Ledisi headlines N'Digo Gala

Six accomplished Chicago women will be honored at the black-tie gala at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr. The foundation will also presents merit-based college scholarships to students; fashions by the city's top designers will be on display.

In recognition of their professional and personal achievements and career contributions, the N'DIGO Foundation will honor:

· Eunice Johnson, producer/director of the Ebony Fashion Fair (Lifetime Achievement Award)

· Rev. Helen Ward Carry, executive minister, Christ Universal Temple (N'Religion Award)

· Sandi Jackson, 7th Ward alderman, Chicago, (N'Politics Award)

· Carol H. Williams, president, CEO and chief creative officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising (N'Advertising Award)

· Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (N'Education Award)

· Wanda Wells, director of Community Affairs, Fox 32 (N'Media Award)

The N'digo Gala regularly attracts leaders from Chicago's business, corporate, civic, education and government communities, among other fields. This year's affair will be highlighted by a concert performance by Ledisi, who records for the legendary Verve Records. The rising neo-soul superstar's concerts have led a Billboard critic to call them a "religious experience." Ledisi made her major-label debut with 2007's "Lost and Found," and has been nominated for the Best R&B Album Grammy.

Lending to the gala's fashion flair will be exclusive and exquisite designs created by Chicago's leading fashion designers: Reginald Thomas, Pilar Audain-Reid of Kreative Soul, James De Colon, Duvall Pettway , Jermikko Johnson, Haj Gueye, Barbara Bates, Maria Pinto, Monika Simmons and Ericka Simmons.

The foundation will continue its 13-year tradition of presenting merit-based college scholarships to students in partnership with numerous colleges and universities, corporations, foundations, community organizations and generous individuals.

This year, a new feature is an online auction in which bidders can vie for a number of impressive products, performances and services, including a private dinner prepared by Chef Julius; a photo shoot by Victor Powell; a complete makeover and beauty and spa package from Mi Spa; an autographed basketball signed by the Chicago Bulls; a Gucci purse; dinner with Chef Cliff Rome; a designer necklace by Madame Pillar; a custom-made shearling coat by designer Barbara Bates; artwork by Pamela Louik; and box seats (6) at the Auditorium Theater for the stage production of "Margaret Garner," among other items. The auction is accessible at www.ndigo.com and will end at 12 noon on June 27.

The N'DIGO Foundation was founded by N'DIGO Publisher Hermene D. Hartman. Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr., (D-Illinois) will serve as Gala chair. The evening's co-hosts will be Hartman and V-103 afternoon personality Doug Banks.

N'DIGO Gala tickets are $350 each and include a cocktail reception and buffet at 6 p.m.; awards and scholarship program at 8 p.m.; concert performance by Ledisi at 9:15 p.m.; and an after party.

Tickets for the Ledisi concert only are $75 each. To purchase Gala and concert tickets, call (312) 264-6246 or visit www.ndigo.com.


Ledisi (means to bring forth in Nigerian) was born in the Big Easy where she sang with New Orleans Symphony Orchestra when she was eight years old and spent many adolescent hours watching her mom perform with a local R&B band, often in a nearby park. After the family relocated to Oakland, CA, Ledisi followed her mom's lead and sang in a local band but left to form her own group and identity. She's most noted for her continuous performances in Beach Blanket Babylon, a long running San Francisco-based cabaret that features song parodies, celebrity impersonations, and enormous hats; she got the gig after being nominated for a Shellie award in 1990 for her role as Dorothy in a local version of the Wiz.

She later formed Anibade, Ledisi's middle name, which depending on what you read means "to bring forth luck" or "my mother is great" in Yorubu. The players are: Sundra Manning (keyboards and chief songwriter), Cedrickke Dennis (guitar), Nelson Braxton (bass), Wayne Braxton (saxophone), and Tommy Bradford (drums); while the lineup is similar to Chaka Khan & Rufus, the sound -- on record anyway -- is mellower than Rufus' energized, excellent-engineered sounds. Ledisi sometimes fuses R&B, hip-hop, urban, jazz, and funk in the same pot.

They built a hot reputation in the Bay area at Bruno's, the Black Cat, and Rasselas (local clubs). Fans kept asking about a record so the band cut a demo, "Take Time," that radio station KMEL aired and got a good response; the stroke prompted Ledisi to seek a deal with the major recording companies, all who praise and turned them down in the same breath. Frustrated, but not thwarted, they cut the critically acclaimed "Soulsinger" and released it on LeSun Records (owned by Ledisi and Sundra), January 1, 2000. "Papa Loved to Love Me" -- a personal account of a father sexually abusing his daughter -- is one of the CD's most riveting and controversial tracks.

Amazon ranked Soulsinger number five in Los Angeles (September 2001), and it's popular in Finland, Norway, London, and Amsterdam.

She's done a jazz album with bassist Marcus Shelby for Noir Records -- Shelby's independent based company in San Francisco -- that further illustrates her amazing skills. Her resume includes singing in choirs, performing jazz, and studying opera and piano at the University of California Berkley's Young Musicians Program for five years. She's also done commercials and soundtracks for the Sci-Fi Channel along with appearing on the same stages with some of the world's most beloved entertainers. Her third studio album, "Lost & Found," was released in 2007.

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