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African-American Museum makes history having annual Black History Month kick-off in Clovis, CA

Former Chief Jerry Dyer participates in the historic celebration as the first conservative Fresno mayoral candidate ever to attend in the event's 12-year history

FRESNO, CA—The African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) hosted its annual 2020 Black History Month Celebration Banquet fundraiser Saturday, February 1 at the Regency Event Center in Clovis, CA, honoring the unsung African-American heroes from throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

The annual Black History Month Banquet kick-off celebration began with San Joaquin Health Fund sponsored, 2020 Census Black History Month Banquet Red Carpet with celebrity photojournalist, Ken McCoy, who was also the master of ceremonies, followed by musical band, Al Turner & Friends along with a silent auction extravaganza. Attendees also enjoyed the cultural sounds from African drumming group, Libota Mbonda.

The annual fundraiser became historic with the presence of local diverse leaders and political candidates form throughout the San Joaquin Valley who came together to help celebrate African-American community members making a difference, or who have made a difference in the lives of many.

City of Clovis City Council members and Mayor Pro Tem Jose Flores welcomed the diverse audience and 2020 Trailblazers.

City of Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Jose Flores welcomes the crowd

“We are proud to celebrate the unsung heroes from throughout the Valley tonight,” said City of Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Jose Flores. “We welcome you to our city of Clovis and hope that you can come back next year.”

Congressman Jim Costa, the representative for California's 16th congressional district and running incumbent this 2020 election, urged the needed support for the African-American Museum and the importance of voting in the upcoming election.

Congressman Costa also talked about his close relationship with the Obama Administration and the legacy of his good friend, Congressman John Lewis, reminiscing over the many sacrifices made in his life, reiterating the reason why everyone needs to vote. He also asked the audience to pray for Lewis during his battle against pancreatic cancer.

What’s also most historic in this annual celebration includes the presence and participation of former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer as a City of Fresno mayoral candidate in the upcoming primary election. Dyer helped read the biographies of the eleven 2020 Trailblazers along with master of ceremonies, Ken McCoy.

Dyer, feeling at home as he was approached by many familiar diverse faces, was accompanied by his wife, Fresno Police Department Deputy Chief Phil Cooley, NAACP President Leroy Candler, Capt. Mark Salazar, Cliff Tutelian, Brian King and Barigye McCoy.

After 40 years on the force and 18 years as the city of Fresno former Fresno Police Chief Dyer, who is running against key opponent Andrew Janz, was sought after for numerous photo opps from requesting awardees and diverse attendees, seeming contrary to the controversial literature anonymously publicized portraying Dyer otherwise to the African-American community.

Overall, numerous elected officials supported the event, presenting awards to the 2020 Trailblazers for their community leadership and dedication:

United States Senator –Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Senator –California Kamala D. Harris

California State Board of Equalization Malia M. Cohen

16th Congressional District Congressman Jim Costa

23rd Assembly District Honorable Jim Patterson

31st Assembly District Honorable Joaquin Arambula

Fresno County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chairman Steve Brandau

Fresno County District 5 Supervisor Nathan Magsig

Fresno County District 1 Supervisor Brian Pacheco

Fresno County District 3 Supervisor Sal Quintero

City of Fresno Council President Miguel Angel Arias & the City of Fresno City Council

AAHCMSJV Board members confirmed that all mayoral candidates and candidates from throughout the San Joaquin Valley were invited to attend the event, present a certificate with the option of advertisement for purchase and participation in the program.

Humble beginnings …

In 2008, the vision amongst 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.

This year’s 2020 Trailblazers included:

Ralph Edward Lovelace (Posthumously) Benard “BJ” Robinson (Posthumously) Arthelma Johnson Dr. Francine Oputa Marlene Brice Will Portis

JJ Johnson Gregory Boyd Ethel Shaver Royce Dunn Robert Fox James Matt Johnson, Jr.

View more 2020 Trailblazers and Awardees photos online and the event program here:

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 was Jason Spencer of Fresno, CA, a progressive, young pastor who is community driven and attracting millennials to be servants of their community.

The Jesse McDonald Jr. Community Dedication Award was created based on the AAHCMSJV 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 former beloved Edison High School football coach Anthony Perry, posthumously.

A new award this year added to highlight African-American inventors is the 2020 21st Century African-American Inventors Award, which this year featured first African-American solar inventor in the Central Valley, Tommie Nellon.

Highlights of the 2020 Census Red Carpet Event and 2020 Trailblazers will be featured starting Feb. 10 through the ONME Network online: daily and on CMAC TV channels Comcast 93 & AT&T 99, Monday night, 8p, Wednesday night 9p and Friday morning at 9a.

To see more photo highlights about the AAHCMSJV event, go to:

About the AAHCMSJV

The African-American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley was founded in 1986 by retired Fresno City police officer, Sergeant Jack Kelly and his wife Rosa Kelley.

It is the only non-profit educational facility of its kind from throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The museum houses hundreds of historical photographs, artifacts and memorabilia dating back to the 1880’s which documents the numerous contributions of local African-Americans who live or are from the San Joaquin Valley.

Pictorial exhibits profiling African- Americans who have excelled in the fields of government, politics, art, education, religion, health, business, law, medicine, sports, agriculture, and the work of local African-American artist are prominently displayed for educational tours.

About the Founder Jack Albert Gilbert Frank Kelley

Founder Jack Albert Gilbert Frank Kelley was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on August 23, 1920, one of eight children born to Frank and Fannie Cobbs-Kelly. He excelled in three sports at Tulare Union High School and at Fresno State College in the 1940’s. In 1943, he served his country for two years in Europe.

On April 26, 1946 Jack married Rosa L. Conley. They were blessed with six children: three daughters, a son, and two daughters from a previous union. In 1949, Jack became a Fresno Police Officer and became the departments first African American Sergeant in 1969.

Upon retirement in 1970, he became a Law Enforcement Coordinator at California State University, Fresno. The most visible reminder of his legacy is the African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley, he founded with his wife Rosa. Because of his legacy, other pioneers are recognized on the walls of the museum, which breathe the rich history of the black community; the African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) was founded by retired Fresno Sgt. Homicide &Detective Kelly in 1986 against many odds.

Jack A. Kelley was a man of vision and action. He was a community icon and a champion for racial harmony.

He is best remembered for his generosity, his big gracious smile and for his favorite quote by Will Rodgers, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”

About the Trailblazer Award:

The Trailblazer awards honors Black first and community leaders, and activists who have gone above and beyond their professional duties, and above and beyond what the average person would do. They are able to answer the question of, “What can you do for your community? More!”


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.



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