A sparsely attended community forum at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center on Saturday highlighted different visions among city officials and residents of West Center City about the future of the 43-year-old facility. At the heart of the conversation were governance and local community input.
Introducing the speakers, Jeff Lott regretted that very few members of the surrounding community were present. MCP organizers had difficulty gaining commitments from the city for accountable speakers at the event, which was publicized in a last-minute fashion, Lott said.
At its September March for a Culture of Peace in West Center City, the broad-based community coalition announced a focus on “Hicks” Anderson for the 2015–2016. Around 300 marchers streamed by the center, at the corner of Fifth and Madison, along their one-mile route.
Chandra Pitts of One Village Alliance moderated the forum, which featured James Lane, Wilmington’s director of parks and recreation, and his deputy, Shawn Allen, who vigorously challenged 21-year-old panelist Kyrone Davis’ observation that fewer youth were inside the building than were hanging out on the surrounding streets.
Davis came up from age 12 at “Hicks” Anderson and is now a nationally ranked professional boxer.
Lane said that longer hours during the week and possible weekend opening depended largely on money from the city budget. “Hicks” Anderson is the only city-owned community center. Lane seemed lukewarm to proposals for a governing board that might seek private funding for improvements at the center, although he seemed to indicate that a community advisory committee might be formed. Allen extolled a variety of programs at “Hicks” Anderson and said that the center had 5,000 Facebook friends.
Also on the panel was Wilmington Police Capt. Stephen Misetic, who is in charge of patrol officers in the police district that includes West Center City. Mistook lamented that there is no civic organization in the local neighborhood with which police can word, citing nearby community groups like those in Trinity Vicinity, Quaker Hill, and the West Side.
From public comment at the forum, Misetic learned that a West Center City association actually does exist. As the forum ended, he was talking with resident Dwight Davis, who is seeking to revitalize a neighborhood association that he said was originally responsible for the creation of the community center.
Wilmington City Planner Leonard Sophrin, a member of the audience, spoke about conceptual ideas being discussed within the administration. He said that the “inside-outside” nature of the center, built after Wilmington’s 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated it from the larger community. He describe how the center might be better integrated into adjacent open spaces, playgrounds, and parks.
There were several audience questions about opportunities to volunteer at the center and a conversation about safety for volunteers, with assurances that there is adequate security at the center.
The Movement for a Culture of Peace will remain engaged with the city administration and neighborhood groups in the effort to revitalize the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center.
For more on Saturday’s meeting, see the News-Journal article: Community considers the future os ‘Hicks’ Anderson center.