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3rd annual WDB L.E.G.A.C.Y. Gala is Black history in motion

Aaliyah Stewart (4th from the right) won the prize worth $15,000 during a “Shark Tank”-style contest for emerging youth, who pitched businesses and were judged by the audience. (Photo credit: Clarence Coy)

Black businesses closed out Black History Month by gathering at Malcolm X College for the third annual WDB L.E.G.A.C.Y. Awards Gala. 

The gala’s goal is to bring 600 startup and established businesses together to network, share ideas and add value to each other. The event, held Feb. 23, 2019, also recognized six community leaders who were honored for building L.E.G.A.C.Y. — an acronym for leadership, education, growth, advocacy, community and youth. 

The 2019 honorees were Monique Rodriguez of Mielle Organics; Carl Tutt of 100 Black Men of Chicago; Manila Nkomo of the National African Council of African Women; community advocate William Calloway; Tim King of Urban Prep; and Cory Thames of The Obama Foundation. 

Rolling out asked Cory Thames, the Obama Foundation’s deputy director of community engagement, about his thoughts on the gala and why it’s important to celebrate Black businesses. 

“I think this is an amazing event. To have an organization celebrate our successes, our culture, our businesses makes me excited to share the stage with some awesome people,” Thames said. “There are so many businesses that are thriving in our communities, and to have a space to be able to celebrate all of that with dollars floating in and around our city, makes me very excited.”

WBD Marketing CEO Keeana Barber spoke on the evolution and longevity of the program and what it means to acknowledge Black business. 

“It feels amazing to do this for the third year in a row, and [it] shows that people love and appreciate Black entrepreneurs,” she said. “This year’s theme is ‘Chicago meets Africa.’ It means everything to me to acknowledge Black business[es]. I’m a Black business owner, and that’s predominantly who we work with. I know that we are really trying to make a difference out here. We are working to be the job creators and put food on the table for our families. A lot of people believe in the mission of what they do, and that’s serving the community and providing great products. It’s not celebrated enough.”

Take a look at a few pictures from the gala below.