There is one aspect of the Block that many refer to, but none seem to want to discuss in depth - the Peoria African American Hall of Fame Museum (AAHFM). Although I have never gone to the AAHFM (nor do I know anybody else who has), I have always been curious about it. The recent uproar over the Peoria Riverfront Museum, has encouraged me to take a closer look.
The AAHFM came out of a grass roots movement. In 1987, a group of citizens decided that there was a need for a new educational institution, with the mission to inform and educate the community about the contributions of African Americans. The AAHFM opened its doors at Proctor Center, 305 S, DuSable St., on January 15, 1998.
Each year the AAHFM holds two annual events, the Arts Festival, which is a talent showcase and art fair, and the Red, Black and Green Ball, which recognizes and celebrates notable achievements and contribution to the African American community. The Red Black and Green Ball is when inductees are to be honored.
The AAHFM has a goal to raise $350,000 as a part of the campaign for the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Many in the black community are supportive of this opportunity for the AAHFM to expand their exhibits. In October of 2008, the Caterpillar African American Network (a group of Cat employees) presented the Peoria Riverfront Museum with $12,500 on behalf of the Peoria African American Hall of Fame Museum. However, the Red Black and Green Ball, appears to be the AAHFM’s biggest fund raiser and is widely supported by local corporations.
One portion of the AAHFM will be the Oral History Center, with "The Street," a gallery showcasing the Peoria region's history and people. It will reportedly include photos, artifacts and an oral history "jukebox" about memorable Peoria residents. A genelogy componet is also planned.
Recent inductees from the Red Black and Green Ball, which was held April 5, at the Hotel Pere Marquette are: President Barack Obama, along with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, are being honored for their role as the nation's first black first family. Caterpillar, Inc. CEO, Jim Owens in recognition of his commitment to diversity in the workplace. Willie Brown of Bloomington, a vice president of State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co. He is a trustee of Illinois Wesleyan University, president of Illinois Wesleyan Associates and has served on the board of United Way of McLean County. Agbara James Bryson of East Peoria, a counselor at Illinois Central College who has worked on many community initiatives including the Youth Network Panel, Black Covenant, Family to Family and Choices. Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The late Omega "Skippy" Jackson, a Peoria barber for more than 50 years. The Rev. Spencer Gibson, a Peoria District 150 teacher and founder of Integrity Gospel Singers, an award-winning 150-member choir made up of young people from ages 8 to 23. Mark Pflederer, a Caterpillar vice president who serves as advisor and mentor for the Caterpillar African-American Network (CAAN.) Denisha Womack, a freshman at Peoria High School who is active in beauty pageants and has participated in the National Urban League's Youth Leadership Summit and People to People's World Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
Last years event was also held at the Hotel Pere Marquette. The following are listed as 2008 Hall of Fame Inductees (from the AAHFM website): George Graves, Jr., Retired Band Director, Manual High School, extraordinary accomplishment in education. Jerome “Jay” David Lilly Sr., City Link Assistant General Manager and Day-to-Day Operations Manager, Posthumously, incomparable public service. John Deal, Maintenance, Proctor Center, outstanding service to the community. Pat Ward, Contemporary Gospel Singer, tremendous accomplishment in the Arts. Charlotte Lewis, All American, Olympic Silver Medalist; Gold Medalist, World Championships and Pan American Games, Posthumously, unsurpassed achievement in athletics. Joshua I. Smith, Chairman and Managing Partner, Coaching Group, LLC; Chairman, Nominating Committee, Caterpillar, Inc. Board of Directors, incomparable accomplishment in business. Sidney Banwart, Philanthropist; Vice President, Human Resources Division, Caterpillar, Inc., Garrett Humanitarian Award recipient and Howard Jonathan Grimes, Richard Pryor/Lou Rawls Youth Award recipient.