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Media Pioneer Dorothy Leavell and Ariel Investment’s John Rogers, among others Honored in Illinois Black Hall of Fame Celebration

In a red carpet affair, eight Illinois trailblazers, including Chicago and Gary Crusader Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell, were recently honored during a historic Illinois Black Hall of Fame (IBHOF) gala at Governors State University (GSU).

Leavell was among the 2022 Hall of Fame inductees recognized during an elaborate Juneteenth celebration at the University Park event that paid homage to a national holiday signed into law a year ago.

“It was indeed an honor to be recognized as a trailblazer with seven other high profile and worthy recipients. The affair was beautifully produced and is a memory that I shall cherish forever. I want to thank the nominator who felt that I had earned this great honor; the visionary Dr. Creola Barnes; Congressman Danny Davis, Honorary Chair; Richard Boykin, Chair; and Governor’s State University, its President, Dr. Cheryl Green, and staff for hosting the Illinois Black Hall of Fame,” Mrs. Leavell said.

Joining Leavell for a VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony, dinner and awards presentation were:

  • Ariel Investment’s Founder and President John Rogers, Jr.
  • Derrick Taylor, president of Black McDonalds’ Operators Association
  • Dr. Willie Wilson, philanthropist and CEO Omar Medical
  • Dr. Blondean Davis, CEO and Founder Southland College Preparatory High School and Superintendent Dist. 162
  • Emil Jones, retired of the Illinois State Senate and CEO of Strategic International Group

Dr. Linda Murray, past president of American Public Health Association, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ were honored but unable to attend the event, the culmination of two years’ planning.

In 2021, U.S. Congressman and IBHOF Honorary Chair Danny Davis launched the Illinois Black Hall of Fame — hosted at Governors State University (GSU)— to honor African American trailblazers with connections to Illinois. Richard Boykin serves as Chair for the initiative, the dream of Ceola Davis-Barnes.

Barnes, the sister of Congressman Davis, earned a master’s degree in urban education in 1975 from Governors State and enjoyed a career as a lifelong education. As founder and president of the African-American Ladies’ Legacy Foundation, Barnes created the Illinois Black Hall of Fame with the mission to mission to honor the past, celebrate the present, and inspire the future.

From entrepreneurs to educators, each honoree’s body of work serves as an example of excellence and innovation.

In February 2021, Davis joined other local and national dignitaries to announce (virtually) Chicago icon Dr. Timuel Black would be the first inductee into the Illinois Black Hall of Fame. A year later, 2021 inductees and/or family members met at GSU to “break ground” on the historic exhibit.

The 2nd Annual gala on June 18, 2022, was the first in-person gala and it did not disappoint.

“I am so proud to host the Illinois Black Hall of Fame at Governors State University in honor of those whose shoulders we stand upon,’’ said GSU President Cheryl Green.

“These are innovators and pioneers who refused to conform to a world that couldn’t see past their skin color. They embraced their God-given melanin and cast off society’s stereotypes to build businesses and schools that thrive in Black communities. They wrote laws and policies to support Black communities and then they created newspapers to spread their own good news. I am reminded of the late John Lewis’ quote: who said, ‘If not us, who. If not now, when?’”

Dr. Green, the university’s first Black president, was honored as a First Lady of Distinction in 2021. She called the recognition humbling and fueled for her passion to seize this unique moment in history.

“When students are empowered through education, we create change to transform lives by creating access to economic power and enlightenment about their rights. That is why I am excited to host the Illinois Black Hall of Fame at Governors State University. There is no better time than now.”

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