MLK Day Awards

For Immediate Release                                    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

January 21, 2019                                            Rita Ali, Chair, (309) 256-3300


Judy Page

Receives MLK Commemorative Service Leadership Award

The King Holiday Committee of Peoria presented its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service Leadership Award and MLK Drum Major Awards at the 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service held at Bethel United Methodist Church following the MLK Freedom March on Monday, January 21, 2019.

This year, we honor Judy Page with the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service Leadership Award.  The award goes to an individual or group that has made a significant recent contribution having great impact to our community.

Think about what it must take to be a professional vocalist in Peoria for more than 50 years, what she’s seen, what she’s heard and what it took to pursue her passion in spite of it all. There’s a reason Aretha and singers like her favorite, Nancy Wilson, had reputations for demanding respect.

She got her start singing at home, in the church, and Carver Center. She was still a girl when she went on the road singing backup for Ike and Tina Turner. She left the Ikettes, but she never left singing, particularly in popular local bands.

She has been a mentor and shoulder for other up and coming musicians, a volunteer in other areas of arts and entertainment. She was recently inducted into the African-American Hall of Fame. One of the highlights of her career was opening for Ray Charles at the Tri-County Urban League’s Black and White Gala. To hear loud applause from a hometown audience lifted her.

Not too long ago, she was feeling like maybe it was time for her to retire, time to step down from the unique vocal perch she has carved out for herself. But not yet, not before we have a chance to lift her up also.

The 2019 MLK Drum Major Awards:

 Angela Henry,  Drum Major Award forMedia and Public Service. She makes a space to showcase African American ambition and success. There’s no other space like it in downstate Illinois and she was practically born into it. If you want to know something about the history of black Peoria, you must stop by this space. Her parents created it 52 years ago when she was six years old. There have been other outlets like it but none have lasted half a century and two generations. That’s saying something for a family-owned business, particularly a black family-owned business. The business is probably best known for its fierce founder, Elise Allen. But her daughter, Angela Henry, the current managing editor of the Traveler Weekly, brings her own fresh energy to the newspaper.

Yolanda Riley, Drum Major Award for Social Justice.  She wanted to be like Clair Huxtable of the Cosby Show. . .Clair Huxtable wasn’t real but the next Drum Major is the Real Deal. She is a natural advocate, having won several civil lawsuits before she ever went to law school.   Since she graduated from law school and returned to Peoria, she is making a name for herself as an advocate for those who need a second chance. As an attorney with Prairie State Legal Services, she was out front helping hundreds of area residents erase or seal old criminal records, notably as part of Expungement Summits sponsored by State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth. She was one of the first to answer the Black Panther challenge locally. On their own, she and a few others sponsored 50 local children for a showing of the record-breaking movie. She recently jumped from McCall Law office to become the first black attorney at one of the city’s major law firms – Kavanaugh, Scully, Sudow, White and Frederick. She is vice president of the local ACLU chapter and serves on the Diversity Committee for the Peoria Bar Association. Obviously, she breaks the stereotype about children who have been in foster care.

Susan Katz, Drum Major Award for Community Unity.  Let us not forget hundreds of area students joined nationwide sit-ins and walkouts calling for tougher gun control laws in honor of the victims of the Parkland mass shooting, where 17 died.  We remember the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, where 49 died. We remember the mass shooting in Las Vegas, where 58 died. We remember the mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Mother Emmanuel AME Church and the temples, mosques, colleges, movie theaters, and synagogues. We remember. We remember each time we heard someone say we never thought it would happen here. We remember because we know it can happen here, there and anywhere people. . .but particularly when people are targeted by race, age, ethnicity, gender or faith. We remember the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh where 11 died. And we honor the woman who has been key in local efforts to make sure we never forget. Katz helped organize the local vigil for the victims at Tree of Life. Also, her work with the Jewish Federation of Peoria and its Holocaust Memorial.

Co-Pastors Martin and Lisa JohnsonDrum Major Award for Community Support.  This couple has been about the work of building and beating the drum for community service since they retired from the military and set out on a new beginning. Their personal new beginning turned into hopes for a new community beginning in some of the poorest parts of the city. . .hopes based on Dr. King’s definition of leadership through service and commitment to. . .as he said in the Drum Major speech. . .feed the hungry, clothe the naked. . .work with those in prison. . .and make this old world new again. They turned an old vacant building on the east bluff into a vibrant church steeped in community outreach. Then they bought an old vacant school building on the near north side which they have been transforming into a community center with a variety of classes and activities for young people. Their work and plans for the old Kingman School drew attention from the church across the street, which knew it needed new blood for its mission to survive. The dying, century-old church sold its building and assets to the young, energetic church for just $1 a few years ago in 2014. Their commitment to leadership through service has blossomed into New Beginnings Ministries and the Nannie M. Johnson Community Center.

