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Iowa Honors 2016 African-American Hall of Fame Inductees

Joyce Russell/IPR
Betty Andrews, one of Iowa's 2016 inductees, speaking at the Iowa Statehouse.

This program originally aired on November 8, 2016.

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, 65 Iowans have been inducted into the IAAHF. This year, they inducted four.

Kesho Scott

One of the inductees, Kesho Scott, is the author of several books including Tight Spaces, which won the American Book Award in 1988. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Scott received her bachelor's degree from Wayne State University, her master's degree in political sociology from the University of Detroit, and her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa.

“What drew me here was the opportunity to attend the University of Iowa, but more importantly was the history of Iowa,” says Scott. “It wasn’t a slave state, it was a progressive state around the issues of equality. Women’s equality and ex-slave equality.”

Scott was a founding member of the International Capacity Building Services, a cultural competency training team that specializes in Human Rights workshops as well various seminars and training programs throughout the United States and the world. In 1986, she was awarded Iowa Woman of the Year. Scott is currently an Associate Professor of American Studies and Sociology at Grinnell College.

Henri Harper

"I was always intrigued with farmers,” says Henri Harper, another 2016 inductee. “How they put seeds in the ground and months later they got these big corn stalks, it kind of goes into my life. You plant seeds, and you see them grow and mature into something that is valuable. So it kind of fits into what I try to do with the families and kids that I work with.”

Henri Harper is a community service officer for the Iowa City Police Department, and for the past several years has organized tours of historically black universities and civil rights sites for Iowa City residents. Harper was the leader of the now closed program, FasTrac: an organization dedicated to working with students, families and community members to motivate students to focus on their education. As a young man, Harper struggled with undiagnosed ADHD and Dyslexia. As a community leader, he uses that struggle to connect with those he works with.

“When I got ready to go to college and pursue secondary education, I wasn’t prepared for that. So I fell into this work, and I realized that paper work and working in offices don’t work for me. I respond well to kids. I respond well to families. I’m a good relationship builder, and I feel like I’m a good motivator. I understand people. That’s why I work well with families and kids, because I can understand them. I’m one of them. Having that relationship meant being able to relate to them, and I was able to get them to see their own strengths and what they could do with their lives.”

Betty Andrews

Betty Andrews, has been President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP State Area Conference since 2013. During this time, she has managed more than 30 local units, and has led efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Iowa. In 2011 she started the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.

“When I talk about disparities, I’m talking about health disparities. I’m talking about criminal justice disparities, in which Iowa, very sad to say, ranks at the top of the list. As well as a number of other disparities that plague the African-American community,” says Andrews. “But on the flip side of that, I’m encouraged because I have the privilege of producing our African-American festival, called ‘I’ll Make Me a World In Iowa.’ I am honored to see a number of people showcasing the arts and contributions of the African-American community.”

“I’ll Make Me a World In Iowa” is a festival which highlights African-American arts, culture and contributions through education, awareness and preservation. Andrews is also the President and CEO of Betty Andrews Media.

J.B. Morris

The final 2016 inductee to the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame, is J.B. Morris. An attorney and publisher, J.B. Morris received the induction posthumously. Morris, born in Atlanta on October 15, 1890, came to Des Moines in 1916, where he was admitted to the bar. Morris was the first black assistant Polk County attorney, as well as a distinguished trial lawyer. In addition to his passion for law, Morris served in the 3rd Battalion, 92nd Division, 366th Infantry in World War I, until he was injured in 1918 during the battle of Metz. Morris also published the Iowa Bystander for 50 years until 1972, and founded the Negro Bar Association, later renamed the National Bar Association. J.B. Morris passed away on December 30th, 1977.

This hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with the 2016 Iowa African-American Hall of Fame inductees about their work, their life, and their time in Iowa.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River