The African American Hall of Fame Museum will induct seven individuals into its Hall of Fame at the 31st Annual Red, Black and Green Ball on Saturday, February 23rd at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Several high school students will also be awarded college scholarships during the event. Ronda Guyton, Superintendent of the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office will deliver the keynote address; “Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Success.” She is the first African American woman to hold the office of Undersheriff since the inception of the office in 1825.
Founded in 1987, the African American Hall of Fame Museum’s (AAHFM) mission is to educate through preserving and promoting art, history and artifacts that highlight African American achievements in our community and beyond. Each year the AAHFM inducts individuals who have contributed to African American History and advancement through outstanding service and/or community leadership and have given of their time and resources. The inductees are individuals who have acted with integrity, faith and confidence on behalf of the community, as well as been catalysts for positive change.
The AAHFM supports African American graduating seniors of Peoria District No. 150, Quest Charter Academy and Bloomington/Normal high schools who are pursuing higher education at an accredited college or university. Each year scholarships are awarded to support and encourage community involvement among African American students and will be announced at the event.
The cocktail hour, including a silent auction and 50-50 raffle, will begin at 5:45 p.m., followed by the dinner and formal program at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to the ball are $60 per person. For more information, visit www.aahfmpeoria.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or contact Rosemary McCullough at 360-0990 or 673-2206.
At the ball, the museum will induct the following into its 2019 Hall of Fame:
Fannie G. Jones – African American Hall of Fame Museum Award for Political Leadership
In an article that appeared in the “Belleville News Democrat,” Lifestyle Section, March 1, 1998 Jones received recognition because “she broke the ice for all women in politics, not just black women but for all women.” Per a Senate Resolution after her death on May 21, 2004 Ms. Jones will be forever remembered for her life’s work and her dedication to serve with humility. She was an educator for twenty years and a school district administrator for 12 years in East St. Louis, IL. Ms. Jones entered the political arena as the first black woman to run on a statewide ticket for an elected office as the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1968.
Brian K. Leonard, Sr. – William Watkins Jr. Founder’s Award
Brian Leonard, Senior Director Government Relations, Ameren Illinois, has a thirty-nine-year career with extensive experience and exceptional skills developing stakeholder relationships to support business goals and objectives. His ability to put together coalitions across the organization demonstrates excellent knowledge of the utility industry which allows him to lead Ameren Illinois in the areas of energy conservation and residential construction.
Sam and Jean Polk – African American Hall of Fame Museum Civil Rights Award
Sam and Jean Polk have been involved in the Peoria Community for more than 40 years. As activists they worked with John Gwynn, the founder of the NAACP in Peoria, IL to advocate for African Americans to have job opportunities at CILCO, Caterpillar, and City Hall. Recently Mr. and Mrs. Polk were recognized for supporting the Starbucks Program to identify and redress bias in the corporation.
Mrs. Polk is graduate of Manual High School and holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts degree in Sociology and Education from Bradley University. She is a retired teacher/principal of Peoria Public Schools, District #150 and continues to serve the Peoria NAACP.
Mr. Polk is a graduate of Woodruff High School, a former boy scout (troop #38) with Carver Center under Frank Campbell and served faithfully in the U.S. Army. He was employed for 45 years by the City of Peoria Public Works. He has devoted his life to advocating for people of color to have access to housing, enhanced job access, and as a mentor for young men 15-18 years old. He continues to work with the NAACP, St. Jude, Carver Center, Susan B. Komen, and the Heritage Ensemble.
Karen Cotton – Garrett Humanitarian Award in Business
Ms. Cotton – External Affairs Manager, Illinois American Water, has over 20 years of experience in communications, public relations and corporate responsibility. She has led external affairs for twelve years at Illinois American Water where she focuses on collaborating with community leaders and organizations for the betterment of the communities Illinois American Water serves. She proactively reaches out to partner with WPNV Radio, Small Business Alliance, The Traveler Newspaper, Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, Susan G. Komen, NAACP, Sun Foundation, Peoria Playhouse, Art, Inc., Living to Serve Foundation and many others. Karen initiated and directed an effort to install 35 permanent pharmaceutical disposal programs across the state, including six in Peoria County. She is recognized as a leader in the water industry and earned Illinois American Water Association’s Public Communications Achievement Award in both 2012 and 2018.
Diane Hines – African American Hall of Fame Museum Arts & Entertainment Award
Ms. Hines began working with youth on the south side of Peoria in Harrison Homes when she was 11 years old. She assembled a group of peers to create a dance team called, The Brick City Dancers. The group gained popularity over a ten-year interval and members served as positive role models for other students. Ms. Hines is a graduate of Manual High School, single mother of three, and youth choir director at the Church of the Living God. In 2001 Diane started the 21st Century Drill Team at Trewyn Grade School and formed the Lincoln Middle School Step team. It is composed of 50 young men and young ladies in grades 6-8. Diane has traveled to Jackson, Mississippi and Sikeston, Missouri where her dance team “The Explosive Gems” received both 1st and 3rd place trophies. The Explosive Gems performed in Chicago for a pre-game show for the Chicago Bulls vs Philadelphia 76ers – in front of thousands of fans. Her work with youth has helped to improve their behaviors, sharpen their commitment to education, and limit ineffective street activities. She is dedicated to changing the climate of Peoria through the involvement of youth in the arts and entertainment.
Duane Farrington – Joshua I. Smith Corporate Diversity Award
Duane Farrington is the Executive Vice President – Technology, Digital and Innovation State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies. As a senior executive on the CEO’s staff, Duane has overall responsibility for the organization’s information technology, business and systems integration, digital strategy and innovation functions.
Duane began his State Farm career in 1980 in Pennsylvania, assisting customers with auto claims. He has held a variety of front-line leadership and executive roles in sales, underwriting, claims, information technology, and facilities management across the United States. His diverse experiences serve him well to align corporate strategies with various divisions to improve synergy to deliver results. Outside of State Farm, Duane continues to link volunteers with resources to make changes in the community. His leadership and passion with a youth mentoring program and as co-chair of a recent campaign to expand the community cancer center allowed both initiatives to be successful.
Duane has a personal focus on faith, family and fitness.