Jonathon and Nikki Romain.  Drum Major Award for Art Education and Service. He is a visual artist. She is a performing artist. Art changed their lives, art is their life. He is the ex-drug dealer who headed to prison right after he graduated from Bradley University, then built a career as a nationally-known painter. She is the singer and actress who says performing literally saved her life. Both have compelling personal stories. But even more compelling is how much they want to change lives and communities through the healing power of art. He patiently worked to buy the old Greeley School, a long-vacant building he dreamed of turning into an art center. When the red tape finally cleared, he and his wife took off like there was no tomorrow. But they have a clear vision of tomorrow and how to re-imagine the future.   They have formed a non-profit arts organization whose mission is to inspire and empower the community through the arts. The non-profit currently offers classes in three Peoria schools. And if there was any doubt about their vision and commitment, it began to fade in the widespread enthusiasm it took to help them beat out hundreds of other applicants from across the country to win a $25,000 grant from State Farm. They’ve raised thousands more since for the organization they founded, Art, Inc.

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.  And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” These are the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.



Third Annual Women’s Rally Rescheduled!

    For more information:
    Nancy Long (309)868-9400
    Jean Sloan (309) 678-8099
    The Third Annual Women’s Rally and March will take place beginning at 10:40 AM on
    Saturday, Jan. 19 outside at the Gateway Building in downtown Peoria, IL.
    The organizers of the march stated: “This is a local march, organized by a coalition of women
    and allies across the central Illinois region. We come to this event and this movement with an
    understanding of and an appreciation for the perspectives and experiences that have shaped us
    collectively as well as individually. Our movement is made richer by our differences of culture,
    race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, and more. As a grassroots effort, this day is a celebration of
    what unites us as women. On this day we stand in solidarity in our shared value for social
    The event will begin with music by Sarah Marie Dillard, followed at 11 AM with a welcome by
    Sherry Cannon, a song, “King of Anything” by Dillard, Mega Maroney, & Emilele.
    The keynote speaker with be Illinois Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria.).
    Other speakers will include:
    Chama St. Louis – Civil Rights/Poverty and Women
    Katie Jones/Moms Against Gun Violence – Safety
    Catalina Zavala – Immigration
    Nicole Livsey – LGBTQ Civil Rights
    Tracy Meints Fox – Environmental Issues
    Dr. Rhamat N’allah – Health Care
    Music, “Glory” by Ciara Parks and DeShawn Brown
    Sherry Cannon will present closing remarks.


  • For immediate release
    A meeting to craft strategy to save Peoria Public Radio from vanishing has been
    scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 5, at Lakeview Library, 1137 W.
    Lake Ave., Peoria. Concerned citizens are convening the meeting and the public is
    According to news media reports, Bradley University plans to merge Peoria Public
    Radio, its NPR station, WCBU-FM, with the NPR station in Bloomington/Normal
    operated by Illinois State University. Peoria likely would lose local news and
    cultural coverage enjoyed by the city for 48 years.
    Peoria Public Radio over the years has received millions of dollars in public
    support from its listeners, said to number 30,000 today. It broadcasts classical
    music and local news and national talk shows. It also has a broadcast channel for
    the visually impaired. It broadcasts the Peoria City Council meetings and local
    musical concerts. All of this would be in jeopardy with a merger.
    In a secretive procedure, Bradley University officials reportedly have decided to
    send the station to ISU without any consultation with those who have supported
    it for years. There are many unanswered questions about what is going on.
    The meeting will seek to find ways to keep Peoria Public Radio in Peoria, perhaps
    with another local not-for-profit organization, or to persuade Bradley officials to
    keep this station, which benefits the university as its best local outreach to the
    The public is urged to attend this important first step in saving Peoria Public Radio
    for Peoria.
    More information: Elaine Hopkins 309-231-5758.
    A Facebook page has been posted:
    271984940145370/?modal=admin_todo_tour or search “Save Peoria Public Radio”

Food as a Value; Food as Medicine


Community Word has written about the wheat at Janie’s Farm Organics and how different it is from other commercially available wheat.

