Chicago Urban League Aiming High with Annual Gala

The Golden Fellowship Dinner is the biggest fundraiser hosted annually by the Chicago Urban League, and this year the nonprofit seeks to raise more than $2 million from the event.

The fundraising goal might appear a bit high to some people but is one that is certainly attainable, said Barbara Lumpkin, interim president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League.

“This is an opportunity for everyone from civic leaders to Chicago notables to come together and celebrate the progress of our work and prepare for the future,” said Lumpkin. “The proceeds from the gala go to support our many programs, such as housing, education, workforce development, youth programs, entrepreneurship, and so many more.”

According to Lumpkin, the urban league raised nearly $2 million from the 2018 gala and every year she said the organization hosts two major fundraisers. In June the Urban League held its 2019 Summit Luncheon at Chicago’s Mid-America Club where tickets sold for $200. And every November it hosts a gala, which Lumpkin said attracts about 1,500 people annually.

Tickets for the 58th Annual black-tie gala cost $600 and can be purchased online at The four-hour event starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave., where it has been held since its inception. Grammy-award singer Chaka Khan will perform live and the event will be streamed on the Urban League’s Facebook page.

The Urban League will also honor Midway Broadcasting Corp. Chairman Melody Spann-Cooper; former White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; and retired Chairman of Northern Trust Bank Frederick Waddell, for their community service work.

NBC5 Chicago anchors Michelle Relerford and Rob Stafford will serve as masters of ceremonies, while East Lake Management & Development Corp. Founder, President and CEO Elzie Higginbottom and his wife Deborah, along with Illinois Tool Works Chairman and CEO E. Scott Santi and his wife Nancy, serve as co-chairs for the gala.

Lumpkin added that it has always been a goal for the Urban League to find ways to enlarge their footprint.

“I know firsthand that the Chicago Urban League cannot achieve its mission of racial equity alone,” said Lumpkin. “It takes a powerful, collective of voices paired with action to earn ‘our’ rightful seats at the table. Our work continues thanks to corporate and foundation partners who share and support our vision of stronger African American communities leading to a better Chicago.”

Lumpkin said she is especially proud of the youth programs the Urban League sponsors each year.

“The upcoming Fall Fly In College Tour will allow high school students to visit a series of colleges in California thanks in part to sponsorship by United Airlines,” said Lumpkin. “This is an awesome opportunity for our students, who may have never ventured outside their community, to see new things and places.”

Timuel Black, a 100-year-old historian on the South Side, said since being founded in 1916 the Chicago Urban League has always worked hard to advance blacks.

“It is an organization I am most proud of because of the work they do on behalf of black folks,” he said. “I have seen a lot during my time, some good and some bad, but I dare anyone to say something bad about the Chicago Urban League and say it with a ‘straight’ face because they would be lying to themselves.”

By year-end Lumpkin will step down as head of the Urban League and make way for Gary, Ind., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who was chosen in September by the board of directors, as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer.

“I chose the Chicago Urban League, an iconic organization with tremendous legacy in Chicago and within the African American community, as my next mission in life largely due to their mission in helping people, which I will call my ‘sweet spot’ as a public service individual,” explained Freeman-Wilson. “I’ve always been mission driven and besides who wouldn’t want to work with an organization dedicated to helping so many people in the third largest city in the country.”

And Lumpkin said she is not worried about the organization’s future now that Freeman-Wilson will take the helm.

“She’s an incredible person with outstanding leadership skills and I have no doubt that she will continue the fine work of the Urban League,” added Lumpkin. “As for me, I look forward to spending more time with my family and moving on to new opportunities.”


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