The African American Hall of Fame held the 30th Annual Red, Black, and Green Ball on Saturday, February 24 at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The mission of the organization is to educate through the preservation and promotion of art, history and artifacts that highlight African American achievements in our community and beyond. This year’s ball was especially memorable as the focus was celebrating the ‘Pioneering Visionaries’ who laid the foundation for the organization to flourish and grow. The founders included: Junior Watkins, James Peeples, Holland Neal Sr., Pearly M. Bonds, Andre Bohannon, Horace Livingston, Jr., Linda Mozeke, Kathryn Timmes, Millie Hall, Don Saltsman, John Metzger, William (Bill) Becker, Dorothy Davis, David Duncan Jr., Keith Kelley, Randy Phillips, and Clifton J. Mitchell, the attorney who submitted the articles of incorporation for a not for profit organization in 1987. These visionaries worked together to host and sponsor social and educational events promoting harmony, while increasing awareness of African American culture.
The speaker, Duane Farrington, State Farm Executive Vice President, tied the segments of the program together with his address: “Building a Successful Legacy.” His focus was “through a foundation of faith, service, and sacrifice an individual can choose to respond to the circumstances or challenges that are presented as a person moves along in his or her career. He called for the scholars to recognize their gifts, fine tune their talents, maintain a positive attitude, build others up, and to keep their dreams alive.” Ultimately, “how you make people feel is the legacy and education remains the key to both economic and political empowerment.”
2018 inductees into the African American Hall of Fame are people who have taken the opportunity to explore the past, to embrace the future and to shape the present through action. The men and women selected this year have raised the bar in their respective areas;
- Michael Sutton, P.E. the recipient of the William Watkins Jr. Founder’s Award is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Infrastructure Engineering, Inc., the first black owned engineering firm in Peoria. 30 plus yeas of successful professional experience with the study, design and construction of roads, bridges, transit, airport, water parks, and building sites and structures marks his career. Sutton is founder and president of Universal Agape Foundation, the charitable arm of Infrastructure Engineering, Inc. and founding member of the National Organization of Minority Engineers (NOME).
- Major Leroy Clark, the recipient of the Joshua Smith Corporate Diversity Award, was appointed by President Obama and President Trump to serve as the Acting Chief Counsel for the Office of Advocacy of the United States Small Business Administration. He has responsibility for procurement and government contracting issues, small business innovation and research and minority enterprise development programs.
- Marcia Bolden, the recipient of the Geraldine Mitchell Public Service Award, has devoted more than two decades of her life to the advancement, advocacy and empowerment of others through education and public service. Bolden has provided training and job placement to more than 5,000 youth in addition to providing college and career readiness education to over 1,000 youth attending Peoria schools. She serves as the Director of Prevention Education for the Center for Prevention of Abuse.
- Dr. Jamal Santa Cruze Wright, recipient of the Excellence in Education Award, is the first woman, as well as, the first African American to lead Eureka College. She is visible, prominent and highly respected locally and nationally. She is a skilled communicator, author and scholar whose training and expertise is in public relations/strategic communication, media studies, and intercultural communications.
- Dr. Chris Reynolds, PhD, J.D., recipient of the Sports Leadership Award is a native of Peoria, 1989 graduate of Peoria High where he was a two-time all-state player. Dr. Reynolds joined Bradley as the 10th Director of Athletics on March 17, 2015. His responsibilities include supervising operations, athletic performance, NCAA compliance and fundraising for Bradley’s 15 athletic programs, while serving as liaison between the Athletic Department and other units of the university.
- Lorraine B. Carter, recipient of the Arts & Entertainment Award, is an American artist native to Peoria who paints in various mediums, with oil painting as her favorite. She has won numerous awards as a painter including the famous “Seaway National Bank’s Annual Art Fair’s Purchase Award.” Her paintings have been exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry and the world renowned Gold Coast Art Fair. She was asked to design a campaign button for Harold Washington and feels proud that she helped to get the first African American mayor elected in Chicago.
African American Hall of Fame inductees are individuals who have acted with integrity, faith and confidence on behalf of the community, as well as being catalysts for positive change. Inductees are those who have exemplified outstanding service and/ or community leadership, and have been significantly generous in giving of their time and resources. Additionally their actions stand out in comparison to their peer group. For more information on the complete process please visit the African American Hall of Fame Museum at Proctor Center, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Rosemary McCullough (309 360-0990). All inductee application forms must be submitted by November 1, 2018.
In 2013 the organization expanded its outreach to increase scholarship support to outstanding African American scholars in Peoria District #150 and Bloomington Normal Schools. This year thirty scholars applied for scholarships and nineteen students were granted scholarships that ranged from $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000. The scholarship criteria is as follows: minimum GPA of 3.2, competitive ACT/SAT scores, demonstrated leadership activities, community involvement, two recommendations from a counselor or teacher, an essay about the significance of history, and admission to a university or college in the fall of 2018.
Scholarship information is sent to the counselors in Peoria or Bloomington/Normal schools in November of each year and scholarship applications and transcripts must be returned by the January deadline.
Officers & Members of the African American Hall of Fame Board of Directors
Rosemary McCullough, President; Dr. Marwin Spiller, First Vice President; Camille Coates, Secretary; Melisande Brown, Second Vice President; Georgette Orr, Treasurer; William (Junior) Watkins, Founder
Board members: Jacqueline Watkins, Barry Anderson, Ronda Guyton, Bobby Gray, Eric Heard, Howard Johnson, Tim Turner, Pat Ward, Chris Weaver, Pearly Bonds (Emeritus) , Pearl Taylor (Emeritus)