Local African American Leaders highlight our continuing series: - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Local African American Leaders highlight our continuing series: Home and History - Celebrating 200 Years

Posted: Updated:

As we close out Black History Month, we look now at the influence of our local African American leaders from the worlds of entertainment to politics.

The main character and the playwright are getting ready for a three day performance at Woodruff Career and Technical Center featuring Peoria's historical, black figures.

John Gwynn and Thomas Lindsey are joined by Moses Pettengill and the Underground Railroad.

"These ideals of freedom and justice and equality are best measured when they relate to how America treated its citizens of color," said Garry Moore, playwright and 25News Today anchor 

This is the third time his work has made it to a stage in Peoria.   

 "No one has said no to me, when asked to participate in the theater production. What does that tell you? I think it says that it resonates with people, that people look at the importance of it,"Moore said.

Two fictional high school boys go back in time to witness history in person.

"It's interesting because he's basically me if I in the 90's. Hehe," said Justin Worley, a senior at Richwoods high school. "Do you feel any pressure? Yes, actually. A lot. Because I want to make it great. Cause I want everybody to see a good representation of like, black culture. And, like, what good we bring. And, like, a nice story, basically."  

In the present day, just a few blocks down, the future is forming at this low watt radio station, WPNV helmed on this Wednesday by Peoria city councilwoman Denise Moore.

Her focus is always on her 10-year-old grandson and his generation. 

"I want this town to be better for him, when he gets to be an adult. And this is my way to do that," Moore said.  
"Right now he's going to find roadblocks. And I'm trying to help overcome those roadblocks."  

21 years ago, she started what is now the Minority Business Development Center on Southwest Adams st.

Moore says they try to help 20 people per week here - women, minorities and veterans - become entrepreneurs.

"There's a lot of horse trading as part of it that I don't particularly care for. But here, when people come here, they can actually leave the same day with a result, with an answer, with some help. That's what I like most," councilwoman Moore said.  

The radio stations - there's another one in Bloomington - are non-profits geared to education and announcements within a 3-5 mile radius.

You can count Jehan Gordon-Booth as a public servant too.

Elected in 2008, the first time Central Illinois sent an African American to either the state house or senate.

Quite a victory, considering Peoria was founded in 1691.

"I like being able to deliver for my district," Gordon-Booth said. "We're pressing those buttons and making it very clear that we expect to see diversity. And that can't just be a cute catch phrase. That can't just be a department that doesn't have any power." 

"Black to the Future" takes the stage at Woodruff on Friday at 7:30pm.

Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

And Sunday at 4 p.m.

Powered by Frankly