The Black United Fund of Illinois honored five extraordinary Chicago entrepreneurs at its 13th Annual “Living Legends/Passing the Torch©” Awards Benefit on Saturday, October 5, 2013, at The DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.
With the 2013 theme The Year of the Ancestors, the organization honored posthumously Cleophas Barnes for passing the torch to his daughter, Dr. Kyra Barnes, a dentist and member of the State of Illinois Board of Dentistry; Katherine and Elzie Higginbottom Sr. and their sons, Elzie Higginbottom Jr., founder and CEO of East Lake Management & Development Corp., and Eric Higginbottom, who continues to manage the coin laundry business his parents established; Eunice and John H. Johnson and their daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Co., founded by her parents; and Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious and her son, John W. Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments. NBC 5 Chicago news anchor/reporter Marion Brooks did an incredible job emceeing the program.
“It was our pleasure to bestow the Passing the Torch Award on these exceptionally worthy entrepreneurs,” says Professor Robert T. Starks, chairman of the board of Black United Fund of Illinois. “They are most deserving of this honor.”
“Our 2013 honorees have picked up the torch from their parents and carried forward the legacy of entrepreneurship and service to our community,” added Henry English, BUFI president/CEO. “We hope that others will be inspired to do the same.”
Says Linda Johnson Rice: “I am truly honored to receive the Passing the Torch Award from the Black United Fund of Illinois. This honor is especially touching for me because it recognizes the many challenges that my parents overcame to establish Ebony, Jet and Fashion Fair Cosmetics – and my efforts to carry on the work they began.”
The festive evening kicked off with a silent auction and lively reception with culinary treats that included chicken gumbo, jerk chicken and plantains against backdrop of jazz music. DuSable Museum President and CEO Dr. Carol Adams opened the program with an African libations ceremony to honor ancestors that featured the Ayodele Drums & Dance troupe. In addition to the awards presentation, which featured enthralling videos by Chuck O’Bannon, the evening’s program included presentation of the Natalie Puryear Community Leader Scholarships to students Alexandria Boyd (University of Illinois) and Jabari White (Ball State University).
General chairs of the “Living Legends/Passing the Torch©” Awards are Nikki Zollar, president and CEO of Safespeed, LLC, and William A. Von Hoene Jr., Exelon Corporation’s senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer. The Benefit co-chairs are Robert T. Starks, Black United Fund of Illinois board chair, Rita Wilson, BUFI board secretary, and Dr. Conrad W. Worrill, BUFI board member.
For more than a quarter century, the Black United Fund of Illinois has worked diligently to bring about social and economic change in Chicago and throughout the state by ensuring that resources, including time, funds, ideas, supplies and skills, are directed to communities that need them most. BUFI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization and is listed in employee charitable payroll deduction programs at both public and private workplaces.
The 13th Annual “Living Legends/Passing the Torch©” Awards Benefit helps to raise funds for the Black United Fund of Illinois to support its youth and adult training programs and services for individuals and community-based organizations.