As the green environmental movement begins making inroads into mainstream America, as Martin Luther King Jr. did nearly four decades ago with the civil rights movement, the Skanner Foundation will highlight the importance of environmentally conscious living. This year's keynote speaker at the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast will be urban forest advocate Steve Coleman.
Coleman has forged community park partnerships across the District of Columbia and surrounding region, and he is a leader in the growing national urban parks movement, assisting urban park partnerships across the country and beyond.
This year's breakfast will be held from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Hilton Executive Tower Hotel, 921 S.W. 6th Ave. in Portland. To reserve a table, or nominate someone for the Drum Major for Justice Award or for a student scholarship, call 503-285-5555 or email MLKBreakfast@theskanner.com.
Beginning with the youth drive he co-founded 30 years ago to restore a forgotten stream valley park, Coleman has mobilized tens of thousands of people to reclaim community parks. In 1994, the president and vice president of the United States honored Coleman and the late Josephine Butler for creating one of America's top parks/ community partnerships – the dramatic transformation of Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park from Washington's single most violent park, into one of its safest. In 1999, he led the establishment of the Josephine Butler Parks Center inside the former Embassy of Hungary – a permanent 18,000-square-foot "greenhouse" for seeding community reclamation of the District of Columbia's long forgotten community parklands. As executive director of Washington Parks & People for the past two decades, he leads the capital's award-winning alliance of community parks partnerships, which owns and operates the Parks Center as well as the Riverside Center east of the Anacostia River.
Coleman's work in the urban parks movement has been broadly covered in the Washington media, as well as such national periodicals as Parade, National Parks, Hemispheres, Monuments Historiques, Landscape Architecture, NPR, CNN, PBS and the BBC. His work has won commendations from the National Congress for Community Economic Development, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, the Washington Architectural Foundation, the DC Preservation League, the National Park Foundation, the National Park Service, the United States Park Police, and the president of the United States (Partnership Leadership Award). He has been guest speaker at numerous local, regional, national, and international parks conferences. He is a Trustee of the City Parks Alliance, a national consortium of urban parks partnerships. He is also chair of the founding working group of the International Urban Parks Alliance.
Coleman has served as Parks and Conservation Chair of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, as a member of the Advisory Committee on Greenway Planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and as a member of the DC Environmental Planning Commission. In both 1998 and 2006, Coleman served as co-chair of the District of Columbia Mayor's Transition Committee on Parks and Recreation. His elected community posts in Washington are also numerous.
A former organizational development consultant and journalist, Coleman was program director of the Better World Society, an international environmental advocacy organization started by media executive Ted Turner, which produced award-winning educational television programming for worldwide broadcast via Cable News Network, PBS and other networks. Educated at Haverford College and New York University, he began his professional career as an intern reporter covering urban affairs for public television's MacNeil/Lehrer Report, and later helped the Center for International Journalists start a Third World journalism training program for community news coverage of environment and development issues.
His public service experience has included stints with the American Friends Service Committee, where he led a successful statewide lobbying campaign in New York, the Maine Natural Resources Council, and SAVE Our Future, a national low-income voter registration drive that he co-founded. A former field organizer for Freeze Voter and the Professionals Coalition for Nuclear Arms Control, Coleman first came to Washington in 1983 to serve as vice president for research and development of a national business association lobbying to boost funding for community development. Born in India to Canadian-born parents, Coleman grew up in and around Pittsburgh, New York, and Philadelphia. He lives with his wife and son in the diverse Reed-Cooke neighborhood of Adams Morgan.