Lights On, Peoria Discusses Community Activism

by Alexander Martin

Students participating in Peoria Public Schools’ “Lights On, Peoria” interviewed Alexander Martin. Martin is a member of the newly formed Peoria Guild of Black Artists, an arts activist, and has an MFA in printmaking from Bradley University.How does an artist make an impact oncommunity? 

The “Lights On, Peoria” program, funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Education Climate Transformation, is designed to fill in gaps of support for Peoria high school students residing in the city’s Opportunity Zones.

The purpose of the grant is to ensure a safe and supportive school climate and includes funding for positive learning experiences. Due to COVID-19, “Lights On, Peoria” has adjusted to small group and virtual weekend activities, as well as mentoring and career exploration over Zoom.

Taking advantage of Peoria connections, students have explored careers in barbering and hair-braiding by interviewing Richwoods alum Robert Lamarr Randle Sr., now a Los Angeles-based barber, and Nicole Ward-Wallace, a hair stylist and braider, also based in Los Angeles.

The interviews are conducted by Peoria High School students Raven Johnson, Jaylin Sprattling, Macy Webster, Ashlyana Wright, and Amarion Young. Prior to the interviews, the students received public speaking training from Woodruff High School alum Teck Holmes, who has since established a successful career in television and film acting as well as coaching and mentoring students.

Other Zoom interviews have included a panel discussion with Top Chef finalists Eric Adjepong, Gregory Gourdet, and Justin Sutherland, and a conversation with actor Tristin May of MacGyver and the 

“Vampire Diaries.”

Giving Voice and Big Picture Initiative thank the “Lights On, Peoria” students, Peoria Public Schools, and Alexander Martin for sharing this opportunity and interview with the public.