Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ginny Chadwick wants to ban alcohol at the only park in Columbia, MO's black neighborhood

It hasn’t taken long for Ginny Chadwick, Columbia, MO councilwoman representing the 1st Ward, to prove she’s out of touch with the black people who live in her district.  Chadwick is set on leading efforts to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.

Black folks in Columbia, we call it COMO, consider Douglass Park one of the few places to gather in a way that reflects our rich cultural particularity.  It’s the one place black people can chill, be real, put some meat on a grill, pull out the side dishes, talk trash, shoot hoops, listen to some R&B, and, for better and for worse, drink some beer and liquor.

The truth be told It’s the only spot within a city designed to keep blacks in their proper place.  It feels intentional at times.  Yes, Douglass Park is like other parks in the "hood" across the nation. It’s a spot that has garnered a reputation because of the people who go there.

The truth is covered by the fiction, and that fiction is rooted in fear.  That fear is molded by ignorance, and that stupidity is supported by an unwillingness to jump outside the comfort zone.  Chadwick, and anyone willing to drink the unspiked Kool-Aid, is building public policy based on a mound of assumptions.

She needs to check herself before taking the big gulp.

Even worse than her misguided crusade to ban drinking at Douglass Park, is her lack of respect for the man who was on the ballot against her. Chadwick’s bold indifference for Tyree Byndom’s input may be a sign that she lacks the ability to comprehend, or simply doesn’t care about the people begging to be treated with respect.

“The Blacks in the 1st Ward have one social space that they go, and that is Douglass Park. They don't feel wanted or culturally accepted most other locations,” Byndom wrote in a message he reposted on Facebook. “If I hear that this is an effort that you are actually going to go through with, I want you to know that you will have major opposition from me and my allies.”

Byndom’s message was simple – don’t go there.  To her credit, Chadwick didn’t deny her plan to ban drinking at Douglass Park.

“Thanks for your input Tyree. Yes, I am working to make Douglas alcohol free,” Chadwick wrote.

“Cool. Get ready for a fight,” Byndom responded.

“Didn't take the job because I wasn't up for fights. Change is a struggle, especially towards public health issues,” Chadwick said.

“That's fine. Be well. See you on the battlefield,” Byndom said.

You have to respect a woman on a crusade, but what is Chadwick thinking? Is she willing to disregard the opinion of a person with one ear to the ground? Is she completely insensitive to the concerns of those who frequent Douglass Park? Has she formed an opinion based on her view from her car as she drives by the park?

There are two problems with Chadwick’s push, and both reflect a deeper issue related to how race and racist assumption impact public policy.

The issue isn’t banning drinking in a city park.  There is merit to enforcing that policy.  The problem is with limiting the ban to the only park supported by black people.  Forming a unique policy for Douglass Park is at the core racist.  It targets a set population in a way that stereotypes them as being predisposed to alcoholism and illicit behavior caused by excessive drinking.

Second, and even more incommodious than the first, is Chadwick’s unwillingness to press Byndom to share his concerns.  She cites her position without persuading Byndom to state his case. She fails to ask him to explain his opposition.  She simply states her position, and willingness to go to battle.

It’s this type of insensitivity that I remember about COMO before leaving close to 30 years ago. I’m told that things have changed, but Chadwick reminds me of why it was easy to leave with no desire to come back home.

If you’re against drinking in city parks, ban it at all parks.  You simply can’t go after the park where the black citizens spend their time.  If you do decide to ban drinking at that park, show some sensitivity toward those who oppose your position.  Listen to the citizens you represent.

Chadwick’s refusal to listen is striking one of those bad nerves.  I plan to call her soon to give her a chance to respond.  I’ve decided to write this first to introduce her to me and my work.  Be warned.  You might think that’s the way business is handled in COMO. If that’s true, take some notes.

Take some time to listen before you go on the battlefield.

You don’t want this battle.


