DeBartolo York Local Recipient of Simeon Booker Award for Courage

By Brianna Gleghorn

The Youngstown community came together during Ohio’s Nonviolence Week for the Simeon Booker Award for Courage ceremony, honoring Simeon Booker, a civil rights journalist, on Oct. 10 in Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut Room at Youngstown State University. 

The ceremony recognizes a national and local award winner “to celebrate his [Booker’s] life-long achievements and to highlight those torchbearers who have risked life and limb in pursuit of the same things Simeon Booker stood for – justice and equality.” 

According to Penny Wells, chair of Nonviolence Week in Youngstown, the award was made for Booker due to his courage and tenacity.

“Simeon Booker grew up in Youngstown, graduated from South High [School], came to YSU for one year and during the end of the [1930s], a person of color could go to school but couldn’t do anything else,” Wells said. 

Denise DeBartolo York, local winner of the 2019 Simeon Booker Award for Courage, said she uses her resources and lessons from her parents to help others.

“I am very touched and very thankful,” DeBartolo York said. “I never turn someone away that needs help; [my parents] blessed me so I could bless others.” 

She said she believes in showing people her values by the way she lives.

“I really don’t see myself as a courageous person,” DeBartolo York  said. “I think by my example and your example, we’re doing well and we can show them by the way we’re living, working, observing and trying to make the town and the world a better place.”

After attending YSU for a year, Booker graduated from Virginia Union University and became the first African American full-time reporter at The Washington Post and worked at Jet, a magazine marketed to African American readers. 

Booker is well known for reporting during the civil rights movement, and he reported on the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, which sparked a movement across the country.

Harry Edwards, national winner of the 2019 Simeon Booker Award for Courage, founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights in 1967 to protest racial segregation in the United States. 

Edwards has consulted athletes such as Colin Kaepernick about human rights, social justice and activism in athletics. 

Edwards said Booker’s reporting on Till’s death impacted him profoundly.  

“[Till] was only a year or so older than I was,” he said. “So Simeon Booker’s reporting and the photos published with the story intersected on so many levels of my young life.” 

In Edwards’ opinion, Booker not only significantly changed the reporting scene but also started and showed a civil rights movement through his reporting. 

“Reporting that sparks a civil rights movement that lasted for two decades was not just the soul of his journalistic contribution in that regard but, for me, how his work reverberated through other relationships,” he said.

According to Edwards, he greatly appreciates the award, and as a counselor for athletes in the area of activism in athletics “activism is nothing but another word for participatory citizenship.”