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UNCF “A Mind Is…” Gala raises $700,000

It promised glitz and glamour, top-line entertainment, an artist’s utopia, music, dancing, scrumptious gourmet dining and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised in scholarship monies. And the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) “A Mind Is…” Gala did not disappoint. Held recently at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, the festive affair, which included a thousand attendees, was a spectacular party filled with an important purpose – to help more students get to and through college.

According to UNCF regional development director, Workplace, Lisa Rollins, “We’ve raised $700,000 and monies are still coming in from donations and our online auction. It’s never too late to give.”

The silent auction featured 24 pieces from Zimbabwean visual artist Kudzai B. Mutasa, concert tickets to see international superstars including Janet Jackson, trips to fun and exotic locations such as the French Riviera, Mozambique and Abu Dhabi, and items from the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears. A few auction items are still available online at

Throughout the evening, Mutasa painted an art piece live, on site in the ballroom which added to the evening’s excitement.

Nationally-syndicated radio personality Trey White of WGCI-FM and NBC5 meteorologist Iisha Scott shared co-host duties for the swanky, $1000 per ticket, black-tie soiree that will help provide college scholarships for deserving students of all ethnicities. From 2022 – 2023, UNCF awarded 541 scholarships to students in Illinois.

As a major event during the year-long 80th anniversary celebration of UNCF, the gala was a feast for the eyes and ears. From the red-carpet reception to the opening of the doors to a breathtakingly beautiful grand ballroom, it was clear that the AMI Gala was raising the bar.

The program began with the Chicago State University Music Trio singing a soul-stirring a capella version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Then, international Grammy Award-winning superstar Lionel Ritchie gave a touching video testimonial about UNCF’s cultural and societal significance.

Then, just like on the campuses of historically black colleges, The Pack Drumline gave a high-intensity performance in all-white. They were followed by a simultaneous Greek Stroll featuring six of the Divine 9 sororities and fraternities with their colors and calls. They came to represent, and they did. Spoken word artist Derrick Christian also performed.

As part of the program, honors were given to those who have worked diligently to support UNCF’s mission, including Corliss V. Garner, EVP and Chief DEI Officer at Old National Bank, who has supported UNCF for decades. Garner received the AMI Community Award. The AMI Corporate award was presented to Target and accepted by Ron Brown, vice president of Community Impact, and Jalah Hood, one of the corporation’s Target Scholars.

According to Rollins, “Target remains an outstanding corporate citizen. The company began supporting UNCF more than a decade ago, right here in Chicago and is now a UNCF national sponsor. We are so grateful for this level of corporate support.”

Rev. Otis and First Lady Monica Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ were AMI Alumni Award honorees. AMI Advocate Award honorees included Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Mattie Hunter, Illinois State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer and Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore.

Chicago artist Deborah Hand created the awards, unique sculptures that reflect the cultural beauty of the African Diaspora.

Marseil “Action” Jackson, radio personality and co-host of “The Brunch Bunch” on 1390 AM Gospel Radio, served as the Paddle Raise Auctioneer, raising almost $50,000 on-site at the gala.

The evening’s entertainment highlight was Eric Benét, the R&B/neo soul singer-songwriter, actor, and four-time Grammy Award nominee. During his hour-long performance, he set the stage on fire, commanding the room with his smooth, melodious voice, singing hit after hit, interacting with guests, and sharing personal stories.

UNCF’s iconic motto now revised still rings true…a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in.

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