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CUL Youth Bloggers Share Experience at Golden Fellowship Dinner

My Experience at the Golden Fellowship Dinner
Blogs by Diana Bender and Jessica Clark

Diana Bender is a 17-year-old senior at Gwendolyn College Prep High School and plans to pursue a career in Social Work.

On Saturday, November 7th, I had the honor of attending the 54th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner to celebrate the Chicago Urban League. The event was hosted by comedian “funny man” Damon Williams along with a show-stopping performance by the multi-talented Brandy Norwood. This year’s theme was “Inspiration for the Next Generation,” which was greatly executed throughout the event and the guests. The evening filled me with an abundance of inspiration and hope that I can accomplish anything that I put mind to. Looking up to mentors from the Urban League, I grasp that reward does not come without hard work.

As a young lady in the next generation, I’ve learned that we must continue to be the light in the darkness-Iyanla Vanzant, and not let the media choose our fate. Growing up in Chicago, there are many eyes and people waiting to judge us, so, although every person might not get it right, it’s imperative to represent the best YOU at all times because the hidden standards of my generation are set 3x higher than others. The pressure and spotlight will always be on us.

From taking in the wise words of CUL Board Chair Maria Green,” Someone helped each of us, and now it is our turn to give back and reach out to today’s generation.” This reminded me that it takes a village to reach the next level. The CUL is our village!

The main message that I took from the event was Leadership.

All leadership begins within you and must be developed and shaped as we grow into enduring leaders. I believe that leadership principles are endless and each person’s definition of it might be different, but we all share the same end goal — success. Leadership starts with a condition of the heart and the willingness to go the extra mile and get your hands dirty. Make a difference with a purpose. Leadership is about you, the people you influence, and a belief that you can make a difference and have an impact.

I am very thankful to be a member of the Chicago Urban League.  As an emerging leader, I have wonderful mentors to look up to, endless opportunities and a strong support system. This year’s Golden Fellowship Dinner has given me the opportunity to be surrounded and interact with incredible leaders that have faith in my generation and who are willing to take that extra step to push us into the greatness that we will become. It’s all I could ever ask for.

Jessica Clark is a 17 year-old senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and plans to double major in Communications and Marketing/Advertising.

It was my honor to serve as the youth media for this year’s 54th Annual Chicago Urban League Golden Fellowship Dinner. Following the theme Inspiration for the Next Generation, I left the beautiful Hilton banquet hall extremely inspired. From the inspirational speeches to the video interviews of Chicago Urban League participants, the words shared left me with a greater appreciation for the Chicago Urban League’s work but also reiterated the importance of giving back to your community.

The Chicago Urban League’s mission reminds me of the W.E.B. Dubois’ concept, The Talented Tenth because the CUL provides a surplus of resources to the Chicago community, thus creating opportunities for the future generations. Maria Green, Chicago Urban League’s Board Chair, told the audience why we all believe and depend on the Urban League. She told us, “Someone helped each of us and now it is our turn to give back and reach out to today’s generation.” Her words reminded us that our purpose is to serve our community and to be our communities light in a time of darkness.

I was blessed with an opportunity to speak with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Toni Preckwinkle, Kurt Summers, Isabel Wilkerson, and others on ways to combat the negative issues of our society. Mayor Emmanuel stressed the importance of individuals shaping their own identities, instead of allowing mainstream media to shape ones’ identity. Rev. Jackson stressed the importance of voting so that our voices are heard. Toni Preckwinkle challenged the youth to take societal pressures (police brutality, racism, sexism, etc.) and utilize them as their fuel to inspire others, instead of allowing those pressures to define who we are. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson tasked this generation to learn more about our ancestral history to learn about ourselves to prevent social issues from getting in our way. Lastly, Chicago historian Timuel Black stressed the importance of unity and positivity so that we, as a community, can propel towards a brighter future.

Outside of the networking opportunities, delicious food, amusement from host Damon Williams, and seeing Brandy perform, the main takeaway was realizing my duty to my community. Just like the Chicago Urban League has given to me, my obligation is to ignite a flame of inspiration in others to prepare them to live up to their full potential as leaders. Kurt Summers told us that, as leaders, we must understand our worth and our value, which will fuel us with the inspiration and motivation to do wonderful things.

Being a part of the Chicago Urban League has provided me with so many wonderful opportunities, including writing this blog post. The CUL has believed in me and my endeavors, and has constantly kept me inspired. This year’s 54th Annual Gala event has only left me, a member of the next generation, with a greater appreciation of the Chicago Urban League and even more inspired to follow my dreams, so that I can give back to my community.