Robert Blackwell receives Dr. Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew Trailblazer Award from SIU – The State Journal-Register

Robert Blackwell of Springfield received the 2022 Dr. Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew Trailblazer Award, presented before the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Dr. Alonzo Kenniebrew Lecture at Memorial Learning Center on Tuesday.
Blackwell, 69, worked for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for 25 years, retiring in 2021. He was appointed chief of the Office of Racial Equity Practice in 2012, leading the department’s efforts to address and eliminate racial disparities and disproportionality in the Illinois Child Welfare System.
“The Kenniebrew Trailblazer Award is an honor ideally suited for Bob,” said Dr. Wendi El-Amin, assistant dean for equity, diversity and inclusion at SIU School of Medicine. “His daily efforts to foster inclusiveness and fairness in state and municipal programs have improved the lives of countless citizens here in Springfield and across the state of Illinois.”
From 1977 to 1984 he worked as a counselor, job developer and program director for the Springfield Urban League. In 1984, he joined DCFS, where he served in a variety of executive-level management positions until 1992.
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After a stint as executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority, Blackwell established the consulting firm of Ujima Management Consultants Inc. He provided case management administration, program and information systems development, facilitation services and race relations consultation to non-profit and governmental clients.
Blackwell returned to DCFS in 2004 as the regional administrator of its Central Region, where he planned and coordinated service delivery of field operations and child protection services for eight years.
“Trailblazer is the perfect description of him,” said Ward 3 Ald. Roy Williams Jr. “He has been a mentor, even when he didn’t know it. People watched him and I was one who did.”
Williams got to know Blackwell through the Urban League program Teens Resolved in Progress. Williams later joined the U.S. Army because of his experience as a youth.
The SIU School of Medicine chapter of the Student National Medical Association will receive the 2022 Dr. Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew Equity Award.
The activities continue Wednesday with the Dr. Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew Forum on Health Inequities and Disparities to expand on the lecture’s topic.
More: Black Chamber of Commerce and community celebrate Black history with time capsule
The forum will provide an outlet for community members to have an open and honest conversation about trust, race and health.
The events are named after the first Black physician in the U.S. to build and operate a private surgical hospital, the New Home Sanitarium in Jacksonville. Kenniebrew founded the hospital because he could not obtain medical privileges at area hospitals.
At the time, an agreement with the Sangamon County Medical Society permitted only its members to work in the hospitals, and Kenniebrew’s membership requests were denied.
Kenniebrew had a medical practice in Springfield from 1933 to 1940. He died in 1943. His widow was Jessie Mae Finley, who was the Copley First Citizen in 1976.
Kenniebrew was the personal physician to educator Booker T. Washington and friends with George Washington Carver.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.

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