  1. Nothing has changed in COMO for a good long time, Carl W. Kenney II, not in a very long time. To be clear the Douglass Park is not the only park in this area, not the only park with an alcohol ban and we are not talking about a Sunday afternoon in the park. And to also be clear this neighborhood has not been a strictly African-American neighborhood for some time. It is a public housing neighborhood, an immigrant neighborhood and an affordable-housing neighborhood. And before you engage in this battle you should know that Byndom does not have his ear to the ground at least not in this neighborhood. After you call Chadwick you may also want to call Byndom and ask him for whom he is fighting this good fight of his? Families in the neighborhood who would like their children to play in the park? The African-American families? The immigrant families? The families who play little league baseball there? The kids who have to navigate the hooligans when they walk through? Any of the THREE schools and its students employes and families? What should happen according to Byndom? What? Enforcement of present laws? Nothing? Doing nothing? I am not saying I am a fan of Chadwick or against Byndom. My view of both politicians change as often as their own. But at least Chadwick is doing SOMETHING! Is it the right thing? What are the laws about crime committed in the proximity to a school? Yes, Crime- There are quiet days but often, very often from morning to night- drugs, alcohol, gangs, vulgar language, dog fights, violence, the chilling sound of gun shots, action-lots of action, public urination, public wanking by old farts,----- mostly, mostly, not children, not families, not kids. Not chillin' bros or 20,30-somethings having a little home-brew. And not so much the park facilities. The basket ball courts are used and the pool is used because they are gated. But right there are the wankers. The pre-school and h.s. adjoin the park. A fence was installed not by CPS or Central Missouri Community Action, but by Parks and Rec. but there is no gate- NO GATE. What happens in this public park would not be tolerated if it were adjoined to Hickman or R.B. or Columbia Montessori School or Grant School or Fairview Park or Cosmo Park. There is racism, oh yeah, there is clear, bald, ugly racism. You said "It’s the one place black people can chill, be real, put some meat on a grill, pull out the side dishes, talk trash, shoot hoops, listen to some R&B" Again this law is not addressing an afternoon barbecue with a bottle of Bud. Byndom and a whole lot of other people appear to be completely insensitive to the concerns of families and school children and completely out of touch with this area. Questions to you or anyone in COMO-- Do you have kids at this Head Start? Do you have kids at this high school? Do you think that is okay for parents to worry if there kids do go to the park? Do you think that this negative exposure and and the trauma of fear is okay for other people's children? Do you live or work near the park? What side of the park do you drive by? And how many days of the week? How many nights have you come by or hung out? The bigger question is how do you protect kids and schools? No, the bigger question is why is it okay here at this park in not a black neighborhood but a low-income neighborhood? Why is Douglass Park the actual exception? How is it defendable? Is an alcohol ban the best way to address the safety of the park? No. Then don't Chadwick AND Byndom both need to be challenged. Shouldn't you challenge them both? Now I am scolding you for championing this guy. And I am challenging you, in all due respect to your position, but I believe that you are completely out of touch.

  2. The question before Ms. Chadwick (in advance of making a public policy suggestion affecting only ONE park in Columbia) should have been to call a community meeting to discuss the problems and develop consensus on how to proceed TOGETHER. I think any kind of on-going negative public behavior at parks is an "enforcement" issue. Do we have community policing policies to address working with neighborhoods and park issues? Or is the "policing" piece-meal. Considering that COMO PD HQ is just down the road AND they have a tenuous relationship with the community at best -- I suspect a mix of benign negligence and socio-historical ignorance about the Douglass Park community. I agree with the author of the post above: the million dollar question to be resolved is what is the best way to address public safety at the park? We have football games which are open-container and for the most part people are well behaved; but law enforcement is in full force. Good question -- why is Douglass Park the exception?
    My guess is that the COMO plantation is blinded by their public space negligence depending on what part of the City certain constituents live in...and yes...I think it's flat out racism. Alcohol is only a symptom of the larger problem -- thinking folks know you have to dig deeper for realistic and better outcomes. Getting to the larger problems is KEY. IMHO, Chadwick's problem is white privilege and running with stereotypical assumptions & knee jerk reactions. She should check herself before she wrecks herself. This is an issue for the council to delve into with the community as a team -- if problems persist... I have a saying: "It's Always the Council's Fault."