College Park City Council works to promote inclusion

by AMBER EBANKS

The city of College Park recently established a committee to address the growth of diverse communities.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the estimated population in 2010 for College Park was 30,413. This number grew in 2014 to 32,256. Since 2010, the ethnic breakdown in one of Maryland’s biggest college towns has also changed.

Though Caucasians still make up the largest ethnic group in College Park, the African American, Hispanic and Latino populations have also increased.

“Yes, I have seen the diversity change over the years. A lot sparked this change, such as people leaving College Park,” said former College Park Mayor Andrew M. Fellows. “It was a generational change. Most people were white in College Park, and now we have a majority minority City Council for the first time in history.”

In 2000, 68.8 percent of people identified as White, 15.9 percent of people identified as African American and 5.5 percent of people identified as Hispanic or Latino. The largest racial background in the Hispanic or Latino community in 2000 identified as ‘other Hispanic or Latino,’ instead of Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban.

In 2010, people that identified as White made up 63.0 percent of the city, while 14. 3 percent of people identified as Black or African American, and 11.9 percent as Hispanic or Latino.

“It’s very mixed, Latino, not in one spot but all over,” said Fellows. “We also have a growing African American population. In addition, there are many Asian Americans from different parts of Asia. The Islamic community in College Park is also growing because of the Al Huda Elementary School in Northern College Park.”

Fellows says College Park students are included in the census. According to Forbes, 53.36 percent of University of Maryland students identified as White, 12.48 percent as Black or African American and 8.76 percent as Hispanic or Latino at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Despite the growing ethnic groups in College Park, Fellows does not believe that’s where most problems lie. “I think there’s more tension between old people and students,” said Fellows. “The many young people in College Park pose a bigger challenge than the different ethnic groups.”

In September of 2013, the College Park City Council created a committee, Neighborhood Quality of Life, aimed at bringing together the city’s citizens to address issues residents face.

College Park City Council Member and Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee Co-Chair Patrick Wojahn said that College Park would benefit from cooperative housing.

“I think that College Park needs more affordable and quality student housing and an inter-generational group housing such as the Maitri House in Takoma Park. In addition, College Park would benefit from a nonprofit community housing program.”

In an effort to be more inclusive, the College Park City Council has also began to translate public documents into other languages such as Spanish to make the material easier to read for those whose first language isn’t English. In the upcoming elections, the voting machines will feature Spanish language hearing and sight impaired resources.

“When I was growing up back in the eighties when I was in high school I think that Prince George’s County used to be predominantly white,” said Samuel Saunders, a former resident of College Park. “As I got older I think there was a tide turn in the 2000s in Prince George’s County now where there’s more African American and Hispanic people.”

 

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