The Woodlawn Community Summit is a collaboration of neighbors, youth groups, elected leaders, business owners, and community stakeholders seeking to promote the comprehensive growth and well-being of Woodlawn and its surrounding communities.

With leadership from the South East Chicago Commission, the Summit has grown from its infancy into a standing-room-only community leadership model worthy of recognition and replication as a model for civic engagement.

The Woodlawn Community, including communities on Chicago’s mid-south side, is undergoing a historic transformation.  The Obama Center has begun construction, new housing developments and important infrastructure is planned; all for a new and exciting opportunity for residents, stakeholders and business owners.

Join us for this annual event, designed by residents for residents.  You are invited to learn more about the proposed improvements for community engagement, safety, housing, sustainability and overall development.  And the Summit is a great connection for a strong network of resources and support.


15th Annual Woodlawn Community Summit

The Woodlawn Community Summit Advisory Committee is excited to announce the 15th Annual Woodlawn Community Summit, a community-driven forum aimed at fostering unity, engaging in thoughtful discourse, and creating lasting connections among residents of Chicago.  PRESS RELEASE

15th Annual Woodlawn Community Summit

Celebrating 15 Years of Service

Saturday, March 9, 2024

8:00 AM – 12:30 PM 


The University of Chicago

Edith Abbott Hall, Lobby

969 E. 60th Street

Chicago, IL 60637


This is a special invitation to reunite our neighbors, stakeholders and business leaders to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Woodlawn Community Summit and take a look at where we started, where we are now, and what the possibilities are in the next five years.

Join us as we celebrate fifteen years of engagement and community leadership from those who live, work and invest in Woodlawn.


8:00 am   Attendee Check In

8:15 am   Coffee and Conversations

9:00 am   Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:15 am   Special Introductions

9:30 am   Plenary Panel Discussion

10:45 am  Breakout Sessions

12:00 pm  Wrap Up
                  Housing Bus Tour


Mayor Brandon Johnson
City of Chicago

Welcome Letter

Governor J.B. Pritzker
State of Illinois

Welcome Letter

Senator Dick Durbin
State of Illinois

Welcome Video

Plenary Panel Discussion

Our Community: Past, Present and Future

This conversation will be a hearty retrospective discussion regarding our community. Let’s take a look at the past 15 years – where we started, where we are now, and what the possibilities are in the next 5 years.

Moderated by Felicia Dawson, Vice President, POAH, this session will include perspectives from:

  • Dorri McWhorter, President/CEO, YMCA Chicago
  • Naomi Davis, President/Founder, Blacks in Green
  • Chef Tiffany Williams, Owner, Exquisite Catering Company
  • Joel Hamernick, Founder, The Coach House Solutions Group

Breakout Sessions

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Principles and Strategies to Start and Grow your Business.

This session will present key principles and strategies to develop your capacity as an entrepreneur. You will learn (1) about new economic opportunities for businesses through the City of Chicago and (2) how to gain access to capital, contracting opportunities and business development technical assistant resources.

  • Kenya K. Merritt, Deputy Mayor of Business and Neighborhood Development, City of Chicago
  • Alyssa Berman-Cutler, Executive Director of Community Development, The University of Chicago, Office of Civic Engagement
  • Dr. Ogbonna Bowden, Owner, Woodlawn Dental Gallery
  • Rex Ingram, Store Owner, The UPS Store


YOUTH AND PUBLIC SAFETY:  Spring Community Listening Session by UChicago’s Public Safety Advisory Council (PSAC).

This informative session will include panelists engaged in youth programming to enhance public safety, including services and programs offered by CPD, UCPD, and community-based organizations. Participants will also be engaged in thoughtful conversation about improving public safety for young individuals on and near the University’s Hyde Park Campus.

  • Aisha Oliver, Executive Director and Founder, Root 2 Fruit
  • Jermaine Harris, Lieutenant, Chicago Police Department
  • Jennifer Maddox, Executive Director, Future Ties
  • Kyle Bowman, Chief of Police, University of Chicago Police Department


BIG JUSTICE TCTAC: A Blacks in Green Environmental Justice Technical Assistance Center Taps into Historic Biden-Harris Funds to Transform Our Underserved Places into Thriving Communities

Learn about Blacks in Green, EPA Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center (EJ TCTAC). The center will empower communities to enhance their capabilities, discover effective solutions, receive essential training, and foster strong collaborative efforts to address environmental injustices. Learn how to use historic Biden-Harris funds to transform our underserved places into thriving communities.

