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Chicago Urban League Raises More Than $1 Million as Its 59th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner Pays Tribute to Those Who Work for Racial Equity

Virtual Gala Caps Off First 2-Day Fellowship Weekend on Historic Night

CHICAGO (November 8, 2020) –  Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson announced that the organization’s Golden Fellowship Weekend events raised more than $1 million to support its work to improve the lives of Black families and communities in Chicago.

More than 270 households logged onto the League’s 59th Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner held virtually on Saturday, November 7. Virtual guests included supporters from the corporate, civic, nonprofit, academic and faith communities. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle offered greetings, and ABC 7 news anchor and reporter Hosea Sanders served as host. The gala followed the League’s first-ever Golden Fellowship Exchange, a three-part virtual conversation series on dismantling structural racism that was attended by nearly 200 people on Friday, November 6.

The weekend’s virtual events reflected the need to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like organizations across the city and the globe, we have had to pivot our programming to virtual formats this year to keep our staff and our clients safe. I am proud to say that we continued to make progress toward our mission,” said Freeman-Wilson. “Similarly, although our fellowship this year must be virtual, it is no less meaningful. We simply could not do the work that we do without the support of our many funding partners and individual donors. We are incredibly grateful.”

In keeping with the weekend’s theme, Black Chicago Matters: Inequity Unmasked, the League paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement and to civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., who offered remarks live via Zoom. The League honored Dr. Ngoze Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, with its 2020 Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Individual Service Award for her commitment to equity and public health. George Wu, a leadership professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, received the 2020 Humanitarian Award for his contributions to advancing equity for Black leaders through the League’s IMPACT Leadership Development Program. The 2020 Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award, the League’s highest honor, was bestowed posthumously to the late civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis.

The evening also included three performances by award-winning artists from Chicago. Gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds performed live from the Hyatt Regency Chicago, and R&B soul singers The Emotions and actor, author, activist and musical artist Common each delivered concert performances via video.

While a few League staff members were on hand at the Hyatt to help manage the event, the League’s guests and most staff members participated virtually. Some hosted dinner parties in their homes, with gala meals provided by four Black-owned catering companies:  Exquisite Catering, Fuze Catering, Nicole Jordan Catering, and Out of the Box. For sponsors who chose not to host dinner parties, the League delivered gala meals to first responders and essential workers in the name of the sponsor.

Freeman-Wilson noted that the gala highlighting social justice and economic equity coincided with the declaration of a winner in the November 3rd presidential election.

“The Chicago Urban League is pleased to congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on their historic election. As a non-partisan organization, we do not state a preference for parties. As those who fight for justice and equity on behalf of Black people, we celebrate the election of a Black woman Vice President and understand the significance of her election as the first female and first Black American to this office. All of our children can now see their likenesses in the White House,” Freeman-Wilson said.

She added, “With Senator Harris’ election, we are one step closer to becoming a country where we can all aspire to our greatest dreams. We will continue to fight for racial justice and economic equity because, as historic as this day is, we understand that there is still much work to do.”

Since March, the Chicago Urban League has served nearly 1,000 youth through scholarships, school supplies and virtual programming. It has partnered with the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois to provide emergency support for more than 1,000 small business owners and counseled hundreds of Chicago residents in need of rental or mortgage assistance. More than 2,200 individuals have attended its virtual job fairs, and hundreds have been placed in jobs. The organization serves more than 15,000 adults and youth annually through programming and civic engagement.

To support the work of the Chicago Urban League, visit

About the Chicago Urban League

Since 1916, the Chicago Urban League—through collaborative community, corporate and civic relationships—has helped people find jobs, secure affordable housing, enhance their educational experiences, and grow their businesses. We are passionate advocates for economic and racial equity for Black Chicagoans. Visit and follow us on Twitter at @ChiUrbanLeague and Facebook at @ChicagoUrbanLeague.