Concerns rise over South Bend Parks and Arts budget proposal

Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 5:20 PM EDT
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South Bend community leaders and organizers led a news conference outside the Charles Black Community Center on Friday to voice concerns with the South Bend Venues Parks and Arts budget proposal.

Those speaking at the podium said the proposal suggests budget cuts, making full-time employees at the Charles Black and Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation center part-time.

City, spiritual, and community leaders who grew up in ‘The Lake’ spoke about how these centers benefit people of color who historically make up the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Black lives, Black bodies are not expendable. They are valuable, they are important. What we have inside our buildings is equally valuable to what’s going on there in Howard Park. That’s all we’re asking, is to be included. To value the knowledge, the skills, and the abilities of the staff at these centers,” said Imani Unidad founder Debra Stanley.

Venues, Parks, and Arts Recreation director Jonathan Jones says this budget proposal is just one of many options they’re looking at before making their final presentation next Wednesday.

“That’s why we’ve gone specifically to these individuals for conversation to figure out--let’s get some feedback, here are some initial thoughts, and find ways to work together. So, we’ve spoken, we’ve heard at a number of discussions, and we’re right now taking that into consideration as we put together additional drafts,” Jones said.

Both the Charles Black and Martin Luther King Jr. Centers are in South Bend 2nd District Councilman Henry Davis Jr.’s district.

He responded to this proposal in a broad letter addressing the inequities facing people of color on Thursday saying:

“These centers—located in communities west of the river—are threatened with cuts so severe that they will not be able to offer the most basic level of service to Black communities.”

Jones says it’s important to have these conversations so Venues, Parks, and Arts can present a budget that best fits the city’s needs.

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