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Chicago Urban League Announces Changes to Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner to Accommodate COVID-19 Restrictions and Support Black-Owned Businesses


2-Day Event Will Include Pre-Gala Generational Conversations, At-Home Dinner Parties, and Performances by Common, The Emotions, and Jonathan McReynolds

The Chicago Urban League is making several changes to its signature annual fundraiser in light of the two biggest issues of 2020: COVID-19 and racial injustice.

The 59th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner will include a limited-attendance, in-person and socially distanced masquerade gala held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  There will also be an option for supporters to participate virtually by hosting a dinner party at their home, office or venue of their choice. The Chicago Urban League will partner with local Black-owned businesses to cater offsite dinner parties.  For the first time, the League is also adding a pre-gala virtual conversation series on Friday called the Golden Fellowship Exchange.

The two-day event, themed Black Chicago Matters: Inequity Unmasked, will be held Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7. The theme highlights the ongoing fight for racial equity that has been magnified this year through undeniable displays of structural racism and the resulting calls for social justice.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO of the Chicago Urban League, announced the plans today via Zoom.

“Like so many organizations, we had to reimagine our annual gala. We are doing so in a way that gives our corporate supporters and community members an opportunity to have their voices heard while supporting two worthy causes,” said Freeman-Wilson. “Over the past six to eight months, issues of racial inequity have been front and center, and we want to highlight the value of diverse measures and coalition building in addressing the scourge of racism. That is why we added the Golden Fellowship Exchange.”

“Additionally, because so many businesses have struggled, we want to use this year’s gala to highlight several Black-owned businesses,” she added. “As a result, we hope some of our supporters will find new partners for their catering needs.”

Freeman-Wilson also announced that the 2020 gala will include three live musical performances by award-winning artists with Chicago roots. Stellar Award-winning gospel singer and songwriter Jonathan McReynolds will perform in-person at the Hyatt. Grammy Award-winning R&B group The Emotions will perform live via video, followed by artist, actor, author and activist Common. Common has been a winner of the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and the Grammy Award.


November 6 GFE Will Feature Multi-Generation Ideas Exchange

The inaugural Golden Fellowship Exchange (GFE) will explore our theme, Black Chicago Matters: Inequity Unmasked, through three virtual conversations among leaders from different generations and sectors. Panel discussions will focus on dismantling structural racism through the following topics:

  • Entrepreneur Exchange: Moving Black-owned Businesses Beyond Surviving to Thriving
  • Advocacy Exchange: Driving Change from the Streets to the Polls
  • Leadership Exchange: Increasing Diversity in C-Suites and Boardrooms

GFE speakers will be announced in early October.


November 7 GFD Will Include Virtual and Live Components

The Golden Fellowship Dinner is one of Chicago’s most anticipated galas and the Chicago Urban League’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It raises critically needed dollars that allow the organization to continue its service to thousands of Chicagoans annually. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 GFD will observe the State of Illinois’ restrictions on in-person gatherings.

Those who cannot join in person, can still join us virtually and enjoy an evening of fellowship by hosting a social-distanced dinner party at your home or other location:

  • Three-course meals will be prepared by local Black-owned caterers
  • Receive a unique digital link to access the event online, including our award ceremony and performances by Common, The Emotions, and Jonathan McReynolds
  • Turn on your webcams to see and be seen by other virtual gala attendees

The 59th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner Co-Chairs are David R. Casper, CEO of BMO Harris Bank, and Hope Bentley, Senior Director of U.S. Supply Chain Management for McDonald’s Corp.

Ticket sales will begin October 1, 2020. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Erskine “Chuck” Faush at