Now that the Mill at Janie’s Farm Organics is up and operating, distribution is expanding and this month Naturally Yours at Metro Centre in Peoria began carrying the flour — just in time for holiday cooking.

Local, sustainable, organic food is a value that strengthens the local economy
and adds an array of nutrients to your diet.

NAACP and AFSCME challenge Peoria city budget


Approval of a city budget with elimination of more than three dozen union positions and implementation of a special fee on top of property-taxes triggered scrutiny by officials with AFSCME who reported they found an undisclosed $30 million fund.

“It was behind a firewall,” said Sherry Carter-Allen, retired president of Local 3464 at AFSCME Council 31.

She triggered a discussion at the Peoria NAACP meeting Thursday evening.

The fund, referred to as OPEB, the Other Past Employment Benefit Fund, was not adequately discussed at city council meetings, she said. Carter-Allen said there was a $17 million transfer from the OPEB fund into the general fund as well as other transfers.

Patrick Urich, Peoria city manager, disputes the contention that the fund is not publicly disclosed and said the city is required to carry it as a line item in the budget. He referred inquiries to the city web page and quick links to revised city budget dated 10-23-18, page 17.

“We are not hiding anything. It’s in the budget,” he said, explaining taxes allocated to the fund show an obligation of the city to past employees.

The city has a self-insured health plan and other liabilities for past employees that must be carried on the books. There is not $30 million in the fund. Transfers from OPEB to other line items must be repaid to the OPEB fund over time, Urich said.

The Peoria City Council voted at its meeting Tuesday evening to eliminate 22 firefighter positions and 16 police positions as part of its efforts to shore up a $6 million shortfall in the budget.

Voting no on the police and fire cuts were Beth Jensen, Jim Montelongo and Chuck Grayeb.

In addition, the council voted to impose a fee on top of regular property taxes. Voting no were Beth Jensen and Zach Oyler.

“Those cuts have a direct impact on the safety of our community,” said Marvin Hightower, president of Peoria NAACP.

“My question is why hasn’t this (OPEB) fund been adequately reported and discussed.”

Future plans call for closing two fire stations and building one new station in a centralized location, but response times could double for some locations on the South Side, said Hightower.

Following a lengthy discussion, the NAACP announced it would hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday Nov. 19 at NAACP offices, 101 N. MacArthur Highway, to discuss the city budget and the OPEB fund.


Peoria Journal Star: ethical conflict?

Opinion & Analysis

The Peoria Journal Star, under the editorial management of Dennis Anderson, published an editorial Oct. 21 endorsing Gov. Bruce Rauner. The editorial concluded Rauner is a much better choice for governor than his opponent JB Pritzker, and the editorial cited Pritzker’s level of “corruption” for the method he used seeking to lower his property taxes.

Problem is the editorial has its own seeming ethical violation. Anderson’s son, Eric Anderson, works for the Rauner campaign. However, the editorial endorsement published under the father’s supervision makes no public disclosure of this conflict of interest.

Both the Rauner and Pritzker campaigns did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Anderson said he informed the Journal Star’s publisher and has been open in the newsroom with other editors about his son’s employment with the Rauner campaign, and there was no concern with Anderson’s role on the editorial board of the paper and with the editorial endorsement of Rauner.

Anderson said his son is 26 and has his own career.

He said he also discussed the situation with members of the AP Media Editors board and there was no concern and no indication a disclosure statement should have been included with the editorial.

Further, Anderson said, the Journal Star endorsed Rauner four years ago and this editorial serves to back up that previous endorsement.

The editorial also chided Rauner for his lack of transparency in the investigation into the Veterans’ Hospital in Quincy.

Yet the Journal Star editorial had its own lack of transparency by failing to publish a statement explaining the relationship between Anderson’s role regarding the editorial and his son’s role in the Rauner campaign.

Journalism is a profession that demands disclosure and accountability from others, but failing to follow the same standards ourselves hurts us all.

A retired editor from a large Central Illinois daily newspaper called the conflict  “disingenuous at best . . . and this coming from an industry that constantly preaches transparency and full disclosure but operates under a separate set of guidelines when it applies to newspapers. No wonder readers don’t trust us. Anderson should have stayed clear of it or at the very least had a disclosure of his family connection to Rauner.”

(Clare Howard)





Vote your power!

Helen King, left, with the Peoria NAACP, reviews voting at the Peoria County Election Commission with first-time voter Nae’Kirah Linwood before Linwood enters a voting booth.

