The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference celebrated its 60th anniversary on Wednesday with “Challenging the Next Decade,” a forum devoted to discussing the future of the Hyde Park community. As Hyde Park was confronted by issues of integration and the community’s deteriorating infrastructure in the late 1940s, the HPKCC was formed to “confer and figure out a way to make integration work,” said HPKCC board member James W. Withrow in his opening speech. The main task of the Conference, according to Withrow, has been to set forth a vision for Hyde Park as “an interracial community of high standards.”
The concerns of the forum–the minutiae of Hyde Park life–were not the sorts of issues that would be expected to provoke extreme controversy or excitement, yet the audience, consisting mostly of long-time residents of the community, was notable for its enthusiasm, cantankerous attitude, and strong demands. The topics discussed included issues affecting the nation as a whole but manifested on a local level: the worry about affordable housing, how to create a “green” community, the need for better public schools. Other matters were more peculiar to Hyde Park: the nostalgia for Hyde Park’s former artists’ colony, the need to attract more retail.
Of course, underneath this vibrant atmosphere lay the reality that, while some change may occur, Hyde Park will never be the ideal community that the audience envisioned. The forum ended on a somewhat frustrating note; many had not been able to voice their questions and complaints, and while there were many hopeful ideas, there were few realistic plans to implement. As one gentleman noted after the forum, we can see that even HPKCC’s vision of Hyde Park as an interracial community of high standards has not, in many ways, yet been met.
It was odd, then, that so many in the audience, seeing the same problems year after year, still attended the forum, firmly declared (sometimes yelled) their requests, and hung around for an extra half hour to continue their discussions in twos and threes. It seemed more like a group of people who, wise enough to know that they can never effect as much change as they wish, are also the types that find it more fun to care than not.