| 13 | May-June, 1987, the birth of Unity Playlot Park
In May, the Park District asked us to do some work. We recruited 50 neighbors who worked all weekend, carrying sod, dumping and raking mulch, planting trees and shrubs, and painting the fence green. [insert partial page of 4 reduced-sized, captioned photos: showing leaders working Joel & Samuel, Connie, Nora, Miguel] We planned and advertised the June 13, 1987 victory celebration. 1
In June, we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on a sunny, Saturday afternoon. [insert 3 captioned photos of Delia & babies and Jesse, Manuel, Tish Martin and Don Nash, kids lined up before ribbon] Mayor Washington had been re-elected, but did not attend the ceremony, and he would die in office five months later, in the first year of his second term. Jesse Madison looked like he was in a wedding party. He announced his pilot program, and took interviews, bows and applause. He had brought his entire entourage. His last words to us were: “Now, I expect you to be the official group to look after the park. Every park will have one.” That advisory council concept would be formally implemented with rules and regulations in 1993, under Mayor Daley, for the entire Park District system. 2
The playlot improvement pilot program was approved and funded in 1987. The Park District later budgeted for the soft-surfacing of 100 playlots a year in 1988, 1989 and 1990, until all 300 Chicago playlots had been made over, consistent with evolving national standards in playground safety. Their reconstruction occurred mostly during the mayoral tenure of Eugene Sawyer, Washington’s appointed successor, during which time Jesse Madison remained as Park District Commissioner. When Richard M. Daley was elected Mayor in the special election of 1989, he inherited an ongoing playlot improvement program and a new policy that now regarded the 300 City playlots, not as liabilities to be sold, but as assets and hubs of community activity.
Unity Playlot Park would be expanded three more times in the next 15 years, after which it became known as Unity Park. The advisory council, composed of local parents and neighbors, continued to organize and involve the neighborhood in approving and overseeing the details of these expansions. In 2005, the advisory council invited Jesse Madison and Tish Martin to a fundraising benefit in the garden behind El Cid Restaurant on Kedzie Avenue, and presented them with an award from the community commemorating their leadership in saving and improving all the neighborhood playlots in Chicago. [insert and describe link to edited video of event]