The Chessmen Club’s 65th Anniversary Community Service Awards Gala was full to capacity. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Members of the Chessmen Club of the North Shore offered a warm welcome to more than 300 people who came out on an unseasonably cold night to attend the club’s 65th Anniversary and Community Service Awards Gala on Saturday, March 18, at the Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore in Skokie.

Founded as a Black male organization in 1958 by Bill Logan Jr. and Andy Rodez, the Chessmen Club has a long history of investing in youth, assisting vulnerable seniors and honoring community service leaders.

In their remarks, Chessmen Club President Reynold Martin and Treasurer Peter Braithwaite were passionate about the importance of community partners and supporters who make it possible for the club to succeed in its mission.

“With your support, the Chessmen Club has given out more than $575,000 in scholarships that are renewable for four years,” said Martin, adding that the scholarships include mentoring of the student recipients.

Addressing the audience, Braithwaite said, “We’ve partnered with many of you to support our programming.” Donor support, he said, makes it possible for the Chessmen to feed more than 500 local families by delivering holiday food baskets.

In January of this year, the Chessmen Club presented $10,000 to Evanston Township High School Equity Empowerment for Families to support Camp Kuumba as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to the development of young Black males.

The annual gala is the major source of funding for the club’s initiatives, Martin said. This year’s Community Service Award recipients were Chef Q Ibraheem, Patrick Keenan-Devlin and Kara Cicely Taylor.

Chef Q Ibraheem lights up the room as she accepts her Community Service Award at the Chessmen Club gala. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Chef Q is founder and executive chef of the Chef Q Ibraheem brand Teertsemasesottehg (TEO), an interactive secret location underground dining experience. Chef Q is also founder of the Kids with Coworkers free farm-to-fork meal program.

“I am in awe to be here in my own community,” Chef Q said as she accepted her award. “Our youth are our future decision-makers, and it’s very important that we support them.”

Community Service Award recipient Patrick Keenan-Devlin thanks the Chessmen Club and his colleagues at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Keenan-Devlin is executive director of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. In addition to ensuring the effective implementation of the Moran Center’s strategic vision, he represents youth in juvenile delinquency proceedings and serves as a certified trainer in juvenile defense practices.

“To have our work with our community recognized by those in this room is an honor beyond measure for all of us at the James B. Moran Center for Youth and Advocacy. … It is the Moran Center’s profound mission to zealously protect, defend and uplift our children,” Keenan-Devlin said in his remarks.

Peter Braithwaite presents a Student Community Service Award to Kara Taylor. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Taylor is this year’s student honoree. As a junior at Evanston Township High School, she is involved in a wide spectrum of activities that reflect her commitment to community service and academic excellence.

A few of Taylor’s activities have included volunteering as a tutor in the Books and Breakfast program and managing the ETHS boys soccer team as well as the ETHS girls soccer team. She also recently served as a director/choreographer and cast member for the 70th WCE Revue, That 70th Show. And she currently serves on the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy High School Wynner Red Tie Soirée committee and works with the Emerge student group at ETHS to initiate talks with middle school girls, encouraging them to take advanced courses in high school.

Also recognized for their achievements were: Elijah Bull, a 2021 ETHS graduate, returning Chessmen Presidential Scholar and current Carthage College student; and Kofi Hopps, a 2018 ETHS graduate, four-year Chessmen scholarship recipient and 2022 graduate of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Martin and Braithwaite concluded with the announcement of three new Emeritus Members of the Chessmen Club, all of whom have been Chessmen for more than 40 years:  Dudley Brown, George Dotson, and Robert (“Bob”) Reece.

In his closing remarks, Braithwaite said, “I think we recognize … that there are so many issues we have to deal with, including issues in our hometown. On behalf of the Chessmen Club, I hope that, as we celebrate Black excellence this evening, with our allies in the room, that this event … reminds you of everything that is good in our community.”

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.

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