By Mike Dean

The National Recreation and Park Ethnic Minority Society (NRPEMS) held its annual awards luncheon Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Ariz. EMS members and friends gathered to recognize professionals in the field for their outstanding work over the past year and to also pay tribute to those who spent countless years working in cities around the country in an effort to provide programs for all people. Phoenix last hosted the NRPA National Congress in 2000.

EMS was established 51 years ago out of the necessity to be included in the National Recreation and Park movement. For years, people of color who worked in the profession and attended national conferences were left feeling empty. It wasn’t a feeling of “inclusion” but a feeling of “exclusion.” Sure, it was great to see old friends and reconnect annually, but there were no people of color doing workshops, or being recognized for dedicated service.

So in 1971, a small group of professionals came together and EMS was born. The members had to fight to be recognized as a viable group and to do so, they sat in on planning meetings, developed educational sessions second to none and worked tirelessly on behalf of the movement.

Now, 51 years later, NRPEMS is a viable organization that is respected and appreciated for the work it does. But the fight is not over. EMS still continues its efforts to promote people of color in the recreation and park movement and to insure that the game is being played on a level field.

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