King and teacher Holly Nelson instruct students in the options class about the process and responsibility of voting. Five Manual students were first-time voters Tuesday at the Election Commission, 4422 N. Brandywine Drive.

After she cast her ballot, Linwood, 18 and a senior at Manual Academy, said it was a good experience. Others in her family have already voted, and she plans to make voting a lifetime responsibility.

Early voting continues at the Election Commission office through Nov. 4.

Two-person voter registration juggernaut


Don’t even think of telling Jackie Petty or Helen King you’re not going to vote.

Maybe you think you don’t have time or you feel it’s hopeless or that one vote won’t make a difference.

This duo will seek you out and convince you otherwise.

King, 67, is known to approach young people congregating in convenience stores, and she’ll pop the question “Are you registered to vote?”

The two have pursued this mission for more than 20 years. They are both members of the Peoria NAACP, and they set up tables at naturalization ceremonies, outside grocery stores and at community events..

Just sworn in as an American citizen? You won’t get out of the door without being told you now have the right and responsibility to vote.

“We’ve been doing this for so long, it’s in our blood,” said Petty, 76.

She tells people, “Voting is your power. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Statistically, voting increases with wealth. Richer people vote more, and they vote their interest. That reinforces economic inequality and biased public policy that favors the rich and reinforces disadvantage for the poor. A government run by the wealthy is a plutocracy, not a democracy that represents all people equally.

“We focused on the older population in the past, but recently I’ve noticed that younger people don’t understand that democracy requires that people vote. Some of that is because civics was dropped as part of the school curriculum,” Petty said.

She recalls when she was at Peoria High School, one requirement for graduation was attending either a school board meeting, a park district board meeting or a city council meeting.

“I got hooked,” she said.

See these two in action! Watch their video:

NAACP: Vote for Equality

NAACP shares perspectives on why voting is essential for our community and our democracy. VOTE!

Posted by Community Word on Friday, October 19, 2018

“There is active voter suppression going on in other states. We are fortunate in Illinois with early voting and easy access to polling places,” she said.

Tom Bride, executive director of Peoria County Election Commission, said Petty and King “are always working. Constantly. They do a wonderful job.”

While residents of other states and people living on Indian reservations are dealing with active voter suppression, Illinois has expanded access.

People currently in prison in Illinois can’t vote, but everyone released from prison, even those with a felony conviction on their records, can vote.

Bride said we have online voter registration, election day registration, early voting and vote by mail/absentee voting with no excuse required. All eligible voters can vote by mail.

That convenience has paid off. Bride said by mid-October, there were 9,200 voters in Peoria County who requested ballots for voting by mail, and 52.5 percent had already returned them. By comparison, at that point in the presidential election of 2016, he had only 7,600 requests for voting by mail.

“In Illinois, we’re very fortunate,” he said.

His offices moved from the former police station at 542 SW Adams St. to 4422 Brandywine Drive. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, access the web site at:


Peoria NAACP Branch holds 56th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet Oct. 27    Defeat Hate……VOTE

The Peoria NAACP branch will be hosting its 56th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Paradice Hotel & Conference Center, in East Peoria. Social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. The theme for this year’s event is “Defeat Hate……VOTE. The banquets keynote speaker is Jeff Johnson.  A meet and greet reception will follow immediately after.

Jeff Johnson is an award-winning investigative journalist, social activist, political commentator and author who has established himself as an authentic voice for change and a trailblazing social entrepreneur.

He has spent the last decade merging the worlds of politics and popular culture, working as senior advisor for media and youth outreach for People for the American Way, as National Director of the Youth & College Division of the NAACP, and as the Vice President of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network.He is the Creator, Host and Executive Producer of MANCAVE, a late-night talk show targeting urban men that aired on BET.

The following commemorative awards will be presented to four outstanding community leaders; The Harry Sephus Trailblazer Award, The John Gywnn Courage Award, The Don Jackson Game Award, and the Sam & Jean Polk Humanitarian Award.

Garry Moore will be the MC for the evening and musical entertainment will be provided by Josiah Williams and Shaleese Pie.

The NAACP is the nations oldest, largest and most recognized civil rights organization, with over a half-million members. The vision of the NAACP continues to be to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.

For ticket information, please co go www.peorianaacp.comor call 309 648-3445.


Jeff Johnson & Pastor Marvin Hightower, will hold a 5 p.m. press conference in the lobby of the Paradice Hotel & Convention Center.