I felt that the article focused primarily on the looting and not enough on the duality of perceptions of the City of Peoria. While many will argue that, like many other urban cities, Peoria has fallen on hard times, I would say that the issues of race and inequality have always been present for many African Americans. In other words, the fight for social justice has always “Played in Peoria.” After all, it was in Peoria, 1947, where the late Civil Rights icon Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian started his fight for equality by participating in his first sit-in which led to the integration of Barton’s Cafeteria. According to Peoria Journal Star records, in June 1963, it was the late Reverend Blaine Ramsey, first vice president of the local NAACP, who organized boycotts of Peoria City Lines Buses, in efforts to increase minority hiring.
It was the late John Gwynn, president of the local NAACP, who on June 22, 1963, was quoted by the Peoria Journal Star saying, “we now have racial tension and discrimination in almost every phase of life in Peoria,” as he called upon then Peoria Mayor, Robert G. Day, to address the issue of lack of African American hiring at the Peoria City Hall and CILCO.
On Dec. 5, 1963, it was reported by the Peoria Journal Star that Byron DeHaan, then chairman of the education committee of the Peoria Council on Human Relations, while speaking to the Kiwanis Club, indicated that Blacks in Peoria were the victims of unfair housing practices.
Fast forward to the year 2020, and these issues are still “Playing in Peoria.” One can only hope that the duality of perception is removed at some point, and everyone can see and recognize injustice and realize, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “no one is free until we all are free.” Meanwhile, the band plays on.