More than 1,500 supporters attended the Chicago Urban League’s 57th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner held November 3rd at the Hilton Chicago. The black-tie gala, the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, raised more than $2 million in donations and pledges to support the League’s work to help people find jobs, secure affordable housing, pursue educational opportunities, and launch or grow their businesses.
Hosted by Chicago comedian Damon Williams for a seventh year, the gala focused on the theme #CurrentSituation: Our Race to Equity, which emphasizes the long-running economic and social disparities faced by Black communities in Chicago, as well as the League’s progress and ongoing efforts toward achieving equity for African Americans in several realms, including employment, housing and education.
Interim President and CEO Barbara Lumpkin expressed her delight and gratitude over the event’s success.
“We are grateful to our many partners, donors and sponsors for their unwavering support of the Chicago Urban League,” said Lumpkin. “Their support propels the League in its mission of strengthening Chicago’s communities.”
National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial delivered the gala’s keynote address and shared strong words about suffrage and democracy.
“The last couple of years have been a challenging time for us as a nation, and as a civil rights and racial justice community,” said Morial. “As Urban Leaguers, we have not yet seen a challenge we did not rise to meet. I believe most Americans believe in the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy. Democracy. Diversity. Dignity. This is what America truly represents. If we commit ourselves to upholding ‘the Three Ds,’ we can be the country we truly are meant to be.”
The coveted Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Award was presented to longtime businessman John W. Rogers, Jr., Chairman, CEO & Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments. Rogers is an avid supporter of the Chicago Urban League, a past Board Chairman and a Lifetime Board Director. Named for Bill Berry, CEO of the Chicago Urban League from 1956-1969 and key activist in the Civil Rights Movement, the award is given annually to leaders who make a mark locally and nationally through hard work, perseverance and creativity.
The League’s Lester H. McKeever, Jr. Individual Service Award was presented to Dorothy R. Leavell, National Newspaper Publishers Association Chairman and Publisher of the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader newspapers. The award is named for longtime CPA, accounting firm principal and Chicago Urban League Lifetime Board Director Lester H. McKeever, Jr. Created in 2016, this award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the quality of life for African Americans in Chicago through volunteerism and who embodies excellence through community service.
Within the three minutes allotted for her remarks, Leavell received several standing ovations for reminding everyone of the historic role the Black Press has played in the Civil Rights movement and the continued fight against fake news.
“As you know,” she said, “the Black Press in America has been at the forefront of battling what Trump calls ‘fake news’ since it first arrived on March 16, 1827. Our first campaign was battling the lie that we were nothing more than three fifths human and therefore our bondage was just and necessary.”
The 57th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner co-chairs were Charles Matthews, President and CEO of Peoples Gas, and Melvin Williams, President of Nicor Gas.
The event ended on a high note with a rousing performance by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, who performed crowd favorites including “Joy and Pain,” “Happy Feelings” and “Before I Let Go.”