Open Letter: Inclusion at the Lakefront
I’m so grateful to be part of a community where feedback is frequent and rooted in the desire to improve and grow. I read the criticisms recently published in the Howard County Times about the lack of diversity in the Lakefront Summer Festival, as I am sure some of you did as well. The points made were both accurate and disconcerting. I can spend time laying out the impacts of COVID, advanced scheduling of programming or internal CA processes, but I won’t. I am simply going to commit to doing better because we absolutely can.
There’s an expectation from our residents that Columbia can always improve, which is a healthy and productive mindset for any community. Those shared values are part of the reason I took this position with CA. I also share the sentiment that as a leader and key stakeholder, CA must take on some level of that responsibility to change and grow for the betterment of Columbia.
As stewards of some of the most popular and visible spaces in Downtown Columbia, there is clearly a need to reevaluate what the Lakefront is, who it serves and how it benefits the entire community. This does not mean the longstanding traditions like Lakefront Summer Fest will suddenly disappear, but they may need to be adjusted to fit the evolving needs of those living here, working here and visiting here.
The Lakefront is one key piece of the bigger fabric of Downtown Columbia. CA will continue to work with our partners to not only provide inclusive events along Lake Kittamaqundi, but also activate different spaces across our vibrant community center.
I will keep working to ensure that all CA spaces – including the Lakefront – welcome people of all backgrounds and experiences. We also know that CA must strive to reach a higher level of inclusion. One way we can do that is through programming and services that celebrate and affirm our community’s diversity by ensuring it is an accurate reflection of who is here in Columbia. We now have internal committees improving our organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, as well as events and outreach. Assessing the scope of free entertainment at the Lakefront is exactly the kind of project these groups are committed to. Please stay connected with CA to engage and co-create as we shift more of our processes.
Community is a living learning lab of humanity. In my role, I already know that constant and necessary change will continue to take place to ensure we are serving Columbia and finding ways for this community to reach its fullest potential. We thank our neighbors and supporters for bringing shortcomings to our attention. While it is not always easy, we appreciate the courage of those who do speak up. We are committed to the continued evolution of CA in service of this special community. We will continue to work toward more inclusive and representative programming and look forward to connecting with everyone as we do so.