By Lisa Fielding

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce and the Chicago Defender honored the contributions of African Americans in the state Friday at a Black History Month event at the Thompson Center.

Black History Month Celebration (Credit: WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

Black History Month Celebration (Credit: WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

The program was called “Building for the Future.” WBBM’s Lisa Fielding reports.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman was the keynote speaker. She said even though it’s important to look toward the future, the past must also be remembered.

“Instead of escaping and immigrating to America as so many people have done, African-Americans had to escape and struggle after being brought to this country against our will,” she said.

Coleman also acknowledged how much African-Americans helped the U.S. and its citizens. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner attended the festivities and echoed her sentiments.

“This celebration gives us the opportunity to learn from history and look towards a better future for those who come after us,” he said.

The event also included five awards presented to individuals or organizations that have created opportunities in their communities.

Luster Products, an African-American-owned manufacturer of personal care products, received the Legacy Award.  Performance artist Dorothy Tillman was presented with the Young Achievement Award and Diane Latiker, founder of the non-profit Kids Off The Block, received the Leadership Award.

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