Just weeks after the White House snubbed Simeon Booker for a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a backbencher has introduced House Bill 3655 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Booker in recognition of his “achievements in the field of journalism, including reporting during the Civil Rights movement, as well as social and political commentary.” Comparable to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal represents an equivalent honor to Booker.
Timothy John “Tim” Ryan deserves recognition among African Americans for the way he’s acknowledging Booker, who was born in Baltimore in 1918. The five-term Congressman from Ohio’s 17th Congressional District, originally represented Youngstown, where Booker grew up. After his family moved to Youngstown, Booker became interested in journalism. He promoted and wrote about Negro League baseball teams in Youngstown’s local newspaper, The Vindicator. In 1945, he moved back to Ohio to work for the Call and Post, where he became the first African-American reporter to win a Newspaper Guild Award for his series on Cleveland, Ohio’s slum housing, and a Willkie Award for reporting on racial inequities in the public schools.
In the name of the United States Congress, the President of the United States has awarded 3,471 Medals of Honor since the decoration’s creation in 1861. A living symbol of America’s Black Press, it’s vitally important that the country’s leaders properly acknowledge Booker and his contributions to the African-American discourse. The “dean” of America’s Black Press, Booker deserves to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in recognition of his decades as Washington bureau chief of Ebony and JET magazines, during which his coverage of the Civil Rights movement became a part of the nation’s recorded history.
Overlooked during the Obama administration’s dispensation of Presidential Medals of Freedom, Booker has received honors from national Black organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalist, National Newspaper Publishers Association, National Press Club and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Black Americans of all political stripes are encouraged to lobby on behalf of Booker receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. At their 40th Annual Legislative Conference, the CBCF awarded Booker with their prestigious Phoenix Award. Ryan’s fellow Cleveland, Ohio colleague, Rep. Marcia Fudge, should sign on to H.R. 3655 and bring the full support of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Booker is a National Press Club 1982 Fourth Estate and Golden Owl award winner. Booker’s also scheduled to receive the MLK, Jr. International Salute award in January 2014.
Blacks can use this issue to lift their voices and “be heard.” Ryan is a rank-and-file Democrat who has totaled 118 co-sponsored bills in the 113th Congress. Black Americans can use this occasion to show ideology in regard to “race matters.” So far, Ryan’s H.R. 3655 has one co-sponsor, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio. Hopefully, many Blacks will sign on as the bill progresses through the House. The bill was assigned to a congressional committee on December 4, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on. Black Americans are encouraged to contact people they know to support H.R. 3655.
Each term about 25,000 bills are introduced in Congress, but only 10 percent become law. If each Black voter just devoted 30 minutes, we could make H.R. 3655 a reality. H.R. 3655 was introduced and referred to the House Financial Committee. The Committee Chair, Jeb Hensarling, a long-time conservative from the 5th District of Texas will determine whether H.R. 3655 will move past the committee stage where 90 percent of legislation dies. Blacks are encouraged to contact Chairman Hensarling and urge him to report H.R. 3655 out of committee, vote on it affirmatively and pass it on to the House, then encourage its passage in the Senate and the president’s signature to make it law.
A phone call to Congress is an effective way millions of Blacks can have their voices heard. Call your Representative and/or Committee Chair Hensarling now – via the main Congressional switchboard (202) 224-3121 to get their agreement to co-sponsor, and support, this important resolution.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.