by Travis Mateer
That was my first thought after confirming the Asian equivalent of “Smith” is a shared last name between two people pushing BIPOC wilderness programs in Montana.
I wrote about Frances Kim and her side-gig getting BIPOC people into the wilderness just over a week ago as a tangent about the research firm hired to assess Missoula’s 10 Year Plan To End Homelessness. That’s where I ran across Kim’s advocacy through the organization Earthtone Outside MT.
While that organization is in Bozeman, an entity closer to home pushing the BIPOC/wilderness interface just had a BIG breakup with Parks and Rec, and the person at the center of this breakup is Alex Kim.
Here’s the story of HERE MONTANA and the sad lack of commitment Donna Gaukler’s Parks and Rec exhibited, which led to this breakup. From the link:
Here Montana is splitting up from the city after about two and a half years as a city Parks and Recreation Department program.
The organization facilitates outdoor recreation opportunities for local BIPOC — Black/Indigenous/people of color — community. Leaders of the group met Thursday with the Missoula Department of Parks and Recreation to envision a partnership between the newly independent organization and the city.
“I think it’s in a better place now,” said Alex Kim, who founded Here Montana in 2019.
If you’re confused about how a split-up can so quickly lead to a partnership, you’re probably not alone, as I imagine the two other people still reading the Missoulian are probably thinking the same thing.
The rest of the article is such a whiny complaint-fest I can only assume its intended to exacerbate generational disdain. Like this:
Despite the mutual enthusiasm, Kim said there were a series of frustrating “communication mishaps” that led to Here Montana’s split with the city.
“The city doesn’t have the infrastructure to support something like this,” he said, “so realistically the best place for this program is to be its own independent entity where it can have freedom of funding, freedom of programming and freedom of making its own decisions.”
Kim said he had to work four other jobs while running the program part-time under Parks and Recreation, but there were no opportunities for him to pursue the work full time.
“I just kept being met by a persistent ‘no’ as well as a persistent lack of understanding in terms of why this program is important on a fundamental level,” he said.
Kim decided to pursue another opening at the city working in a newly created position surrounding Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. But he said the city prevented him from staying involved with Here Montana while working full time in another city role. Kim said he felt excluded from participating in the program he founded.
“It was in that moment I decided that that program couldn’t be at the city,” he said.
While I might get a little chuckle from seeing Donna Gaukler held hostage by an entitled wokeist, that doesn’t make seeing the expectation so brazenly articulated worth it by any means.
Here is Alex Kim, the hostage taker, issuing his demands:
Kim hopes the city will support Here Montana by providing funding, gear, transportation and the occasional staff.
“It’s important to grow a community in conjunction with the city but I don’t think that the city necessarily needs to be in charge or have power in any of these situations,” he said. “I think that their role is more effective as a partner as opposed to kind of running this.”
Gaukler said the city is still ironing out the details of its partnership with Here Montana, and Parks and Recreation wants to take its cues from Kim as he navigates the organization’s newfound independence.
“I think the relationship with Here Montana is yet to be determined,” she said. She listed program services and help with permits and reservations as a few possible areas for partnership opportunities.
While Frances and Alex Kim are doing noble work, I will continue to be worried that a blindspot exists if the use of machetes is in any way encouraged because I think it might be a risk factor for men of a certain age, skin color, and set of behavior traits.
I think this is an especially important thing to consider during this Memorial Day weekend, which is almost over.
Stay safe out there! And thanks for reading!