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Chicago Urban League’s 61st Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner raises more than $2 Million

Award-winning entertainer Charlie Wilson culminates the night with an electrifying performance

The Chicago Urban League’s 61st Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner (GFD) raised more than $2 million on Saturday, November 5 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk. More than 1,800 of the city’s corporate leaders, human rights advocates, philanthropists, clergy and elected officials were present for the evening, where the theme was “The Fight for Equity Continues: Get in League with Us!” The funds raised will benefit year-round programming for about 15,000 Chicagoans.

“We are so grateful for our generous sponsors, partners, friends, and family who showed up and showed out this year for GFD,” said Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson. “Due to their generosity, we were fortunate enough to raise more than $2 million dollars. Those dollars are critical to addressing producing and enhancing the work that our staff does in and around the community each and everyday day.”

The Golden Fellowship Dinner is the League’s signature gala. Each year, the event raises funds to support its work in helping people find and secure jobs, lock in affordable housing, improve their educational experiences, and nurture their businesses. GFD is one of the premier events during Chicago’s gala season, and that was evident by this year’s attendance just a few years after the start of the pandemic. Guests were excited to get dressed up and fellowship with one another while supporting a great cause.

The highlight of the evening were the speeches by this year’s honorees, including Chicago Community Trust’s immediate past CEO and current Spelman College President Dr. Helene Gayle, who received the Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Individual Service Award while Dr. Walter Massey, President Emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was honored with the Humanitarian Award. After inspiring nearly 300 guests during a riveting conversation earlier in the day at the Gleacher Center with Nykia Wright, CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of the groundbreaking 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones accepted the League’s highest honor – the esteemed Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award.

During her acceptance speech she noted the importance of the election and rallied gala attendees saying, “It’s important that we are gathering here tonight because we have a fight on our hands. So, the Urban League is going to require support. In some ways, the very fate of our democracy will be determined by what happens [November 8]. I also come from a Blue state, but there are no safe states in America. What happens to any state in this country is going to happen to all of us. After Tuesday, we are going to need all of our fighters. These are times that are going to require a great deal of courage. One thing I know from the 1619 Project is that Black people know how to fight.”

In addition to the honorees’ speeches, attendees were in for a treat as award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician Charlie Wilson closed out the dinner program. Along with his band, he performed hit after hit, including covers from other artists. Uncle Charlie, as he’s affectionately known, ended the evening with his chart-topping song with The Gap Band “Outstanding,” which was the perfect description for the night.

Comedian Damon Williams returned as the gala host. Reginald Miller from McDonald’s Corporation and Jim Reynolds and Bob Dunn from Equity Works served as this year’s gala co-chairs, and both companies were also leading Legacy Sponsors. Leadership sponsors included Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and iHeart Media Chicago.

This year’s After Party had a brand new format this year as it was open to ticketholders who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the gala dinner. It was co-hosted by Board Chair Dr. McKinney and actor LaRoyce Hawkins. Attendees enjoyed another performance by Windy Indie and danced the night away during an epic deejay battle between DJ 3 Snapz and JayiLLa.

“We cannot say thank you enough to everyone for helping making this one of our most successful Golden Fellowship Dinners to date,” continued Freeman-Wilson. “We look forward to seeing all of you next year for what’s sure to be an even bigger and better time dedicated to addressing and fighting for equity. Get in League with Us and join the fight!”

To learn more about the Chicago Urban League’s programs and to Get in League, be sure to visit Be sure to also visit the League’s Facebook page for more highlights from the gala.