay-Round-Tables
  • Sensory Play: An Integral Component of Inclusive Recreation
  • Shaped by Play: The Formative Role of Play and Playgrounds
  • The Butterfly Effect: Building on the Big Idea
  • The Many Spaces of Play: The Many Faces of Children
  • Water Play and Children’s Complex Scientific Explorations
  • Zoos as a Nature Play Destination: Nature Playgrounds at Bronx Zoo and Houston Zoo

Special registration options are available for schools, non-profits, and government agencies looking to send 4 or more delegates.  Contact Stephanie Garst for more information.

 

The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.

  

 


AIA CEUs Available to Registered Attendees at The Play Conference

Want a PLAYful way to earn AIA CEUs?!  Come to the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11 at Clemson University.

More than 8 hours of our sessions have been approved for AIA learning units – two sessions also approved for HSW credits (all are approved for LA CES with NCBLA  pending too!)

Check out these AIA approved sessions (all are one hour unless noted):

Special registration options are available for schools, non-profits, and government agencies looking to send 4 or more delegates.  Contact Stephanie Garst for more information.

 

The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.

  

 


Children’s Early Play Experiences a “Developmental Necessity” for Successful Adults

To build better playgrounds and to encourage more of them, we wanted to understand how play leads to the development of successful adults. That’s why we commissioned a meta-study in partnership with the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development to advance the conversation.

Drawing from a wide body of social scientific analyses, we found the studies overwhelmingly reinforce the value—and seemingly, the developmental necessity—of children’s early play experiences. Most studies draw strong associations between free, unstructured play and positive outcomes. Several studies also point to restrictive work and school schedules, organized after-school activities, safety concerns and the rise of passive entertainment options for the growing infringement on children’s play opportunities.

For children around the world, playgrounds and play are an important and positive part of childhood development. Request a copy of the full research whitepaper at shapedbyplay.com.


“EAT, SLEEP, PLAY, REPEAT” SHIRTS now available for pre-order!

Make sure YOU are wearing the latest in PLAY gear at the 2018 Play Conference!!!

These new LIMITED EDITION play shirts were designed by Play Ambassadors Brian VanDongen and Ryan Fahey.  T-shirt orders placed here will be available for pickup at the Play Conference only. (NOTE: A separate post-conference campaign will have shipping options). If you are coming to the Play Conference, order here to SAVE on shipping!

Orders open now through March 12.

They will only print what gets ordered before the campaign closes. Those ordered get printed and will be available for pickup at the Play Conference!

Support US Play Coalition and PLAY by purchasing a PLAYful shirt! Order yours before time runs out…!!!!


LA CES Credits Available to Registered Attendees at The Play Conference

Want a PLAYful way to earn LA CES CEUs?!  Come to the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11 at Clemson University.

More than 18 hours of our sessions have been approved for LA CES credits – and more are pending!
(NCBLA and AIA credits are pending too!)

Check out these LA CES approved sessions (all are one hour unless noted):

  • Effective Playground Protective Surfacing: The Key Element for Risk Assessment under the new ASTM F1487 (*3.5 LA CES hours, separate registration required)
  • A Walk on the Wild Side: Connecting Play and Zoo Walkways
  • Availability and Quality of Urban Play Spaces in The East Africa Community: A Critical Assessment
  • Community-Based Strategies for Building and Activating Inclusive Playgrounds
  • Inclusive Design for the Aquatic Splash Pad
  • Just Play Project: Ithaca: Designing the Child-Friendly City!
  • Learning to Build
  • Lighting Play Environments for Today & the Future (also approved for AIA CEUs)US-PLay-Round-Tables
  • Sensory Play: An Integral Component of Inclusive Recreation
  • Shaped by Play: The Formative Role of Play and Playgrounds
  • Shhh! There’s a Playspace coming to the Library!
  • The Butterfly Effect: Building on the Big Idea
  • The Many Spaces of Play: The Many Faces of Children
  • Water Play and Children’s Complex Scientific Explorations
  • Your Senses at Play! Explore playground designs and programs that support children with Autism.
  • Zoos as a Nature Play Destination: Nature Playgrounds at Bronx Zoo and Houston Zoo

Special registration options are available for schools, non-profits, and government agencies looking to send 4 or more delegates.  Contact Stephanie Garst for more information.

 

The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.

  

 


Advancing Evidence-Based Environments through Scholarship

PlayCore’s Center for Outreach, Research, and Education (CORE) is the only research-focused organization invested with more than 30 scholars and universities, publishing third party, valid, evidence-based resources to help build research-based environments that result in meaningful outcomes.

GameTime utilizes the scholarly findings of PlayCore’s work in a number of meaningful ways, in the design of their products, and the overall creation of environments themselves. The power of this scholarly advisement cannot be regarded lightly, as this knowledge becomes the foundation of the finished environment; therefore a customer need not have advanced degrees in any area of specialization to benefit from an environment built on scholarship.

PlayCore’s latest scholar spotlight falls on Dr. Stuart Brown. As a foremost authority on play, Dr. Brown is contributing to a monthly blog on playcore.com, and will be featured at the 2018 Play Conference highlighting the partnership and his scholarly insight on the many faces of play.