Meet the 2021 History Makers


Michael Allen began wrestling at the age of twelve in McKinstry Middle School in Waterloo, and continued wrestling at East High School and while enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in health and physical education, and a Master’s degree in school administration.

He obtained employment with the Waterloo Community Schools District in 1972, and started wrestling officiating. Mike Allen retired from the Waterloo school district in 2008. He became the first and only African American wrestling official in the state of Iowa to officiate at the State Wrestling Tournament. He has officiated twenty Iowa high school wrestling state tournaments and was voted the Outstanding Iowa Wrestling Official of the Year three times. He has been hired to officiate at fifteen college level NCAA Division I tournaments, ten NCAA Division II tournaments, five NCAA Division III tournaments, five NAIA NATIONAL tournaments, and three National Junior College tournaments.

Mike Allen has been inducted into the following Halls of Fame: The East High School Hall of Fame, The Ring of Honor Football Hall of Fame, The Ellsworth Football Hall of Fame, The Midlands Hall of Fame from Northwestern University, The Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame, The FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, The Iowa Wrestling Official Hall of Fame and The Nation Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater Oklahoma.


Dedric Doolin is a dedicated advocate for social justice, civil rights, and young people. He has been involved in fighting for others since his elementary school days. Dedric Doolin is heavily involved in the Cedar Rapids community and has received many appointments to leadership positions.

He is currently President of the Cedar Rapids Branch of the NAACP, Secretary of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP State Conference, Interim President of the Iowa African American Hall of Fame, Inductee in the Iowa African American Hall of Fame in 2015, Chair of the I’LL Make Me a World in Iowa Black History Game Show and Co-Chair of the Education Day, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church Head Usher, Sunday School Teacher, Assistant Church Clerk, and Vice President Trustee Board, President Layman’s. These are just a few of the many honors that Dedric Doolin has received. Most recently, he was appointed in June 2021 to the Cedar Rapids Citizen Review Board by the Cedar Rapids City Council.


Pastor Diane Koger is the Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church In Ottumwa. She is the Owner of Amazing Panda Learning Academy LLC., In Clive and recently wrote a book entitled, “ A Clergy Woman Standing Alone in My Own Words.” After moving to Des Moines from Chicago, Pastor Koger worked for the West Des Moines Schools for over 15 years and later became a member of Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines. In 2018 Pastor Koger made history in becoming one of Iowa Trailblazers as the first African American female Baptist Pastor in the state of Iowa. She obtained an A.A. Degree in Early Childhood Education from Des Moines Area Community College. She is a Christian Councilor, Mentor, and has a heart to serve others. She has also received several certificates in ministry and educational studies and continues to advance her education at the National School of Theology.

Pastor Diane Koger is married to Deacon Joseph Koger Sr. Together they’re a blended family with 9 children and 12 grandchildren.


Negus Rudison-Imhotep is the Academic & Workforce Coordinator at Urban Dreams and the Deferred Expulsion Case Manager for Des Moines Public Schools. In these roles, he has connected several of Central Iowa’s top employers with highly skilled untapped talent, assisted hundreds of marginalized central Iowans in securing gainful employment, and successfully advocated on behalf of more than 50 students who faced expulsion from the Des Moines Public School district. Negus recently attained a new role as an Executive Board Member with the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity – Why Habitat?

Negus is also a sought-after orator and community ally, having served as an Executive Board Member for the Iowa Human Rights Board, and as a past Chair and Commissioner of the Iowa Commission on African Americans’ status. In 2015, Negus launched Rudison Consultancy Group, LLC to offer cultural community network advising and cultural competency training to agencies and organizations across the region. Negus is an autodidactic African historiographer who has conducted lectures in numerous cities throughout the United States.

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Reopening Survey

Reopening Announcement

The African American Museum of Iowa is excited to announce that our doors will reopen to the public on July 10. At the time of our reopening, we will be hosting the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Voices and Votes in partnership with the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District and the National Czech and Slovak Museum. As we prepare for reopening, we would like to make visitors aware of details that will help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Information for Planning Your Visit

  • All visitors over the age of two will be required to wear a mask when inside the Museum. If you do not comply with this guideline, you will be asked to leave. This requirement does not apply to individuals who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition.
  • The Museum will be open with limited hours until further notice:
    • Fridays from 12 PM to 6 PM
    • Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Capacities will be limited in all areas of the AAMI building. Please be aware that you may have to wait outside or in our lobby before entering the exhibits.
  • Visitors are encouraged to set up a contactless pay method on their smart phones, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. If you are unable to use one of these options, please use a card payment or use exact change when paying with cash.
  • Group size will be limited to six visitors and all visitors will be required to maintain a distance of six feet from those not in their group when inside the Museum building.
  • Some of our hands-on activities have been removed or modified. Please enjoy the rest of our exhibits at your own discretion, and thank you for your understanding.

Full visitor details can be found here.

Additional Information

If you have any questions about visiting the Museum during this initial phase of reopening, please use our contact form or call 319-862-2101 during our open hours. For more more details about our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please read our response page.

Our regular admission fees will continue to be in place during this time. Discount admission for SNAP benefit recipients is available through our Museums for All partnership, and limited free passes will be available through the Adventure Pass program for card holders of select Iowa public libraries.

Unwavering Virtual Writing Project

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A Statement from the Executive Director

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Dear Iowans,

The African American Museum of Iowa team and board have been deeply saddened and outraged by continued injustices against black people in our country. In recent days, the Museum has been the focus of an outpouring of support, with offers of individual, community, and organizational collaboration. This is a clear message that what we do matters to communities across the state. The Museum is uniquely poised to serve as a resource for many seeking historical perspectives, real answers, and social justice platforms.

