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African-American Museum to celebrate official Black History Month Awards Banquet 10-year anniversary

The AAHCMSJV Museum’s new awards presentation style features local political leaders from throughout the community

FRESNO, CA— 2019 Black History Month Celebration Banquet Saturday, February 2, 2019Celebrating its official 10-year anniversary, the African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) is hosting its annual, to honor the unsung African-American champions from throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Key event sponsors include: State Center Community College District, Chuckchansi Gold Resort & Casino, The Fresno Bee and the Fresno County Office of Education.

Other assisting sponsors include: Family Options, Tioga-Sequoia Brewery, CMAC, and ONME News.


In 2008, the vision among the AAHCMSJV Board of Directors started as a celebration of community leaders, to display to the masses the good works being done by people with extraordinary talent, vision, and leadership to uplift the community as a whole to greater heights. A plaque on the wall to present these greats eternally to the community and to patrons of the African-American Museum became the tradition. It wasn’t until 2009 the official structure of the event began to gel, with members from the community giving suggestions throughout the years to enhance the configuration, as well as implementing the original name, “Black History Month Celebration Banquet.”

By the second annual event, The AAHCSMJV began to use the word “Trailblazer” to designate the

accomplishments of community leaders and advocates who have helped any member of the San Joaquin community through service and/or leadership against all odds. These icons have strived to make a difference in their communities while surpassing roadblocks, challenges or other personal hurdles that usually interfere with one’s greater achievements. Some of these leaders recognized are often historical firsts in different professions that were difficult for African-American to penetrate due to Jim Crow laws or extreme racism of the time.

Each year a Trailblazer committee meets once a month starting in June to analyze potential submitted names, making sure they fit the criteria for the Trailblazer profile: 68 years of age plus, (or at least 3 years shy of that age), are a Central Valley native or have resided in the Central Valley for 15 years or more, is an African-American first, doing something in his/her line of work, field or community, or is an African-American who is noted as the only person who accomplished something in a particular field or community; is an African-American who is outstanding in his/her field or community, or is an absolute outstanding exception to the rule and is completely committed to the plight of the Black community. (Community members are able to submit names of African-American from the San Joaquin Valley to be recognized who fit the above stated criteria before August 31st.)

This year’s 2019 Trailblazers include: Al Maroney, Maxie Parks, Harry Miller, Larry Hodges, Omie Comier, Charles Francis, Johnny Lee, Estelle Dailey, Bishop Rodney G. Spencer, Ali Morris, Earlena Morris (posthumously) and Bobby Lee (posthumously).

Another distinguished accolade presented during the banquet is the Passing of the Torch Award, created by the AAHCMSJV to recognize individuals who are community leaders in their own fields, advocates for justice, and are movers and shakers ages 21- 45, to encourage young leaders toward progress, hope and dedication to their communities, no matter how hurdled the path may seem. This year’s recipient is Marie Harris of Fresno,

CA. Harris is currently the Dean of Instruction for Math, Sciences, Engineering and Health Sciences at Reedley College, and has supervised staff to plan, organize, and implement college and financial aid educational outreach, instructional activities, and cultural activities.

She has served on various State Center Community College District committees. She was the co-founder of the Reedley College Latino Faculty & Staff Association and Black Faculty & Staff Association and assisted in creating a Mentoring for Success Program for students of color.

Before coming to Reedley College, she worked in the private consulting industry where she has an extensive business background including project management, non-profit management, grants management, workforce and community development, economic and business development, communications, and marketing experience.

Harris is actively involved in supporting nonprofit organizations, schools and contributing to the minority community and females through her mentorship and grant writing experience. She holds a Master's of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix; Bachelor of Arts in Communications, minor English, emphasis in Journalism from CSU, Bakersfield and an Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies from Reedley College.

To be emceed by local KPGE, TV Channel 47 weather reporter and journalist, Anthony Bailey, and KMPH, Fox26 reporter and journalist, Amicia Ramsey, the celebration commemorates local black history and culture, informing the audience of the history of the organization and its founders, Jack and Rosa Kelley, and co-founder Jesse McDonald.

Since the events inception over 10 years ago, the AAHCMSJV has added two more distinguished awards to its repertoire as of last year: The Professional Sports Wall of Fame and The Jesse McDonald Jr. Community Dedication Award.

It had been over 20 years since the AAHCMSJV had made an addition to its sports wall of fame, which was one of the key reason this award was created last year, acknowledging sports greats who have made history in the San Joaquin Valley.

The award was created to remind the community of the hard work and dedication that goes into not only an athletes training, but the exemplary infallible motivation that captures the heart of a top athlete, who in turn finds a way to give back to his or her community.

Ms. Sloane Stevens was the first woman, professional athlete to be honored on the African-American Museum’s Professional Sports Wall of Fame. This year’s recipient dynamic former athlete, James Stallworth of Tulare, CA. Stallworth was born and raised in Tulare, graduating from Tulare Union High School in 1989.

At the age of 12, he set a national midget group pentathlon record. The win, which included the shotput, hurdles, long jump, 50 and 400 meters, enticed the attention of Sports Illustrated.

In high school, Stallworth lettered in football, basketball and track. In 1989, he set the National Federation of State High Schools Association record in the long jump with a 26’ 4.75″ jump, while participating in a CIF State meet. That record is still in existence today.

In 1990, he attended the World Junior Championships in Bulgaria and again set a record – earning a gold medal with a 26’ 11″ jump. He still is the world record holder from that jump. At the same games he earned a gold in the 4 x 1m relay, which he anchored, and a bronze medal in the 200m.

Today, Stallworth is involved in various community activities, also donating his time to the Visalia Rescue Mission.

The Jesse McDonald Jr. Community Dedication Award was created based on the co-founder, Jesse McDonald Jr.; he was a dedicated community leader who participated in numerous civil rights activities throughout his young adult life and until his later years. In the early 1980s, Mr. McDonald and his longtime friend, Jack Kelley, visited a friend of Kelley’s in Tulare, CA who had a room full of historical photos and memorabilia. It was then the two discussed the idea of starting a museum to showcase African-American culture and history from throughout the Central Valley. Kelley collected photos and artifacts while Mr. McDonald helped to raise money; the pair established the African American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno. This year’s recipient is Eric Payne of Fresno, CA.

Eric Payne was elected to the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees in 2012 and has been a strong influence in securing the West Fresno campus. Trustee Payne graduated from Washington Union High School in Fresno and has a Bachelor of Science in Biology-Chemistry with a business administration minor from Alabama A&M University. He also holds a Master's of Science Degree in Microbiology with a concentration in mycology from Alabama A& M University.

Find more information about the AAHCMSJV upcoming event:

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