Judge Brown and Nick Johnson were honored for their work on the board of directors of the African American Museum of Iowa at a reception in Fort Dodge Tuesday night.
Brown served on the board from 2000 to 2011. Johnson joined the board in January 2012 after he was nominated by Brown.
Though the museum is located in Cedar Rapids, Executive Director Tom Moore said it aims to be a resource for communities all throughout Iowa.
Johnson has observed that in his months on the board.
"I've been very impressed by the museum and their staff, and was really surprised at what they do outside of Cedar Rapids," Johnson said in an interview earlier Tuesday. "They touch just about every community in Iowa with their traveling exhibits, and their teachers and instructors that go to our local schools. ... It's more of a statewide museum than a Cedar Rapids museum.
"The main goal of the museum is to preserve the history and legacy of African American heritage and culture in Iowa."
Johnson succeeds Brown on board
By JOE SUTTER
After 11 years on the African American Museum of Iowa board of directors, Judge Brown has given up his seat. He nominated Nick Johnson, who will now represent Fort Dodge on the board.
In an interview, Brown said one of the most enjoyable parts of the job was the high degree of professionalism of the other board members.
"One of the most demanding tasks was, I chaired the nominating committee," Brown said. "Last year we had to nominate eight new people to fill slots.
"Not only was that a monumental task to have completed, but it was a joy just to have it done."
While on the committee, Brown also had the chance to fill two slots on the board with Fort Dodge residents: La Shanta Boyce, who has since moved to Anamosa, and Nick Johnson.
"I have known him since he came to Fort Dodge pretty much," Brown said of Johnson. "I had seen he was active in some other activities in Fort Dodge. He had worked with the Heart Association, the Red Cross. ... Because I knew the family, and I know of their involvement, I just saw him as a good candidate."
Brown said it was not unusual to have people on the board who are not black; in fact they look at racial, geographic and age diversity when nominating board members.
Brown said Johnson's age was an advantage.
"One of the things we looked at was youth. We didn't have a lot of people who were under 50 on the board, and that was one of the targets for diversifying the membership of the board," Brown said.
At the reception, Moore said the museum was founded in 1994, and hired a professional executive director in 1998 to help with organization.
Moore had high praise for Brown's role in the museum.
"Judge was part of all of that, to bring us up to being a statewide museum," Moore said. "Very early on, before we even had a drawing of a museum, ... Judge came on board with the museum project, and right away started helping us get ideas, and contacts across the state."
Brown said he had spoken with Moore about bringing one of the museum's traveling programs to Fort Dodge.
"Little did I know that I was going to be part of the program," he said.
Brown was thrilled when he was asked to join the board, both because it would expand his own horizons, and because of the museum's desire to create a repository for African American culture in Iowa.
"I come from North Carolina, and culture is not quite as scarce there as it is here. Because when I left North Carolina there were, I believe, we had 4 million people and probably 1 million were African American. Then I come to Fort Dodge and I don't see one black person for five whole hours. Talk about trauma."
That connected to the theme of the night's exhibit, titled "The Only One." The exhibit explores the experiences of Iowans who were the only African Americans in their classrooms, sports teams, jobs, and more.
Burleson was to be featured, as the first African American and the first woman to serve on the Fort Dodge City Council.
Moore had to leave unexpectedly due to a medical emergency in his family, before he was able to give the presentation. Moore said the museum will be back in Fort Dodge in July to give a children's presentation. "The Only One" will also be presented at that visit.