Domestic violence survivor honors women with Burr Ridge gala


Oak Lawn resident and domestic violence activist Lachelle Evans-Beard wants to honor women for their resilience. And she’s doing it with her “I Am Free” gala Saturday in Burr Ridge.

“We honor doctors and lawyers, why don’t we honor that sister because she’s a friend, honor her because she’s somebody’s daughter, honor her because she’s somebody’s mother and she survived,” Evans-Beard said. “She said enough is enough. It’s my choice to gain my freedom. These women are champions.”

Evans-Beard was in her late teens when she endured a beating by an older man she was secretly dating. She was a mother of two at the time, and the man struck her because he thought she was laughing at him, she said. After she ran away from him, she would never see the man again, she said.

But Evans-Beard kept the assault to herself until she shared the story in a 2017 book she co-authored, “As the Wind Blows.” Evans-Beard blamed the incident for her “invisible scar,” where she would come into a room not happy.

“People can sense that energy,” she said. “I had to release the damage so the scar could heal.”

For Evans-Beard, a native of the K-Town neighborhood in North Lawndale, healing meant forgiving herself and forgiving the abuser, for herself. It also meant reading a lot of books, listening to motivational videos on YouTube, telling herself she loves herself, and having a relationship with God.

Along her journey of self-healing, she wrote two more books, “BreakThrough: Still I Rise” and “Empowering Your Inner Self,” which helped her youngest child, Tiara Hawkins, through ovarian cancer. In 2021, Evans-Beard lost her husband Nathaniel Beard Jr. at age 58 to kidney failure.

She’s still processing his death, but she said she’s learning through self-help how to deal with her grief. Evans-Beard, a CTA employee, hopes the Burr Ridge gala elevates others who are still struggling on their path toward self-healing.

Lachelle Evans-Beard holds a photograph of herself with late husband, Nathaniel Beard Jr., on Sept. 22, 2023.

The event Saturday at the Burr Ridge Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is marking its third year, will feature Chicagoan and domestic violence survivor Eboni Presswood as the keynote speaker, as well as comedian Jeremiah Frazier. There will also be live music and a four-course meal.

“The gala is called ‘I Am Free,’” Evans-Beard said. “The reason behind that is: We went through COVID in 2020 and we survived. I lost my husband. I could have lost my mind with post-traumatic stress. I am free. I survived. You’re free from something. My daughter is free from ovarian cancer. It’s all those things.”

In addition to “celebrating the purple,” a color that represents domestic violence awareness, Evans-Beard wants to open a resource center for domestic violence survivors by 2025 through her nonprofit, AM ME Inc., which stands for ambitious, motivating, mental empowerment.

The center will be called Her Safe Place. She envisions fixing up an abandoned house where the living room will be an intake space, the dining room will be a place for workshops, and bedrooms would be where people could apply for jobs on donated computers and be used to offer makeovers for clients.

“I want to tell every woman that I come in contact with, you are not alone. You are beautiful. You are bold, you are confident. You are unapologetic,” Evans-Beard said.

To attend the event, visit The gala runs from 3-8 p.m. Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 300 S. Frontage Road, Burr Ridge.


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