Friday, December 16, 2011

Party: FAIL

The Party's Over, it's time to call it a day.
They've burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away. 

What if you had a party and nobody came?  How would you feel?  How would you respond?

Consider the ongoing party in Columbia that we call CA Aquatics:
In looking at traditionally underused pools in Columbia, a member of the CA Aquatics Staff suggested that the culture of certain 'populations' didn't promote swimming.  In other words, lack of pool use stems from lack of interest.

Really?  Isn't this like saying to the starving French peasants that their predicament is caused by a lack of interest in cake?

It's time to wind up the masquerade.

Just make your mind up the piper must be paid.

What if you had a party and nobody came because they didn't know they were invited?

The CA experience, the way that Columbia "was meant to be" is unknown and largely irrelevant to many of our residents. Institutions like this just can't survive without ongoing evangelism, and by this I mean outreach which is continually evolving to meet the needs of its community. Not just to the community we imagine to be the true Columbia. We are not all generally well-educated, generally middle and upper middle folks who can join CA and shop at the Mall.

I do not dispute that CA has some programs to meet the needs of lower-income residents. But I don't think they are being offered in a way that truly reaches the people they need to reach.  It reminds me of the Washington Post's rather smug slogan, "If you don't get it--you don't get it."

Very true.  And now where are we?

The Party's Over.The candles flicker and dim.

You danced and dreamed through the night,
it seemed to be right...

A young, well educated professional in Columbia said to me recently, "Well, of course there's no way that  CA facilities could accommodate all residents. So they had to have a way to restrict it: by income."
Breathtakingly simple. Yes, it may be just one opinion.  But this is someone who has lived here for twelve years and this is what has been communicated to her.

Are we really going to where the people are and finding ways that are relevant to them to involve them in the benefits that Columbia can offer? Or are we using the same old ways to promote and expecting, no, requiring, people to come to us? 

We are on the verge of closing (at least one) pool  located in an area of the greatest need.  Actions like this say to me that somebody, somewhere (or quite a few somebodies) think that these people are not real Columbians. Or perhaps, that some Columbians are more equal than others.




    Great points, Julia, and perhaps it is so that you aren't seeing all that is done to reach out to such communities that may be less inclined to use the poos because you're not in them. ;-) In any case, keep writing, for your voice is heard.

    And do know that "closing a pool" -- were that to be a choice -- doesn't mean it gets boarded up and becomes a dead zone. Quite the opposite: it may well mean that a place gets repurposed into a new type of amenity. Change and growth come in all sorts of ways.

  2. Thanks for the the response, Jessie. I enjoyed my summer at the Talbott Springs Pool with mac as we supported the Columbia Swims program. This very successful program came about, as you know, largely due to grassroots efforts by the Oakland Mills Community. I was amazed that CA was unable to find a way to create a mobile ID card process for those in the community who had no transportation. Even providing a free ride to Headquarters still forces people to come to them.

    Columbia Swims was a great first step in engagement with under-served populations. Let's build on that by extending into the communities in ever more meaningful ways. I don't see how
    "re-purposing" a pool is a successful continuation of "Columbia Swims."

    Although perhaps the AquaPlan really does have the free "Pool Bus" up its sleeve that I have been dreaming of... ;-)

  3. I miss Columbia.....that being said I am still shocked and amazed that closing a neighborhood pool is even an option. Columbia was built and designed to accommodate all your neighbors. With great sadness Columbia is still loosing that idea on a daily basis. Every neighborhood has a pool you can walk to. That is and what was an Important part of meeting and knowing your neighbors. I hear what Jessie is saying but what could they possibly put in it's place that lower income families could afford.


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