Friends of the Parks’

2nd Annual “Parks as Democracy?”

Annual Luncheon and Conference



“In Black and White?

A Continuing Conversation about

Parks as Democratic Spaces



Friday June 8, 2018, & Saturday June 9, 2018

 Roosevelt University

 430 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605


Gilded Age park movement pioneers lauded and created national and urban park systems in the name of ensuring them as democratic spaces.  Parks were meant to be meeting places for the masses where everyone is equal; protected public lands held in trust by the government to promote the common good.

But our city recently has seen the guardians of the public trust give in to private exploitation of our park land. Park lovers surely have different points of view as to whether proposed uses are in line with the delicate balance between public enjoyment, natural resource management, and tourism and other economic development purposes that parks can play.

And, certainly, not everyone has experienced our parks as accessible and equitable over the years.  As Chicago’s famed Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance hosted the World Columbian Exposition 125 years ago, Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells spoke of lack of equity and inclusion of African-Americans while advocates for women and the LGBT community also spoke about similar issues.  And, 35 years ago, the Chicago Park District entered into a court-ordered Consent Decree in settlement of a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice because of discrimination against Chicago’s minority communities.

With this backdrop, please join Friends of the Parks for a provocative day-and-a-half gathering to study the history, analyze the issues, and develop action plans collaboratively to more fully promote and preserve our public lands as democratic spaces.


Friday June 8, 2018 11:30am – 1:30pm



Friday June 8- Saturday June 9, 2018


“State of the Parks” Symposium




Featuring Keynote Speaker Dick Simpson

Author, Professor, former City of Chicago Alderman, and now Department Head of UIC Political Science Department, Dick W. Simpson has uniquely combined a distinguished academic career with public service in government.

He is author and co-author of more than 20 books on political action, ethics, and politics; his most recent book, The Good Fight: Life Lessons from a Chicago Progressive (2017), touches upon his early life in Texas, moving to Chicago and the account of his life in academics and politics.


This year’s conference will start immediately after the luncheon, with the release of Friends of the Parks’ 2018 “State of the Parks” report, presented by Executive Director Juanita Irizarry, and dialogue.

Workshops will follow on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.

The event brings together a diverse group of park activists, advocates and park enthusiasts. The conference will feature expert panels, round table discussions, and small group working sessions to provide participants with essential tools to enhance their blueprint for success in all Chicago parks and playgrounds.



VIP Reception with Dick Simpson 10:30am—11:30pm


Annual Luncheon 11:30am—1:30pm

This year’s Annual Luncheon will feature a keynote address: “The Fight for Democracy:  The Role of Parks and Public Space” by Dick Simpson, Professor of Political Science at University of Illinois at Chicago, former Chicago alderman and author of The Good Fight: Life Lessons from a Chicago Progressive.


Conference 2:00pm—5:30 pm

Symposium “FOTP State of the Parks report”

Concurrent Sessions: FOTP Signature/Legacy Projects, Public Participation in Park planning, Spatial (In)Justice.


Reception & Annual Meeting 5:30pm—7:30pm




Conference 8:30am—4:00pm

Concurrent Tracks: FOTP Signature/Legacy Projects, Public Participation in Park Planning, & Spatial (In)Justice. Includes breakfast & lunch




Full Program Purchaser: *receive a pre-autographed copy of “The Good Fight: Life Lessons from a Chicago Progressive” This special offer is limited to ONLY the first 40 to register for the Annual Luncheon and Conference all-inclusive package.  Register today!

Saturday Conference: NO CHARGE for Park Advisory Council members & Park Partners Organizations members up to 5 members – Group must submit registration together.

Volunteer scholarships: Limited scholarships for volunteering to assist FOTP – Contact  [subject: volunteering] or call 312.857.2757

Membership rates available.  You can benefit from member rates.  Become a member TODAY at

Unable to join us? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution today at



SELECTION OF EVENTS | Please indicate quantity.

First forty (40) people to register for the Annual Luncheon and Conference all-inclusive package will  receive a pre-autographed copy of “The Good Fight: Life Lessons from a Chicago Progressive” at registration. This special offer is limited to ONLY the first forty registrants of the Annual Luncheon and Conference package

Sponsorship opportunities are available!  Please click here for sponsorship levels, and reach out to Sandra Del Toro at or 312-857-2757 x1 for more information on sponsorship opportunities.


Thank You To:

Our Conference Generous Sponsors:


Thank you to our Table Sponsors:

Lauren Moltz & John Clement


Check out last year’s conference tracks and sessions here! Check out last year’s conference moderators and speakers here!

With many thanks to Charlie Billups, here are some highlights from last year’s “Parks as Democracy?” conference: