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Chicago Urban League’s 62nd Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner raises nearly $2.4 Million

The Chicago Urban League’s 62nd Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner (GFD) raised nearly $2.4 million to support education, job training, housing, entrepreneurship, and leadership programs that serve more than 15,000 people each year. Almost 2,000 attendees, including corporate leaders, community activists, philanthropists, clergy, elected officials, and more, gathered at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk on Saturday, November 4, for a night that centered on the theme “Accelerating Equity: All Hands on Deck.”

Illinois State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, offered greetings to guests during the VIP reception at the start of the evening. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson each offered greetings at the beginning of the dinner program. Many other current and past elected officials were in attendance.

“Saturday night was a prime example of what it means to have ‘all hands on deck.’ While our final numbers are not in yet, thanks to support from our sponsors and the many friends who attended, we ended the evening of with commitments of nearly $2.4 million and counting,” said Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson. “We are especially grateful to Ted Koenig and Monroe Capital who stepped up to chair this year’s gala.”

During his remarks to the crowd, Koenig, Chairman and CEO of Monroe Capital LLC, noted, “The Chicago Urban League advocates every day for values that we also believe in at Monroe Capital. Diversity, equity, equality, and opportunity are at the top of that list.”

One of the highlights of the gala each year is honoring individuals who have made a difference in the Chicagoland community and nationally. This year’s honorees included Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League; Don and Liz Thompson, founders of Cleveland Avenue, LLC and the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFÉ); and Dr. Aleta Clark better known as “Englewood Barbie,” a philanthropist dedicated to helping the unhoused community.

Morial received the League’s highest honor, the Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Award, named for the civil rights trailblazer who led the Chicago Urban League from 1956-1969. The Thompsons received the Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Individual Service Award – named for long-time CPA, accounting firm principal and Chicago Urban League Life Director Lester H. McKeever, Jr. Clark was awarded the Humanitarian Award.

As Freeman-Wilson stated during her remarks for the evening:

“Tonight, we celebrate our phenomenal honorees—Dr. Aleta Clark, I am in awe of your heart and your labor of love—I hope that the people here who may not know about your work on behalf of the unhoused will learn about your journey and support you.

Liz and Don Thompson, you inspire us to give the best of ourselves and to bring out the best in others—you make Black love hip and inspirational.

And Brother Marc Morial, our fearless leader, you have led this movement for 20 years and are an evangelical freedom fighter. You inspire us to follow your lead daily.”

During the Thompsons’ acceptance speech, they highlighted their commitment to “Black, brown, and women entrepreneurs.” As Liz Thompson stated, “[Don and I] are called to try to reduce barriers to entry, to deploy social and financial capital, and to support the leaders closest to the solutions by respecting their genius, their experiences, and their potential to change the world. And just like the [Chicago] Urban League, we see them and their positive impact on the world. We all have the power in this room to be the change that we need to be. We are who we are waiting for…let’s get to work!”

After the dynamic honoree speeches, the award-winning Isley Brothers took gala attendees through more than six decades of hits by the award-winning Isley Brothers. Guests danced and sang along to chart-topping songs like “For the Love of You” and “Voyage to Atlantis,” among many others.

V103 weekend host Jeanne Sparrow and ABC 7 Chicago weekend anchor Samantha Chatman served as co-hosts for the gala. Gala Chair Ted Koenig and Monroe Capital was the event’s top sponsor. Leadership sponsors included Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and iHeart Media Chicago.

Following the Isley Brothers performance, the party with a purpose continued as JayiLLa led the After Party guests through a musical journey while also celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

It was a night to remember and a testament to the power of having all hands on deck working together. As Freeman-Wilson stated during her remarks, “We are grateful to all who labored to make this night an overwhelming success.”

This year’s gala program book can be found online. To also learn more about the Chicago Urban League’s programs, be sure to visit Be sure to also visit the League’s Facebook page for more highlights from the gala.