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2018 Governor’s Difference Makers Awards announced

Black History Month celebration recognizes Illinoisans for their excellence in service to their communities

information provided by the Office of the Governor

CHICAGO, Ill. (February 22, 2018) – Gov. Bruce Rauner honored the recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Difference Makers Awards yesterday during a Black History Month celebration at the James R. Thompson Center. The Governor and the State of Illinois, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, recognized 12 individuals for helping make a difference in their communities and throughout Illinois.

“We rise by lifting others, and each of the recipients are proof that Illinois is always rising. They are great, shining examples of service to our community. They are setting a powerful example of our duty to help each other and to work together to resolve challenges,” Gov. Rauner said.

“Today, as we celebrate Black History Month, we have the unique opportunity to recognize several forward-thinking and successful business leaders who have created career opportunities that build sustainable communities not only in the African American community but throughout the State,” said Illinois Department of Human Rights Acting Director Janice Glenn. “Our honorees have set an example of integrity, honesty, and respect. Thank you for your service and dedication to Illinois.”

The ceremony included a theatrical performance written by Jimalita Hunter titled “King of the Policy” and the National Anthem sung by Simone Green. Afterward, recipients were invited to mix and mingle at a reception area in the Governor’s office.

WGN’s Dometi Pongo emceed the program with a keynote from Tyronne Stoudemire, Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Hyatt Worldwide.

The recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Difference Makers Awards are:

  • Erica Douglas – CEO, mSEED group
  • Cornelius Griggs – President, GMA Construction Group
  • Dwayne Hirsch – Executive Board Member, Small Business Advocacy Council
  • Jahkil Jackson – Founder, Project I Am
  • Spencer Leak, Jr. – Vice President, Leak & Sons Funeral Home
  • Bernard Lloyd – President, Urban Juncture, Inc.
  • Sharon Rossmark – CEO, Women In Drones, LLC.
  • Queen Mother Rev. Helen Sinclair – Retired Chaplain, Illinois Department of Corrections
  • Cassiopeia Uhuru – Co-Founder,
  • Josephine “Mother” Wade – Owner, Captain Hard Times Restaurant
  • Dr. Walt Whitman – CEO, Soul Children of Chicago
  • P. “Patrick” Saingbey K. Woodtor – Founder, African Festival of the Arts


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.