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Urban League gala jam-packed

Jamell Meeks Rev. James Meeks Mellody Hobson. | POWELL PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOS

Jamell Meeks, the Rev. James Meeks and Mellody Hobson. | POWELL PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOS

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Updated: December 23, 2011 8:12AM

The Chicago Urban League, one of the city’s oldest and most illustrious African-American-run charitable organizations, gathered 1,600 supporters for a star-studded evening at its 50th annual Golden Fellowship Dinner. Held earlier this month at its usual locale — the Hilton at 720 S. Michigan — many of Chicago’s most influential corporate and political leaders came out to fete the foundation’s 95 years in operation and its mission to empower, through education and social activism, strong, sustainable communities.

The sheer scale of the black-tie party was impressive, and quieting the boisterous dinner crowd proved tough for the evening’s emcee, TV personality and comedian Steve Harvey. Harvey had the task of leading a program that included a speech from Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp, the presentation of the Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award to James W. Compton — who led the CUL for more than 30 years as its president — and a short performance from legendary songstress Patti LaBelle.

Before the first speaker took to the stage, Harvey was able to charm partygoers — and quell the crowd — with some apparently impromptu stand-up comedy, joking, “You are very honored to have me here.”

Always an event heavily attended by local politicos, the dinner this year proved no different as Mayor Rahm Emanuel (with daughter Ilana on his arm) joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; State Sen. James Meeks and his wife, Jamell, and Gov. Pat Quinn during the cocktail hour. Notable business leaders spotted among the gathering included gala co-chairs Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Rick Waddell, CEO of Northern Trust; Anne Prammaggiore, CEO of Com Ed, and James O’Connor of MVC Capital.

Although numbers are still being tallied, the Chicago Urban League expects the gala to rake in almost $2 million, which will be used to support economic, educational and social progress in the city’s African-American communities.

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