PRESIDENT AND CEO
Perri Irmer is President and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History, the iconic institution founded by Dr. Margaret Burroughs. It is the oldest institution of its kind in the U.S. She has held this position since September, 2015, and her plans for The DuSable include advancing Dr. Burroughs’ vision of the museum as a center for African and African American arts and culture, as well as a center for thought leadership and community advancement. Ms. Irmer was born and raised in Hyde Park, holds
a Professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. Just prior to joining the DuSable, Irmer ran her own global project management and strategic planning firm.
Irmer was a litigator in private law practice before enjoying a distinguished tenure in government, having served as the CEO of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority; Assistant General Counsel for Chicago Public Schools; Director of Construction Services for the Public Building Commission of Chicago; and Deputy Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Buildings. As a private sector real estate professional, Irmer served as Senior Vice President for Mesirow Financial and as Vice President of development for Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. To date, Irmer has administered well over $6 billion in public and private construction projects. She has a strong track record of effective team building and community advocacy.
Irmer serves on The Obama Foundation Inclusion Council and the After School Matters Advisory Board. In addition, she serves on IIT’s Alumni Board of Directors, chairs its International Committee, and was a founding member of its African American Alumni Association. Irmer is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. She has served on the boards of many civic and charitable organizations, including Choose Chicago, and was a founding member of the Chicago Sports Commission. Irmer is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her involvement in community and youth services, her longstanding support and advocacy of minority and woman-owned businesses and her promotion of international business relationships within Illinois.
Skyla S. Hearn is the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Skyla champions for the unsung, cultural and societal contributors from African American communities and other groups not of the hegemony. She works with cultural heritage, arts, education and community organizations and institutions throughout the Chicago/land area to document, preserve and maintain the rich, cultural and valuable stories, legacies and histories of unacknowledged individuals, communities and organizations who have made significant contributions to our society. Some of her projects include: Faith in the Struggle: Rev. Addie Wyatt’s Fight for Labor, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights exhibition and opening program for the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Chicago Public Library; the development of the Never-The-Same Chicago Ephemera Archive; and the digital repository for the permanent art collection belonging to The South Side Community Art Center.
Skyla’s scholarship includes broad interests in archivists with social justice and activist centered approaches to implementing archival practices to shape archival repositories and collections; as well as the resurgence of the role of the social justice and activist archivist post 1970s and an analysis of local histories and collective memories with focus on under documented Chicago communities. Skyla earned an MLIS with a Special Collections certificate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BA in Mass Communications and Media Arts, Photography and Black American Studies from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
DIRECTOR OF CURATORIAL SERVICES
Clinée Hedspeth is a zealous advocate for history. In her current position as Director of Public Programs and Education with the DuSable Museum of African American History, she creates interdisciplinary programs and educational material to provide visitors with a more robust understanding of the museum collection and the lived experiences of the African Diaspora. Her enthusiasm for art and history afforded her the opportunity to present research at academic conferences on the migration of Black southern families to the USSR during the period 1917-1940.
In Clinée’s other current role as a Senior Researcher with the National Endowment for the Humanities’ project “Social Origins of Chicago’s New Negro Artists and Intellectuals, 1890-1930”, she is part of a team creating biographies of these individuals and tracking the networks supporting them. This research echoes her work for Dr. Robert Hanserd, where she spent several weeks in Ghana to review British vessel journals for evidence of the use of West African women and girls as merchant sailors during the late 1600s. Clinée also has a passion for art that runs in her family. Born into a family of art collectors, she continues that tradition with her collections of fine art and rare books. She founded her own mobile museum of Black Americana, exhibiting at such places as the Frankenstone Art Center. She also enjoys reading 19th century Black women writers, work from the Latin American Boom literary movement, and studying Black English Vernacular and folklore. Clinée holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Black World Studies from Dominican University.
DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS
Bonnie DeShong proudly holds the title of Director of Community Relations and External Affairs for the DuSable Museum of African American History, one of the oldest and prestigious African American museums in the country. Bonnie “Hey Baby” DeShong has been a part of Chicago Radio for over 30 years. During her tenure as Co-host and/or Traffic Reporter on WGCI, WVAZ, and WSRB, Bonnie also held the title of Director of Community Relations. She worked diligently to bring a personal connection between the radio stations and the Chicagoland communities.
In 2004, she became co-host of City of Chicago TV’s “Chicago Works” program which showcased the wonderful communities and programs within the City of Chicago. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Public Service Sorority, Bonnie continues to serve the community. Bonnie was a volunteer “Cuddler” at the Cradle Adoption Agency and is on the fundraising committee for Proviso- Leyden Council for Community Action (PLCCA). She is on the Board of Directors and serves as 1st Vice Chair of South Central Community Services, Inc.
Bonnie’s motto is: As you take a step forward, reach back, grab a hand and bring someone with you on the positive journey to success.
Tracey Williams is the Special Events Director for the DuSable Museum of African American History. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Theater/Communications she has been with the museum for over 24 years serving in various roles from Assistant Director of Education to Special Events Director. She is responsible for facility rentals, theater and special event programs, galas and activities. Prior to coming to the museum, she served as the Sales & Marketing Director for the Speech, Theater, & Broadcasting Department at Kennedy King College for nine years.
From 1992-1994, Tracey was an on-air personality on radio station WJPC-106.3FM. She has done numerous voice over works for Fashion Fair and others, and continues to work in various aspects of the music & theater industry; a founding board member of The Black Theater Alliance & The Company Theater; a veteran actress, event planner & professional model who has worked and performed for SeaWorld in San Diego, California and the international group Up with People. As the Special Events Director at the museum she is responsible for the “Summer at the Du” programs; Sounds of History Jazz Series, Movies in the Park and the annual Arts & Craft festival. She is dedicated to the growth of the museum and Dr. Burroughs’ mission of creating a platform that allows African American creative artists to fashion their culture to be previewed inside their community.