Paul's Note - February 19, 2021

Our city recreation centers have been closed, and many other opportunities for healthy recreational activities have been limited over the last year.  

We had an opportunity with CARES Act money to find a way to bring recreational activities to you at your neighborhood park. Tucson Parks and Recreation will be rolling out a new mobile recreation program, Ready, Set, Rec! This engaging program uses federal CARES Act funds to acquire six vans, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), handwashing stations, and traffic cones or barricades to bring recreation to the community. This effort is backed by the mayor and all city council members.  

They will be doing a launch of the program at Rodeo Park next Thursday, with a special Ward 2 van making a visit to Jesse Owens Park at 2 pm. The van will have equipment for all-ages activities like corn hole, board games, hula hoops, giant chess, giant checkers, giant connect 4, cards, music, Mexican train dominoes, giant Jenga, giant ring toss, walking sticks etc. Next Saturday, the van will be making a noontime visit to Harold Bell Wright Park. 

I will be keeping you up to date on the van’s location. 

I’ve been profiling Tucson’s African-American history throughout this month. I profiled a few of the big names and I thought it was time to talk a bit about some of Tucson’s historic African American neighborhoods.  

If you drive down Main Avenue near Sixth Street, you may notice a large building called the Dunbar Pavillion. That was once the Paul Lawrence Dunbar School, Tucson’s school for African American children when students had to be segregated. The school moved to that location in 1912 in what is now known as the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood. The decline of Downtown in the 70s and 80s hit the neighborhood hard and many of those old families left. The old school, however, now hosts a barber college and is a site for neighborhood gatherings. 

The South Park neighborhood first emerged in the late 1940s. Many of its early residents had migrated to Tucson by the promise of jobs in our post-war boom. It covers the area east of Park Avenue from 22nd Street south to I-10. In an all too familiar story, it emerged as an African-American neighborhood because both redlining, the practice of banks not loaning to African Americans if they want to buy in certain neighborhoods, and restrictive covenants. It was one of the few places African Americans could live in Tucson. The neighborhood has had its struggles, but the Bridges project has brought new investment to the area. 

Like South Park, Sugar Hill (centered at Mansfield Park near Grant and Sixth Avenue) emerged in the 1940s as middle class African Americans from other parts of the country settled there (also, by the way, because opportunities for African Americans to buy houses else where were limited). Rather than giving you a thumbnail sketch of the area’s history, I recommend that you check the excellent work that Sadie Shaw has done on the area’s history. Shaw, a new TUSD board member, has been doing a long term audio project with residents in the area and has posted it to Soundcloud. Dive in and give it a listen, or check out the piece that they aired on Arizona Illustrated back in 2019