I enjoyed a breakfast and a “walk-thru” at the brand, spanking new “built-from-the-ground-up” South Loop Hotel, 26th and State Street, as the guest of the owners, Jimmy White, Louis Dodd and Dr. Floyd Mix, who also own the Amber In

I enjoyed a breakfast and a “walk-thru” at the brand-spanking new “built-from-the-ground-up” South Loop Hotel, 26th and State Street, as the guest of the owners, Jimmy White, Louis Dodd and Dr. Floyd Mix, who also own the Amber Inn at 38th and Michigan. This multi-million-dollar, five-story luxury hotel has 232 guest rooms with free wireless hi-speed Internet access and flat-screen TVs (200 rooms are doubles with two queen-sized beds in each; 32 are singles each with a queen- or king-sized bed, and some of the rooms have romantic faux French balconies and sliding doors). There are three conference rooms (one large, two smaller); 24/7 business/conference center, state-of-the-art fitness center/spa, 24/7 room service, gourmet coffee shop leased to caterer Pearl Griffin; guest concierge, gift/souvenir shop/art gallery with prints by AndrT Guichard, of Gallery Guichard; a nearly completed upscale restaurant and a lounge. In the lobby and hallways, there’s lots of Black art and several originals are by Dale Washington.

Lobby dTcor is by Cecil Hayes, an African American interior designer ranked among the world’s top. Her award-winning dTcor has been featured on the pages of Architectural Digest, New York Times, Washington Post, Florida Design and Southern Living. Her signature luxury furniture line, the Mikala Collection (consoles, tables, upholstery, etc.) is evident throughout the hotel.

Several top-level execs and other essential staff are on board, including Wilma Davis, a marketing maven, drumming up convention business. An official grand opening is slated for late June or early July. Scholarship Soiree–Fisk Univ. alums were here, there and everywhere with friend folks and kinfolk filling DuSable Museum to capacity-plus for That’s Entertainment, a scholarship benefit hosted by the Chicago Area Fisk University Alumni Association.

In the spotlight: The John Work Chorale (Delano O’Bannon directing), George Cooper Jr., pianist and composer; The Three Sopranos (Deborah A. Rountree, Kimberly E. Jones and Wanda C. Scott), George Tenegal, vocal coach, pianist and singer; Cornelius Johnson, tenor; Rodney Stapleton, bass baritone; and The Drum Divas (Leslie Paige Piper and Neysa Scott). A lovely Gallery Reception followed. At the end of the day, $60,000 had swelled CAFUAA’s coffers thanks to the relentless efforts of Atty. Gina R. Davis, chapter prez; Deborah Rountree, benefit chair; Dr. Helen Davis Gardner, co-chair; and several others. Emcees were NBC 5’s Marion Brooks, LeeAnn Trotter and Art Norman and Harold Kelly.

“Big Mac”–Don Thompson, president of McDonald’s USA, receives the prestigious Harold H. Hines Jr. Benefactor’s Award from UNCF at its 2008 Black & White Ball: Living the Legacy Gala on June 7 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel. The coveted Legacy Award will go to Clear Channel Radio Chicago. The 2007 Gala, chaired by Richard Stephens of The Boeing Co., the presenting sponsor, raised in excess of $1 million for UNCF’s deserving students and member colleges. As chair again this year, he hopes to bring in even more dollars. The Stylistics and The Emotions will perform.

And More!–Thom Brown, acting president of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association, joined with Blanton Canady and Ron Lofton, a couple of BMOA owner-operators, in hosting an intimate ethnic media meal at the Navy Pier McDonald’s Restaurant to share info on Chicago BMOA’s 2008 marketing efforts, upcoming events, menu items, etc. New on the menu: Southern-Style Chicken Sandwiches, Southern-Style Chicken Biscuits and Mickey D’s Sweet Tea! So delish!

Birthday Bash–Sister Esther Isabelle (Mrs. Arthur) Brazier, “first lady” of Apostolic Church of God, was surprised on her 80th b’day at the Women’s Ministries’ Mind, Body and Soul Dinner at Wildfire restaurant followed by a movie screening of Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns at River 21 Theatre. Her two daughters, Janice B. Dortch, and Phyllis Grant, along with Lola Hillman and Doris Davenport Lowry surprised the honoree with a huge, beautifully decorated carrot cake and a five-piece band playing her favorite tunes. Guests included 300 women and one lone gent. Also b’day greetings to Barbara Sims Bell, Laura Muller, and a fave neighbor, Julia Davidson, who’s 88 but is young in spirit.

Newsy Names–He’s certainly “Someone You Should Know.” Congrats to ABC 7’s Harry Porterfield, winner of 11 Emmy Awards, who receives the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from National Association of Black Journalists during NABJ’s Salute to Excellence Gala on July 26 in Chicago. Past recipients: the late Ed Bradley, Earl Graves and Bernard Shaw.

Going to Las Vegas between now through the end of October? If so, be sure to catch one of Chicago’s fave vocalists, sultry and sexy Terisa Griffin, who will be performing at Caylix Jazz Club, 4760 W. Sahara, every Wednesday and Thursday. Terisa will also hop on over to Denver in late August to entertain at the Democratic National Convention where we’re counting on our own Sen. Barack Obama to be nominated to run for President of the United States!

Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green, dedicated to promoting awareness of the environmental movement and its projected benefits in our community, was one of five “eco-smart” locals saluted by Chicago Magazine at its first-ever Green Awards Reception at Shedd Aquarium. Selected from over 100 nominees by readers, community leaders and magazine staffers, the five were featured in a recent issue.

Jim Compton, retired Chicago Urban League prez and now exec v.p. at Continental Airlines, and Lisa Maria James, a Merrill Lynch financial advisor, are on board as co-chairs of eta’s Gala ‘08: Channeling the Energy set for Sept. 6.

TV’s Judge Greg Mathis speaks at Beautillion 2008 presented by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Mu Mu Lambda Chapter on Friday at the O’Hare Doubletree Hotel.

L.O.L.–Langdon Neal, board president of High Jump, invites us all to An Evening of Laughter with the cast of Second City tonight at the Chicago History Museum. An academic enrichment program now in its 20th year, and designed to impact 7th and 8th graders who love to learn but might have financial constraints, High Jump prepares them for top public, parochial and independent college preparatory schools. Call (312) 582-7704.

Soul on Canvas – Fine art by Marcus Alleyne, Thomas Armstrong, Michael Anthony Brown, Leroy Campbell, Robert Lewis Clark, Calvin A. Coleman, AndrT Guichard, Adam Guichard, Emani Silva and James Taylor are part of “Canvas Soul,” an exhibit opening Friday at Gallery Guichard, 3621 S. King Dr., with a Champagne Collectors’ Preview & Artists’ Talk from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. On Saturday, also from 5 p.m.-10 p.m., stop by for a Public Reception (free!) with live music by Lady T, a neo-soul artist. “Canvas Soul” continues through Aug. 1.

Friday’s Focus–Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W. 95th St., hosts a free Mental Health Forum on Friday, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m., with Steven Sampson, director of psychology at Michael Reese Hospital; Davis Schilling, therapeutic authority at Jackson Park Hospital; and Isabel Burton, of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, as guest speakers.

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