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Awards ceremony to honor comedian Bernie Mac

4/10/2019, noon | Updated on 4/10/2019, noon
African-Americans are affected by sarcoidosis. Imagine walking around not knowing you have it and maybe you’re being treated for one ...
Secretary of State Jesse White (left) and Rhonda McCullogh-Gilmore will both honor the late comedian Bernie Mac at an April 12, 2019 fundraising event. Photo credit by Wendell Hutson

Awards Ceremony to honor comedian Bernie Mac

BY WENDELL HUTSON, Contributing Writer

The late comedian Bernard “Bernie Mac” McCullough will be honored at the 3rd Annual Purple Carpet Awards along with five individuals for their community service work.

McCullough died in 2008 from sarcoidosis, a inflammatory disease with no cure that affects multiple organs in the body, but mostly the lungs and lymph glands. Many people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms, and medical experts said the disease might only be discovered when a chest X-ray is done for another reason.

The nonprofit Bernie Mac Foundation sponsors the event, which will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, April 12 at the Wintrust Financial Building, 231 S. LaSalle St. Val Warner, co-host of the ABC talk show “Windy City Live,” will be mistress of ceremonies, and online tickets can be purchased at berniemacfoundation.org.

And according to Allen Wright, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, the event raised $24,000 last year and has set a $100,000 goal this year.

“A portion of the proceeds will go to the foundation for operations and a portion will go to support the STAR Center (Bernie Mac Sarcoidosis Translational Advanced Research) at the University of Illinois Hospital,” he said.

People with sacroidosis especially blacks often go years without knowing they have the disease, so raising awareness about it is critical, said Rhonda McCullough-Gilmore, Bernie Mac’s widow, who remarried in 2010.

“Bernie was diagnosed early as a young man in his 20s and early detection is always better when you are dealing with an incurable disease,” explained McCullough-Gilmore. “Mostly African-Americans are affected by sarcoidosis.

Imagine walking around not knowing you have it and maybe you’re being treated for one thing when in fact it’s something else. That’s a scary feeling and that’s why we try to educate people about the disease.”

The award recipients are Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Illinois Hospitals; Dr. Lu Yang, a Chicago radiologist; Dr. Ansel Johnson, a south suburban optometrist; Crystal Cross; a sacroidosis patient; and Secretary of State Jesse White.

For his part, White said he is happy to be recognized for his support of sarcoidosis research and the foundation.

“Secretary White has the greatest respect for the Bernie Mac Foundation and the work they are doing to educate the public on Sarcoidosis,” said Dave Druker, a spokesman for White. “He is a great admirer of what Bernie Mac did in his career and impressed that his family honors his memory by giving back to the community through the foundation.”

In 2013, a year after the Bernie Mac STAR Center opened at UIC’s College of Medicine Research Building, 909 S. Wolcott Ave., White

honored Bernie Mac with a specialized license plate and said he did so because Bernie Mac was more than just an actor.

“He was a man who cared about others and a man who helped so many people better their lives,” White said. “I had the pleasure of meeting him twice, and both times I was impressed with him.”

Bernie Mac’s popular TV show “The Bernie Mac Show” ran from 2001 to 2006 and was part of “Kings of Comedy,” one of the most successful comedy tours of all-time, which included Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer.

McCullogh-Gimore added that the awards event is a way for fans to honor her late husband.

“It’s always an honor to donate or be a part of an event to show your support for a cause dear to your heart,” she said. “I would consider it an honor for people to come out for the purple awards or buy a ticket for someone. The money is needed to help support research for sarcoidosis. I hope to see all his fans there.”