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Edward Gardner and Spencer Leak Sr. Honored At Theater Gala

By Wendell Hutson | August 11, 2013 8:45am
 Entrepreneur Edward Gardner protesting outside a construction site in Chatham where no workers were black.
Entrepreneur Edward Gardner protesting outside a construction site in Chatham where no workers were black.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

GRAND CROSSING — Edward Gardner and Spencer Leak Sr., two South Side entrepreneurs, are among five honorees that will be recognized at the 43rd Annual ETA Creative Arts Foundation Inc. Gala.

The other three honorees are Dee Robinson Reid, founder and president of the Robinson Hill Hospitality Group; R&B singer Lupe Fiasco and WVON-AM. The gala begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the ETA Creative Arts, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave. Tickets are $125 and can purchased by calling the ETA at (773) 752-3955, said Phillip Thomas, president of the ETA.

"This is our biggest fundraiser we have every year. The money raised is used to continue the many arts programs we offer," Thomas said. "All of the honorees have given back to the community one way or another especially Mr. Gardner and Leak."

Thomas added that both Leak and Gardner have a long history helping people on the South Side.

Leak is founder and CEO of Leak and Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which he operates with his wife and sons.

"I can't tell you how many free funerals Mr. Leak has provided families unable to pay for burial expenses," Thomas said. "He has been a big supporter of the arts and for that we thank him."

And Gardner, founder of the former Soft Sheen Products Co., has maintained an active role in the black community, Thomas said.

"Here's a guy who retired from the business world, started the Black On Black Love organization and still finds time for humanitarian causes," said Thomas.

In 2012, Gardner came out of retirement to seek economic justice and parity for blacks by shutting down construction sites in black neighborhoods that were not using any black workers.

Despite some recent health issues Gardner, 88, said he plans to keep fighting to ensure blacks receive "their fair share of equality. I am humbled to be recognized for work we all should be doing anyway."

As for Leak, he said he has always been an activist dating back to 1964 when he joined 10,000 civil rights activists, which included his father the Rev. Clay Evans. The group had protested the burial policy of the Oak Woods Cemetery in the Woodlawn neighborhood, which was racially segregated at the time.

"When God calls me home I want him to say well done my good and faithful servant. That's why I do what I do," Leak said.

But besides Leak and Gardner, Thomas said all of the honorees have given back to the community countless times.

“All of the honorees have been selected because of their generosity,” Thomas added. “Their lives and mission illustrate the biblical scripture that says, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’”