An African American Community Recreation Center: Participants’ and Volunteers’ Perceptions of Racism and Racial Identity


  • Kimberly J. Shinew
  • Rasul Mowatt
  • Troy Glover


African Americans, Racism, Racial Identity, Volunteerism, Community Center


Recognizing that racial segregation often takes place in leisure spaces, we sought to gain a greater understanding of African Americans who specifi cally seek out leisure settings that are linked to their sub-population. Thus, the purpose of this exploratory study was to compare African Americans who are involved in an African American community center and/or volunteer for associations closely linked to the African American population to those who are not involved. Comparisons were made based on their racial identity and their perceptions of racism. Our research expectations were that those who chose to be more closely associated with the African American population would have stronger perceptions of racism and racial identity when compared to those African Americans who were not involved. Th ere is a growing area of research that examines the connections between racism, discrimination and leisure behavior and we sought to add to this body of research by examining perceptions of racism and racial identity and its relationship to African Americans’ choices of leisure setting. Data were collected through on-site questionnaire surveys that were distributed at an African American community center (Frederick Douglass Community Center-FDC), door-to-door in an African American neighborhood, and at a neighborhood barbershop. Comparisons between FDC volunteers and non-volunteers revealed no signifi cant diff erences with respect to perceptions of racism or racial identity. Similarly, comparisons between community-wide volunteers and non-volunteers suggested no signifi cant diff erences in terms of perceptions of racism; however, community-wide volunteers reported signifi cantly higher levels of racial identity than did non-volunteers. Community-wide volunteers were also signifi cantly more active as participants, both at the FDC and in other African American programs in the community. And fi nally, comparisons between FDC participants and non-participants indicated no significant differences between the groups, in either their perceptions of racism or their racial identity. Thus, in response to our research expectations, we found that African Americans involved at the FDC (either as participants and/or volunteers) did not have stronger perceptions of racism and racial identities than did those who remained uninvolved. However, those who served as volunteers in various African American programs across the community did report a stronger racial identity than did non-volunteers. Managerial implications include gaining some insight into those African Americans who specifically seek out leisure settings that are linked to their sub-population, and recognizing that racially segregated programs and services may be desirable for some minority populations given today’s racial climate.





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