  • Naomi Davis, Founder/CEO, Blacks In Green
  • Suzanne Waddell, Outreach and Engagement Liaison, Blacks In Green


LEGAL:  Estate Planning – Wills and Trusts

The path to estate planning can be very confusing. This session will help you understand and determine how to plan and protect yourself and your family assets.

  • Rev. Aaron J. McLeod, Esq.  Attorney At Law


HOUSING: Creative ways to Increase & Stabilize Homeownership in Woodlawn

Sponsored by Associated Bank, this informative session will offer clarity about real estate and for-sale housing projects and properties in Woodlawn and nearby neighborhoods. Industry experts will introduce properties that support housing options for all income levels, including low-to-moderate families and occupants. Also, you will learn about resources to lower your taxes including exemptions, subsidies, and financial assistance to purchase your new home.

Moderated by Amber S. Hendley, Director of Research, Woodstock Institute

  • Cassandra Sneed, REALTOR ®️ Principal Broker, Aspire Group Powered by Exit Strategy Realty
  • Paula M. Grantt, CRA Senior Residential Lending Manager, Associated Bank
  • Fritz Kaegi, Cook County Assessor, Cook County
  • Janece Simmons, VP of Community and Housing Services, Far South CDC & Exit Strategy Realty

Housing Bus Tour

Summit attendees are invited to take a residential tour of Woodlawn and neighboring communities to see homes for sale and new property developments coming soon.  Save your seat. Space is limited and seats are first come, first serve. Advance reservation required.

Alicia August Wright


A’Vents by August

Sandra Bivens

Executive Director

51st Street Business Association

Diane Burnham

Executive Director

South East Chicago Commission

Naomi Davis

Founder, Executive Director

Blacks in Green

Felicia Dawson

Vice President

Preservation of Affordable Housing

Liz Gardner


Woodlawn Community Summit

Paula M. Grantt

Vice President

Associated Bank, N.A.

Jawanda Hairston

Community Leader

Woodlawn Community Summit

Corey Howard

Community Leader

Woodlawn Community Summit

Terri Kilbane, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Loyola University

Deidre McGraw


Woodlawn Community Summit

and D’Luxe Connections

Kamaria Ngozi

Community Leader

Woodlawn Community Summit

Alice Smith Jones

Community Leader/Artist

Woodlawn Botanical Nature Center

& International Spirit

Raymonde Vance

Office Administrator

South East Chicago Commission

Suzanne Waddell


Blacks in Green

Wendy Walker Williams

Executive Director, Community Partnerships

University of Chicago, Office of Civic Engagement

Ticina Williams


Creativiti Custom Solutions

Founded in 2009


Featured Speakers

Local Leaders


Attendees + Volunteers

History of the Summit

In the Fall of 2009, resident of the Kenwood Homeowners Association saw a need to connect with other neighbors in Woodlawn. After attending a meeting with the Woodlawn Neighbors Association, the two groups worked together and organized the first Woodlawn Community Summit: Building Bridges One Block Club at a Time. The University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement was the first stakeholder who offered resources in order to make the first event a success.

On Saturday, March 31, 2012, the Woodlawn Summit Steering Committee convened the Third Annual Woodlawn Community Summit “A Call to Action” at The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. The Summit brought together a coalition of residents, neighborhood associations, visionaries, community and civic officials to discuss safety, urban agriculture, local business districts, and the Green Healthy Neighborhoods Land Use Plan during summit.

Within seven years, the Summit grew from 100 attendees to over 450 participants. Special guests have included national television personality, the Honorable Judge Greg Mathis; the late Bishop Arthur M. Brazier; Dr. Brazier; representatives from the Mayor’s Office City of Chicago and Michael A. Strautmanis as Vice President of Civic Engagement, all of whom are interested in the vitality and growth of the Woodlawn Community.

As an outgrowth of the Summit, The Woodlawn Peace Project and The Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce were born. The Woodlawn Peace Project is a jobs-for-youth program and received its first round of funding. The Chamber is a business advocacy, education and support organization that works in partnership with its members, residents and local officials to increase economic development and competitiveness for the Woodlawn community.

Woodlawn is now a stronger and essential community in the rebuilding of Chicago’s southside.  We know we are stronger when we work together, and we are excited about the next five years of development.