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Crossroads Fund holds annual benefit
by Vern Hester

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On March 31, The Crossroads Fund presented Seeds of Change, an annual benefit at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Crossroads is a public foundation that has provided resources for groups working on racial, humanitarian, social and economic justice in the Chicago area for more than 35 years. The organization recognized two organizations and one individual for activism in the areas of immigration, education, and community organization. The evening also included a silent auction, live music, dancing, a dinner buffet, a DJ and the awards presentation.

The Ron Sable Award for Activism was presented to Mariame Kaba and Project NIA for creating multiracial coalitions, building movements through research and creating innovative models for youth organizing.

The Lynda J. Tipton Memorial Award for Social Justice went to Organized Communities Against Deportations ( OCAD ), which has led campaigns to fight for families facing separation through immigration raids, detention and deportation. OCAD also was cited for forming bonds with the Movement for Black Lives to educate communities about the intersections of incarceration and immigrant justice. The Donald F. Erickson Synapses Award was given to the Arab American Action Network ( AAAN ), which has developed strategies and tools to empower the Arab American community, using research and data analysis, speakers' bureaus, family literacy, know-your-rights education and direct action.

The evening got off to a leisurely start as long term friends greeted one another, viewed and bid on auction prizes, and enjoyed the open bar and buffet ( courtesy of Big Beautiful Planet ) while The Chicago Academy for the Arts Jazz Combo entertained. With guests far outnumbering chairs, many in attendance good-naturedly chose to sit on the floor to eat.

Emmanuel Garcia, communications and development associate at The Crossroads Fund, started the awards presentation by welcoming the guests and introducing co-chairs Sue Eleuterio and Gary Arnold. In turn, Arnold introduced Crossroads Fund Executive Director Jeanne Kracher, who asked the SRO crowd, "How many of you predicted that Donald Trump would become president of the United States?" Kracher then restated the importance of The Crossroads Fund and why it is imperative that the activism that it sponsors continues to grow.

Program Director Jane Kimondo ( in her lead in for the first recipient ) spoke about the late and out Dr. Ron Sable, who helped low-income people in the areas of reproductive rights, treatment of prisoners, national healthcare and served as one Crossroads' founders. Kaba—who spent 20 years doing activist work in Chicago and is now no longer a resident—shyly thanked her very vocal well-wishers for their longtime support.

Both OCAD and AAAN were represented by people from the organizations ranging in age from grandparents to pre-adolescents.

Hatem Abudyyeh, in speaking on behalf of AAAN, delivered a speech tinged with emotion. His organization has supported community members who had to endure the special registry after 9/11, over-surveillance and intense harassment on a daily basis, and sparked the crucial call to action to converge at O'Hare International Airport in protest against the executive order issued by President Trump travel ban that affected seven Muslim majority countries. Abudyyeh spoke about longtime AAAN member Rasmea Odeh, who, after fighting an immigration battle for three years, has elected to leave the country because she felt she was unlikely to get a fair trial under the current administration. With this being her last public appearance, many were visibly shaken at her words.

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