Last Saturday was the night when West Side residents gathered for an evening of awards, music, food and fun. The annual Starry Night over Austin gala, Aug. 26, sponsored by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, supports the youth in the Austin community through summer work opportunities.

Saturday’s gala at the Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson, was organizaed in cooperation with local businesses and community groups, including Austin Youth Fun, ACC Summer Youth Program, and Mayor Daley’s KidStart youth employment program.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford’s “Uplift Our Future” program and State Rep. Calvin Giles allowed the Austin Chamber of Commerce to place more than $40,000 into the hands of Austin youth.

Starry Night’s program was conducted by the following youth: Welcome, Cortez Hale; introduction of MC, Tiffany Davis; master of ceremonies, Evan Turner; award presentation, Markeith Funches; ACC program, Danielle Ratcliff; youth accomplishments, Darius Turner; special project, Darian Collins; 2006 participating businesses, Brandon McCain; 2006 ACC summer youth, Samaria Jones; and closing remarks, Terumi Weathersby.

This year’s honorees were; Officer Carla Johnson, 15th Dist. Explorer Unit; Rev. Dale Kelley, Austin YMCA executive vice president; Howard Sandifer, founder & executive director, Chicago West Community Music School; and Brad Cummings, publisher/editor, Austin Voice newspaper. All were recognized for their commitment to youth and continuing to educate, mentor and build strong youth for a better tomorrow.

One of the highlights each year of “Starry Night” is seeing all the beautiful attire worn by men and women. Sen. Lightford’s black and silver ensemble was stunning, and it appeared she was wearing Prada shoes that matched her gown. Ald. Carothers looked as if he wore Gucci. State Sen. Don Harmon undoubtedly wore Armani, and Cong. Danny Davis’ tuxedo was probably Sean John (P Diddy’s clothing line). Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins wore a green silk gown, probably Vera Wang. Hostess and Park Commissioner Barbara McGowan was wearing a beige gown, probably Christian Dior. The lovely Deborah Graham, state rep.(78th Dist.), wore a designer top, likely Vera Wang over Liz Claiborne evening pants. As usual, Michelle Collins of Shorebank, co-chair, and Chamber of Commerce President Camille Y. Lilly looked lovely. Camille worn a black evening gown, probably by Donna Karan, and Michelle wore a soft lilac gown, probably by Coco Chanel.

Each year it’s always fun to “assign” designers to our Austin community movers and shakers. Everyone attending looked beautiful and Comm. McGowan does a great job supervising the beautiful decorating of the main banquet room, as well as the outside verandas. All the guests are treated like royalty from the time they walk up the red carpet.

Starry Night’s committee members who make the night a success are: B,J, Walker, co-chair; Michelle Collins, co-chair; Vickie Bledsoe, Donald Dew, Barbara Evans, Iris James, Renee Jones, Camille Lilly, Shalita Pendleton, Mary Russell Gardner and Cynthia Washington. Honorary chairs were Cong. Danny Davis, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, commissioners Barbara McGowan and Earlean Collins. Founding members are B.J. Walker and Cynthia Williams.

Music was provided by the young people of the Provisio East Jazz Ensemble and Intransit Production.

Delores McCain

Howard Sandifer was joined by his mother, Louis.
Vera Brooks, Tracy Allen and Valencia E. Ross enjoyed the festivities.
Entertainment was provided by the Proviso East Jazz Band and Intransit Productions. Reginald Wright playing the flugelhorn.


Look below for more pictures of the Starry Night over Austin gala.