The Obamas' field guide to Hyde Park

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We could take a stroll around Hyde Park, and I could point out landmarks like Rockefeller Chapel or Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap.

We might even stop by my favorite spot for fajitas, Mellow Yellow, just off Harper Square.


I'd also probably take you The Cove on 55th, the closest dive bar to the lake.

But if you want a better Hyde Park tour guide than I'd be -- maybe someone who lives in one of those stately Hyde Park mansions and happens to be running for president -- then I'm here to help.

We could take a stroll around Hyde Park, and I could point out landmarks like Rockefeller Chapel or Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap.

We might even stop by my favorite spot for fajitas, Mellow Yellow, just off Harper Square.

But if you want a better Hyde Park tour guide than I'd be -- maybe someone who lives in one of those stately Hyde Park mansions and happens to be running for president -- then I'm here to help.

I caught up with Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, while she crisscrossed the country on the campaign trail.

She was kind enough to offer up some family favorites for outsiders who don't know where to find the good stuff.

"I love living in Hyde Park, so close to so many of our friends and family," Michelle says. "The community is diverse and very family-oriented, and, as the mom of two daughters, I really appreciate that."

Besides, Hyde Park is where the Obamas shared their first kiss -- outside the Baskin Robbins on 53rd and Dorchester.

Family suppers out often include a pie at Pizza Capri, or Caribbean grub at Calypso in Harper Square.

Back when they could blend into a crowd, the Obamas would take their girls to enjoy the lake breeze at Promontory Point.

For years, the Obamas have shopped at 57th Street Books.

"The variety of titles, the programs for kids and the neighborhood feel make it a wonderful place to take a walk to and browse around," Michelle Obama says.

Now, the store has a shelf dedicated to just Obama books, a tribute to its most famous regular, even though the bookstore manager hasn't seen them in quite some time.

But they are pretty busy these days.

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5 Comments

Cornell Drive is named after Paul Cornell who founded HYDE PARK.

he came from upstate New York .Was a Lawyer and Real Estate Developer. Born 8-5-1822; died 3-3-1904

Obama is a class act. I ran into him a few times before he was really famous--once in the Hyde Park Blockbuster on 53rd St. when he was an Illinois State Senator, once in the Office Depot on Lake Park right after he won the US Senate seat, and the other outside of the East Bank Club last Summer. All three times he was a true gentleman, allowing me to tell him my concerns and answering my questions honestly and directly. He is the real deal--he's not the typical politician that will blow smoke up your yahoo.

RmIx5z Numerous honorary degrees; major thoroughfare in Detroit is named after her; SCLC sponsors an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award; Spingarn Medal, NAACP, 1979; Martin Luther King Jr Award, 1980; Service Award, Ebony, 1980; Martin Luther King Jr Nonviolent Peace Prize, 1980; The Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award, Wonder Women Foundation, 1984; Medal of Honor, awarded during the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, 1986; Martin Luther King Jr Leadership Award, 1987; Adam Clayton Powell Jr Legislative Achievement Award, 1990; Rosa Parks Peace Prize; honored with Day of Recognition by Wayne County Commission; U.S. Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, 1999.

According to the old saying, "some people are born to greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Greatness was certainly thrust upon Rosa Parks, but the modest former seamstress has found herself equal to the challenge. Known today as "the mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Parks almost single-handedly set in motion a veritable revolution in the southern United States, a revolution that would eventually secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. "For those who lived through the unsettling 1950s and 1960s and joined the civil rights struggle, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks was more, much more than the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama," wrote Richette L. Haywood in Jet. "[Hers] was an act that forever changed White America's view of Black people, and forever changed America itself."

From a modern perspective, Parks's actions on December 1, 1955 hardly seem extraordinary: tired after a long day's work, she refused to move from her seat in order to accommodate a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery. At the time, however, her defiant gesture actually broke a law, one of many bits of Jim Crow legislation that assured second-class citizenship for blacks. Overnight Rosa Parks became a symbol for hundreds of thousands of frustrated black Americans who suffered outrageous indignities in a racist society. As Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote in Ebony, Parks was consumed not by the prospect of making history, but rather "by the tedium of survival in the Jim Crow South." The tedium had become unbearable, and Rosa Parks acted to change it. Then, she was an outlaw. Today she is a hero.

3Y57Ow Parks was born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. When she was still a young child her parents separated, and she moved with her mother to Montgomery. There she grew up in an extended family that included her maternal grandparents and her younger brother, Sylvester. Montgomery, Alabama, was hardly a hospitable city for blacks in the 1920s and 1930s. As she grew up, Rosa was shunted into second-rate all-black schools, such as the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, and she faced daily rounds of laws governing her behavior in public places. Ms. magazine contributor Eloise Greenfield noted that Rosa always detested having to drink from special water fountains and having to forgo lunch at the whites-only restaurants downtown. Still, wrote Greenfield, "with her mother's help, Rosa was able to grow up proud of herself and other black people, even while living with these rules.... People should be judged by the respect they have for themselves and others, Mrs. McCauley said. Rosa grew up believing this."

mzIw8w The Jim Crow rules for the public bus system in Montgomery almost defy belief today. Black customers had to enter the bus at the front door, pay the fare, exit the front door and climb aboard again at the rear door. Even though the majority of bus passengers were black, the front four rows of seats were always reserved for white customers. Bennett wrote: "It was a common sight in those days to see Black men and women standing in silence and silent fury over the four empty seats reserved for whites." Behind these seats was a middle section that blacks could use only if there was no white demand. However, if so much as one white customer needed a seat in this "no- man's land," all the blacks in that section had to move. Bennett concluded: "This was, as you can see, pure madness, and it caused no end of trouble and hard feeling." In fact, Parks herself was once thrown off a bus for refusing to endure the charade of entry by the back door. In the year preceding Parks's fateful ride, three other black women had been arrested for refusing to give their seats to white men. Still the system was firmly entrenched, and Parks would often walk to her home to spare herself the humiliation of the bus.

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on May 25, 2007 10:06 AM.

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