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41st Profiles in Excellence Event set for February 4

January 11, 2024 10:14 AM

The 41st annual Profiles in Excellence event takes place from 3–4:30 pm, Sunday, February 4, at Greenbelt Cultural Center, 1215 Green Bay Road in North Chicago. The theme this year is “Music Roots.”

Hosted by the Lake County Forest Preserves, the event commemorates Black History Month by recognizing notable African Americans in the area who will be remembered for their contributions to their community and society for years to come. The event is free and open to all ages.

Participants will experience the captivating rhythms and melodies of Guinea, West Africa, brought to life by an all-female drumming ensemble, Diamana Diya. “The dynamic performance is expected to transcend traditional boundaries, as the musicians communicate the exhilaration, energy and sheer joy embedded in the rich tapestry of Malinke music,” said Director of Education Alyssa Firkus. 

"The public is invited to join us for an unforgettable musical journey, where Diamana Diya's percussion expertise takes center stage, promising an afternoon of cultural celebration and rhythmic enchantment," said Angelo D. Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “Experience the rich, interwoven melodies and polyrhythms of the ensemble, including resonant bass drums (dunduns), higher-pitched djembes and traditional songs from the Hamanah region of Guinea.”

Co-founders Helen Bond and Amy Lusk intensively studied in Guinea with world-renowned musician Famoudou Konate, grand master of the djembe drum and its orchestra. Inspired by their immersive studies, Konate bestowed upon them the name "Diamana Diya," which translates to "make good music for the land."

Bond performs and teaches classes for children in the Lake County area. She is an adjunct-faculty member at Lake Forest College where she teaches the West African Drumming Ensemble and West African Chamber classes. Lusk, an avid musician all her life, began hand-drumming as a stress release from graduate school. She then found that the drum had become much more than a hobby.

Three community members will be honored during the event. They include:

  • Pastor Cory E. Ratliff, senior co-pastor at the Sign of Dove Church in Waukegan.
  • Nikki Rung, Grammy nominated children’s music recording performer known by many as “Nanny Nikki.”
  • Carlos Smith, a drill team director who has a podcast with more than 22,000 subscribers.  

Established in 1983, the annual Profiles in Excellence program honors the history and achievements of Lake County African Americans. The goal of the program is to further an appreciation of the heritage and achievements of the local African American community and help improve the quality of life for future generations.

Media Contact: Director of Education Alyssa Firkus,

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