Men of Excellence 2019 – Exemplary Men to be Saluted at Defender’s 2019 Men of Excellence Awards Program

Men of Excellence 2019 – Exemplary Men to be Saluted at Defender’s 2019 Men of Excellence Awards Program

Friday, April 26, 2019

In today’s time, when negative news about Black men can top our newsfeeds and some conversations, there is one program in Chicago that continues to feature Black men who excel in their careers as well as in their service to the community and to their families. The Chicago Defender will honor 50 such men at its annual Men of Excellence Awards dinner. The 12th Annual Men of Excellence Awards dinner will take place on Friday, April 26 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Drive. The awards program and dinner will take place from 6-9 p.m.

The focus this year is mentorship and the importance of Black men serving as mentors to others, especially younger Black men and boys trying to find their way in business, entrepreneurship and life. Some of the distinguished honorees in this year’s class include community activist Andrew Holmes, The Honorable Judge Carl Boyd, entrepreneur Rick Edwards of Chicagoland Fat Loss Camps, and many other businessmen, lawyers, entrepreneurs and community leaders.

The 50 honorees were selected from more than 100 nominations, according to Dyanna Lewis, vice president of marketing and sales at the Defender.

“We salute men who are not only doing a great job in their careers but are also excellent in community service and family,” Lewis said. “We are acknowledging men who give back to the community – who go above and beyond. Doing [their] job is expected, but these men are those who go above and beyond in career and in community service.”

The nomination form calls for “men who exemplify extraordinary strength and commitment to their profession and to the community. Nominees must also be at least 21 years of age, live within a 50-mile radius of Chicago’s center and be active in their professions.

The Men of Excellence award not only honors exemplary men, but it builds a strong network of like-minded men in the Chicagoland area. Several outstanding community members, politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs and others have been recognized since its beginning in 2007. The inaugural class included Congressmen Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr., Secretary of State Jesse White, jazz musician Ramsey Lewis and businessmen Spencer Leaks Sr. and Spencer Leaks Jr.

“I’m very proud of that honor; today, I still look at that photo [of the inaugural class of Men of Excellence],” said Sam Balark, director of External Affairs at AT&T, who also served as board president of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce at the time he received the award. “The Defender has meant so much to the community; this award stands out to people. It is hard to express how much it’s meant to me.”

Another member of the inaugural class, Nathaniel Ward, who is now community relations liaison at City Colleges of Chicago, said receiving the award helped him develop his life-long relationship with his mentor, Craig Gilmore who was also a part of the first class. “I was one of the youngest in that class,” Ward recalled. “It was wonderful. [After the award], people were taking notice of what I was doing, I was running a small nonprofit at the time; people began to comment how they wanted to help. It was wonderful.”

Tickets are available until April 24 for $50. For more information, call (312) 225-2400 or visit In addition to the Defender, sponsors include ComEd and Gift of Hope.

The Defender also honors women. Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2019 Women of Excellence Awards and will be accepted until April 29. You can find more information at


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