There are many people who were taken off guard by the most recent and traumatizing murders of black people by law enforcement. These instances of police brutality are only more examples of centuries of oppression. There has been a collective gasp of pain and outrage as yet another video has become the witness for the unheard in our society. The exhaustive list of black men, women, and children who have been victimized throughout the history of this country is not new but now being seen through a new lens – one of authenticity and truth.

The mission of the Museum is to preserve, exhibit, and teach the African American heritage of Iowa. Teaching includes exposing the past and recent injustices to impact the strides we can make today and tomorrow. We are weeks away from our annual Juneteenth celebration, which will take on added meaning this year. This year, we won’t just be celebrating, but launching renewed efforts in the fight toward real justice and equality, armed with allies and voices that need to be heard. There has been a unified awakening of many Americans and global citizens to the atrocities faced by black people today and over the last 400 years.

History has demonstrated the injustices are many and the time of action long overdue. I am heartbroken but not hopeless. I pray for peace and justice in our land. We must demand it for the sake of all our children and their children.

Whether you march, implore your legislature, kneel, or stand up to lawlessness, please do consider your own personal responsibility toward ensuring all people are treated with dignity and humanity. All lives don’t matter until Black lives matter!


LaNisha Cassell
Executive Director

A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support of the African American Museum of Iowa in the midst of such uncertainty surrounding us all. Like so many organizations and businesses nationwide, the Museum closed its doors to the public and made the decision to cancel or postpone all planned programs, tours, events and rentals through the end of April. We have been relying on social media to regularly bring our resources to you. If you haven’t already done so, consider visiting the new digital tour of our exhibit Endless Possibilities, which includes highlights of items and links to 360°views of select areas, joining our Facebook community group, and following us on social media to keep up with our happenings.

The Museum team certainly misses engaging with you as much as you are missing your routine of getting out and about. We particularly miss what makes this time of year so much fun: leading student tours, giving presentations, meeting out-of-towners, and introducing visitors to our cool store inventory. While closing has been in the best interest of our patrons, staff, and volunteers, the Museum’s operations have taken a hit. We expect a loss of approximately $1,250 of earned revenue for every week we remain closed. From event rentals in our two venues (Celebration Hall and AEGON Learning Lab) and store merchandise to group tours and presentations, the Museum is facing challenges to our daily operations that could have long-term impact. Extended closure will indeed present increased challenges and some unknowns as it relates to anticipated grant funding, donor contributions, and sponsors who all may grapple with their traditional levels of support.

As we enter into a “new normal,” the AAMI is forging ahead with opportunities to bring our members and patrons digital or virtual programming. Stay tuned for more information on our Who Was storytelling series, a viewing party of Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker, and other programs we plan to bring you over the coming weeks. You’ll be happy to know we are moving ahead with our planned Juneteenth celebration, scheduled for Saturday, June 20th at NewBo City Market from 11 AM – 4 PM. You will also be excited that we have announced our 2020 History Makers Gala, which will return to The Hotel at Kirkwood Center on Thursday, September 24th from 5 PM – 8 PM. Honorees this year include trailblazers Dr. Sharon Collins (Cedar Rapids), Judge Odell McGhee (Des Moines), Fred Mims (Iowa City) and Okpara Rice (Marion).


Your engagement, membership and/or contribution will go a long way toward keeping our operations on track and allowing us to increase our digital resources during this mass shutdown to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Please consider ways in which you can help sustain the Museum’s programming, exhibit development, and vast educational resources as you go about maintaining your own sense of normalcy over the coming months.

On behalf of our team and board, be well.


LaNisha Cassell
Executive Director

Community Call for Loan Objects

Do you consider yourself an activist? Have you attended protests, created a piece of artwork, or been part of a group making change in your community? The AAMI is looking for objects (buttons, signs, t-shirts, hats, stickers, artwork, etc.) and photographs documenting the black experience in modern activism including BLM, sports protest, MeToo movement, and LGBTQ rights both nationally and in Iowa. Our 2020-2021 temporary exhibit Unwavering: 21st Century Activism will look at modern social movements and activism and the black experience within them. Please contact our Curator Felicite Wolfe at for more details or to suggest possible loan items.

AAMI Introduces New Accessibility Programs

The African American Museum of Iowa is excited to announce two new partnerships that will increase accessibility to the Museum for people of all backgrounds. Through the Museums for All and Adventure Pass programs, we will be able to offer free and reduced admission to members of the Cedar Rapids community and beyond who may otherwise be unable to visit the Museum. 

Museums for All, a signature access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), administered by the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) encourages people of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum-going habits. The program supports those receiving food assistance (SNAP) benefits visiting the African American Museum of Iowa for a minimal fee of $1 per person, up to four people, with the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Similar free and reduced admission is available to eligible members of the public at more than 500 museums across the country. More information about Museums for All and a list of participating museums can be found at

Adventure Pass allows adults (18+) with a valid Cedar Rapids Public Library card to access free admission to museums and other cultural institutions across the state. These passes cover up to 4 people and can be accessed at

The African American Museum of Iowa has committed to these accessibility initiatives because “barriers to access equal barriers to education,” stated Executive Director LaNisha Cassell, “The AAMI’s mission to ‘preserve, exhibit and teach’ must be available to all.”

These new partnerships are part of the AAMI’s ongoing initiatives to ensure that our exhibits are accessible to all audiences. In addition to these programs, the AAMI will continue to offer Museum Day and Blue Star Museums admission. Museum Day (April 4) is an annual event presented by Smithsonian Magazine in which museums across the country offer free admission. Blue Star Museums admission will begin on May 16, providing free admission to active military personnel and their families.