Cityspace: A look toward future developmentBy Seth Sanders
A new conference, initiated by Danielle Allen, Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College and newly appointed Dean of the Humanities Division, will bring together President Randel and local activists to discuss the University’s role in the city of Chicago.
The conference, “Cityspace: The Past of Urban Renewal and the Future of Community Development,” will take place Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10, at International House.
Conference coordinator Elizabeth Babcock said the event aims to bring together a large and diverse audience interested in joining a conversation about the goals of today’s community development projects. “To understand more fully the obstacles facing Chicago neighborhoods today, the conference speakers will examine the legacy of urban renewal as the starting point for a discussion about public policy, community initiatives and individual concerns about how Chicago is changing,” she said.
“The conference will combine perspectives of scholars and community activists and practitioners to uncover new and exciting ways of tackling the persistent challenges of racial and economic integration, access to knowledge, affordable housing and community revitalization.”
The conference will begin on Friday, April 9, with an examination of the urban renewal period of the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago. A discussion panel will include Arnold Hirsch, author of Making the Second Ghetto, fourth ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and Leon Despres, a former alderman and longtime community member. The panel will explore how urban renewal policies, including those of the University, continue to affect community development.
On Saturday, April 10, the conference will explore practical questions about the future of Chicago communities. The morning session will feature three series of workshops, designed to convey essential skills to organizers and community members alike. The workshops will deal with issues of community financing, affordable housing and public policy, and will present concrete models for successful community building.
“We hope that the workshops will give Chicago practitioners an opportunity to exchange knowledge and skills and to make connections for future projects,” said Ryan Hollon, organizer with the Angels of Def, a University student group that is co-organizing the conference.
The afternoon will feature two additional discussion panels dealing with pressing current issues, and President Randel will present the first “State of the University Within the Community” address. The first panel discussion will be on economic development and will address the political and social forces that can be brought to bear in raising the level of investment and job opportunities in an under-resourced community.
Speakers will include John Kretzmann, co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, and Father Richard Tolliver of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church.
The second panel discussion on public space will address the question of how to cultivate geographical and intellectual spaces where democracy, sociality and collective memory can be fostered.
“I hope this conference will enable us to recognize and honor knowledge from all communities and to envision ways to share and exchange this knowledge into the future,” said Allen, who will participate in the panel on public space.
The conference will end with remarks by Mary Pattillo, associate professor of sociology and African American studies and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.
The conference, which is open to the public, will be followed by a reception. The conference will be held at International House, 1414 E. 59th St. More information is available at the Web site, http://www.chicagocityspace.org, or by contacting Babcock at (773) 834-8934.