More than 1,000 of the Chicago’s corporate, civic and community leaders gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to party with a purpose while successfully raising more than $1.6 million in support of the organization’s programs. Iconic R&B group Boyz II Men took the stage, surprising the crowd with a special appearance by Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter Kenny “Baby Face” Edmonds.
The fundraising gala also honored Chicago business leaders Brett Hart and Connie Lindsey for their service to others and leadership in promoting equity and diversity. Gala co-chairs John O. Hudson III, President and CEO of Nicor Gas, and Michael O’Grady, Chairman, President and CEO of Northern Trust, addressed the audience and discussed their organizations’ commitment to issues that align with the Chicago Urban League’s mission.
Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson saluted the evening’s honorees and co-chairs. “Last year, so many of our friends in the corporate arena made statements and pledged dollars so that people would know of their commitment to fair and equal treatment. But words and money ring hollow unless there is a demonstrated commitment to systemic change,” she said. “Our sponsors and their teams at Nicor and Northern Trust embody that commitment. And each of our honorees—Brett Hart, Ben Crump and Connie Lindsey—live these principles every day.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and more, accepted the 2021 Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award during the Golden Fellowship Exchange on Friday, November 5. The Bill Berry Award, named for the late civil rights leader and former Chicago Urban League President and CEO, is the League’s highest honor. “I am very heartened to receive this award,” he said. “I channel the spirit of our ancestors, Edwin Berry and so many more—the Whitney Youngs of the world. We have to continue the fight.”
United Airlines President Brett J. Hart accepted the 2021 Lester H. McKeever, Jr. Individual Service Award. “It is truly humbling to be recognized by the Chicago Urban League,” he said. “United Airlines has been privileged over the years to partner with the Urban League on impactful work in the community. I appreciate that, in my role as president of United Airlines, I not only have an opportunity to affect change in our communities, but I have an obligation to do so.”
Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Northern Trust, accepted the League’s 2021 Humanitarian Award in person with remarks that brought the crowd to their feet.
Lindsey said she accepted the award on behalf of her late mother, from whom she said she “learned resilience, unconditional love, steadfastness and endurance.” She added, “And I gratefully accept this award on behalf of every little Black and Brown girl who might ever hear me speak or do something. Lindsey uses her influence and experience to advocate for equitable access to opportunities for all as a motivational speaker on topics of diversity and inclusion, corporate responsibility, leadership, and personal and professional empowerment.
The black-tie gala was themed “60 Years and Onward: Meeting the Moment with the Movement.” The evening began with a Champagne Reception hosted by Samantha Chatman from ABC 7 Chicago, comedian and actor Damon Williams served as host of the dinner program, and Maurice “Ice” Culpepper, of iHeart Media Chicago’s V103 radio station, served as DJ for the After Party. To help ensure everyone’s safety, attendees were required to submit proof of vaccination in advance, and the wearing of masks was encouraged.