What’s right with Peoria  

I’m old and growing older. One of the few benefits of old age is we know what life was like years ago and see what it is today. Others can not. Peoria was different in the 1940s. A lot different than today. Today, it seems like every time I pick up the paper or turn on local television I read and hear how bad Peoria and Peorians are. I don’t buy it, especially when it comes to how the city has significantly improved over the years.

Jerry Mitchell is an African-American and Chief of Police. District 150 now has its fourth African-American as Superintendent. At one time the city manager was African-American. Virtually every governmental agency from the City Council to the Peoria County Board to the Park District has elected African-American representatives as does Illinois Central College.

The fire and police departments are filled with competent first responders of color, hired not because of the texture of their skin, but for their qualifications. There are black doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, surgical techs, instructors, and other health professionals caring for and savings lives of both black and white in Peoria. Black and white stand before black and white judges in our courts defended by black and white lawyers.

People of all races teach to students of all races in our schools. So do our coaches. Peoria High School just won a state championship in football and they did it with black and white students blocking, passing, running, for each other…together.

The Peoria Barber College was founded in 1897. My father bought it in the 1950s. Today it is owned by black businessman Melvin Murry. Its faculty, students and customers are predominantly African-American. I think just about every black barber in Peoria attended our school. We’re proud of that achievement and proud of how the city and its people have changed from the 1940s. Graduates of the school have opened their shops and cut hair in all parts of the city.

Our television stations have African-Americans not only as reporters but as anchors. Garry Moore and his wife, Denise, a city council member, own their own radio station. I could go on in defense of the assertion that Peoria is not one of the worst cities for African Americans. In the end, my opinion, a white guy, probably means zilch to an African-American who believes otherwise, unless they lived in the 1940s and saw and lived how life was then compared to today.

This is what is right with Peoria.

Obviously, work remains, particularly at our local newspaper where they sensationalize racial stories and incidents. The newspaper has failed to set an example for other businesses and for the community. Pick up your next issue and note all of the pictures of reporters and columnists. Tell me how many African-Americans do you see…anywhere… and be sure to check the sports section. Pam Adams is a veteran on the staff. I could be wrong, but the last time I checked, she and Anthony Smith were the only African Americans in the newsroom. Not good.

Quote of the month 

“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”–Muhammed Ali

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