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Distinguished women honored at King ceremonies

January 22, 2019

Two African-American women were honored at different points Monday during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities.

Judge J. Imani Drew, the first female African-American judge in Kankakee County, was given the Lifetime Achievement award during the Interfaith Service at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Sun River Terrace.

Judge Drew said she accepted the award with a “deep sense of humility and responsibility.” Many of her fellow Kankakee County judges made the point of attending the ceremony and came forward at the church to stand with Drew and honor her.

Drew was appointed judge in 2016. She had been Kankakee County’s first African-American prosecutor in 1983 and also served in the public defender’s office. From 1989 to 2001, she was Kankakee County’s lead prosecutor on felony sex offenses.

Drew reminded the audience that today would have been the 90th birthday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a child, she personally saw prejudice. Her family was the first African-American family to move into its block in Chicago. Bricks were thrown through the family’s windows. Chicago police had to be called in for protection. Drew remembers asking her mother why the police were there.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, she took up law. She thanked her son and daughter, who often napped in the stacks of the law library, for their patience while she pursued her dream.

Judge Drew is also the past president of Harbor House and has trained volunteers for the Kankakee County-Center Against Sexual Assault. She was honored earlier this year by Zonta and honored with a dinner in 2016 by the Ladies of SCORE in Kankakee County.

Also honored was Pat Polk. She is the president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation and the chair of the Interfaith Breakfast.

The Kankakee County Board passed a proclamation honoring her earlier this month. In addition to her work on the foundation, Polk was recognized for her years heading Polk Entertainment.

Through its pageants, Polk Entertainment builds self-esteem in young people, the proclamation said. It was read by Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe.

Polk is the longtime organizer of the Miss Kankakee County Pageant and the Teen Idol competition at the Bourbonnais Friendship Festival.

She is credited with being the first African-American pageant organizer in the Midwest and was honored last year by the Miss Illinois Hall of Fame.

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