200 Years of African American Progress in Illinois, Elise F. Allen among those honored at “Honoring Our Heritage” Gala

The Springfield and Central Illinois African American Museum (AAHM) held its 7th Annual Gala, “Honoring Our Heritage” on October 25th. The theme, “200 Years of African American Progress in Illinois” is representative of the State’s Bicentennial activities as well as programs and exhibits commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Illinois African Africans have a long, extensive history of significant and momentous contributions, achievements, and activism. The program featured four (4) special honorees, including the Traveler’s own, Elise Ford Allen. The other featured award winners were Robert Moore, Charlotte E. Johnson and Joseph E. Bunch. The program also included a silent auction, dinner, and music by the Soul Experience.

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l to r: Ocheng Jany, AAHM Board Member; Linda Allen Hollis accepting award for her mother; Ernestine Lawrence, AAHM Board Member. Photo by James Bass

This year’s event was also attended by the AAHH Board of Directors, Board Members, and Volunteers that made for a very successful program. There were many political figures in attendance including Mayor James O. Langfelder of Springfield, who shared his congratulations to the honorees and program in general. Special thanks also go out to the Mistress and Master of Ceremonies, Patricia James Davis and Andre Jordan who kept the program moving smoothly throughout the evening. Other featured guests included: Doris J. Bailey, former AAHM Museum Coordinator; T. Ray McJunkins, Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church; Nell Clay, President, Board of Directors of AAHM; Douglas E. King, 3rd Vice President of AAHM; Ocheng Jany, AAHM Board Member; and Ernestine Lawrence, AAHM Board Member.

Following is a short bio on all the honorees:

Elise Ford Allen:

Elise Ford Allen is an icon for civil rights and women’s rights in Peoria, Illinois and the surrounding communities. As the owner and publisher of the Traveler Weekly Newspaper, she became the first, African American woman to both edit and publish a Newspaper in the state of Illinois. The newspaper is in its 52nd year of publication. Because of her devotion to the community, Ms. Allen is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions and continues to focus on giving insight on African American issues, concerns and accomplishments. Elise Ford Allen’s key belief is that, “Minorities need to be active in their civil rights, lest they may be taken from them.” A philosophy that she has maintained throughout her adult life.

Robert Moore:

Robert Moore is a distinguished author an has spent more than forty years in law enforcement. Mr. Moore is a native of Pontotoc, Mississippi, who moved to Illinois after serving in the U.S. Army, where he began his career as a State Trooper in Rockford, Illinois. He was nominated for U.S. Marshal by the Honorable Carol Mosley Braun, U.S. Senator and appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Mr. Moore is an advocate for increasing the number of black police executives and has conducted nationwide hearings on discrimination in the Marshal Service.

Charlotte E. Johnson:

Charlotte E. Johnson is both a history maker and historian in her own right. She graduated from Springfield High School and went on to earn a Music degree from Fisk University. Ms. Johnson currently resides in Alton, Illinois where her major focus has been on preserving her church’s history (Greater St. James Church) through extensive scrapbooks. Ms. Johnson has aided in ensuring that the history of African American contributions are archived for future generations. Through her work, she has inspired and motivated families to research their family histories.

Joseph Ellington Bunch, Jr.:

Joseph E. Bunch, Jr., is known in Central Illinois for his teaching and coaching prowess. Mr. Bunch was born in Springfield and was a member of the Lincoln Land Community Loggers Track Team in high school. At 22 years of age, he had a medical condition that no longer allowed him to follow that athletic dream. Although he could no longer participate in track, he later went on to establish the Capital City Striders Track Club for youth. In 1994, Mr. Bunch began his illustrious career teaching history and coaching for Springfield High School. He has received several awards for his teaching abilities including the Golden Apple Award, the Most Inspiration Teacher Award from Western Illinois University, and Who’s Who Among American Teachers. Mr. Bunch has been an excellent role model regarding leadership and devotion to youth.

About AAHM: The Springfield & Central Illinois African American History Museum exhibits, identifies, collects, catalogs, restores, houses and maintains documents and artifacts relating to and chronicling the history and legacy of African Americans in Central Illinois. The Museum provides research opportunities, educational programming and interpretive services to historians, educators, students and others interested in the lives and legacies of African Americans in Central Illinois while enhancing their overall knowledge about African American people.

For more information visit http://www.spiaahm.org or call the museum at 217/391-6323.