The Greater Chatham Initiative Gala

December 3, 2018

On Tuesday, November 27, which also happened to be "Giving Tuesday," The Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) had its Inaugural Gala at the Stony Island Arts Bank building in Chicago, IL from 5pm – 8pm.

The 2018 Gala was all about “Celebrating the Chatham Communities Strength and Vitality.”

Per the Executive Director Nedra Sims Fears, The Greater Chatham Initiative was launched in June of 2016 and performs the role of a strong local anchor institution by coordinating, planning and fundraising for key synergistic Initiatives.  The mission is to strategically invest in the Chicago communities of Greater Chatham (Avalon Park, Auburn Gresham Chatham & Greater Grand Crossing), so they can re-emerge as communities of opportunity and choice.

This inaugural event was a fundraiser to assist in the efforts of the initiative that included a jamming house band, scrumptious horderves, cocktails, a silent auction, a tour of the art bank exhibit and a performance by Mr. Ronald Devoe Jr, from the Legendary Group New Edition, and his wife Shamari Devoe, from the R&B group Blaque.   The Devoe’s are marriage ambassadors who believe in a strong family unit and the importance of giving back to the community, which is why they were happy to support a worthy cause for their family member, Executive Director Fears. They were honored to use their star power to help in this fundraising event.

As guests entered the main hall of the Arts Bank building, they were treated to the house band playing tunes from Anita Baker to smooth Jazz, and even some New Edition tunes. Guests mingled and took part in the open bar.  There was also a silent auction that included items from Designer Barbara Bates, gift certificates donated by Brown Sugar Bakery, a two-night stay at the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview, The Baptism Fine Art by Marlene Campbell donated by Gallery Guichard and a host of other awesome items.

There were several dignitaries in attendance such as the Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Alderman, Michelle A. Harris & Alderman Rodrick Sawyer.

At the halfway mark of the Gala, it was time for the featured entertainment. Mr. & Mrs. Devoe started their performance by entering from the back of the room.  They were too cute.  Ronnie introduced himself and Shamari as they were walking to the stage and you could definitely feel the love they share.  It was so special to hear Mr. Devoe talk about his lovely wife.  This was their debut performance singing together live at an event of this nature. 

They treated the audience to excerpts of some classic songs from artists such as TLC (No Scrubs), Brandy (Have You Ever) & Beyonce (Halo).  They also thrilled the crowd with Blaques song 808 which was released as the lead single from their self titled debut album Blaque in 1999. The crowd was even surprised with excerpts from Bell Biv Devoe’s highly popular song Poison from the group’s debut album Poison in 1990 & New Edition’s Mr. Telephone Man, which was the second single released off their New Edition Album in 1984.  It was great to see these two having fun together while doing what they love.  They took time out during their performance to acknowledge their family and to share why it was so important for them to be in Chicago to help raise money for the Chatham Community.  They lit up the stage with coordinated dance moves and everyone enjoyed it. They ended their show with a new song entitled Love Comes Through, which will be released on December 7 on all digital platforms. You can also catch the Devoe's Sunday nights on Bravo as Shamari is a new member of the cast of the Atlanta Housewives.     

After the performance, guests were taken on an arts bank exhibit tour.  The space was very impressive, and included two floors of art from Johnson Publishing Archive + Collections, University of Chicago Glass Lantern Slides, Edward J. Williams Collection & Frankie Knuckles Records: “Godfather of House Music,” Frankie Knuckles’ vinyl collection.  Each piece was unique and special. There was even a wall of what looked like a million books, which was amazing. This is a must-see place in Chicago. Be sure to check it out. 

The Greater Chatham Initiative's Inaugural Gala was an elegant and inspiring night in Chicago supporting a worthy cause. You can find out more information about the Greater Chatham Initiative by visiting  You can also continue giving by Texting givegci to 50155.  Greater Chatham Initiative is a 501 (C) (3) Not for Profit and your donation is tax-deductible. Check out videos and pictures from the Gala.