A presentation showcasing Black icons in the city since its establishment in 2003 debuts on April 15 at Maricopa Historical Society.  

A free public viewing is 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the museum, 44240 Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. The debut is to include local leaders, live music and free snacks.  

Chrystal Allen-O’Jon

The presentation will be visually driven with a 20-minute video loop, highlighting Black educators, church pastors, politicians, entertainment and community leaders.  

Chrystal Allen-O’Jon, a leader in creating the display, is researching and finalizing the presentation. She said there is a need for African American representation on a local level and is reaching out to Maricopa organizations, including churches and nonprofits, to learn more.  

“I’ve had to dig for information,” Allen-O’Jon said. “I’ve had to go to other community leaders to find out who did what, when and where to make sure I had my facts.”  

She is especially excited about completing the bigger picture: informing residents that Black icons were a huge part in the city’s history.  

“There is some information that I’m still waiting on, but we are getting ready to run,” Allen-O’Jon said.  

Paul Shirk, president of Maricopa Historical Society and long-time volunteer, and Jim Irving, a leader in the Black community, spearheaded the project after sitting on the idea for more than a year.

“We were just sitting at Coffee on the Porch and thought: ‘Let’s run with it,’” Shirk said. “Everyone here is just super excited.”  

Paul Shirk. [Bryan Mordt]
Jim Irving [Bryan Mordt]
Organizers hope to increase the collection of photographs, artifacts and history that document African American culture here.  

After the April 15 debut, the exhibit will become permanent in the Historical Society museum.  

“Visitors will be able to get the same message every time they come in,” Shirk said. “They’ll be able to recognize that display and the people in the video.”  

It is just the beginning of a much bigger plan, according to Shirk and Allen-O’Jon.  

Organizers hope to supplement the presentation with 3D artifacts, updated presentations and then expand cultural representation to include the Native American and Hispanic populations. 

 “I want people to visit the museum and say, ‘Hey, look, everyone is included here.’ I think it gives a complete picture of all the community members here,” Allen-O’Jon said.