Vindy Article: Downtown vigil brings attention to mass shootings, gun-law reform



After the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Kira Walker organized a school walkout to show solidarity with those affected by the tragedy and demand that gun violence be addressed.

Nevertheless, since the tragedy that left 17 students and staff dead, too little has been done to tackle the problem, the 2019 Youngstown Early College graduate and Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past member contends.

“This is beyond ridiculous and unacceptable,” Walker told a crowd at a community prayer vigil Thursday evening on the Mahoning County Courthouse steps to remember and honor those killed in recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton and at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif. “It’s been two years since Parkland, and it feels like nothing’s changed.”

Sponsoring the somber 30-minute gathering was the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.

Walker demanded an end to reflexively blaming mental illness for the scourge of gun violence in the U.S., as President Donald Trump has said. Most other countries have people with such challenges, yet don’t have nearly the number of mass shootings, said Walker, who also urged attendees to call out white supremacy and vote for stronger gun laws.

Calling America’s gun violence “a public health crisis that requires a public solution,” state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, demanded hearings on common-sense gun-safety bills and a ban on assault weapons, as well as universal background checks and support for red-flag laws. Such laws allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

A representative for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, read aloud a letter from Brown that says in part, “The shooter in Dayton was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle with magazines containing 100 rounds – all purchased legally. There is no reason one man should have been able to kill nine innocent people … in less than a minute.”

The majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are motivated by white nationalist sentiment and the drumbeat of racist, hateful speech, such as the myth about an invasion of immigrants to this country from Central America, said Alex Montaz of the Ashtabula-based HOLA Ohio organization.

“I’m here to lift up and give hope to the people of Dayton, who have shouted, ‘Do something! Do something!’” said the Rev. Joseph Boyd, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown, referring to their rallying cry to demand that elected officials do more to address the problem.

“We are one people,” county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said. “We have to speak with one voice.”

Simeon Booker Award Recipients Press Release

August 20, 2019


For immediate release:

The Ohio Nonviolence Week committee is announcing the recipients of the Simeon Booker Award for Courage: Dr. Harry Edwards and Denise DeBartolo York

  • The national recipient is Dr. Harry Edwards, a well-known sociologist, who is a mentor for athletes with a focus on athletes and social activism. He has been a consultant with the 49ers for decades and is also a consultant with the Golden State Warriors.

For over fifty years, Dr. Harry Edwards, who has a PhD in sociology from Cornell University, has been a counselor for athletes in the area of human rights, social justice and activism in athletics. In 1967, while a professor at San Jose State, he founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). Several demands of the OPHR were the reinstatement of Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight boxing title and the removal of South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympic games in protest of apartheid. John Carlos and Tommie Smith, athletes from San Jose State and part of the OPHR, raised their fists in the Black Power salute in protest against racial injustices when they received medals on the Olympic stand in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico; “the most widely recognized protest in sports history”. Carlos and Smith were stripped of their medals and denounced as anti-American. Nearly forty years later, in 2005, San Jose State recognized Carlos and Smith for their actions at the Olympics with a 23-foot statue in their pose in Mexico City.

Edwards suffered from the fall out. He was denied tenure at the University of California. He was profiled by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover beginning in 1967. Dr. Edwards learned the FBI had more than 3000 pages on him and the OPHR. Edwards was labeled “anti-American, a revolutionary and a danger to the state.”

Today, Edwards is a consultant for the 49ers as well as the Golden State Warriors. His relationship with the 49ers began in the 80’s. He continues to be a mentor for athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, and a voice for social justice.

  • The local recipient is Denise DeBartolo York, who has quietly supported women and minorities both in the Mahoning Valley and the San Francisco area. She learned from her father that education is the key.  She recognizes the 49ers provide a unique platform to bring youth to education and fitness and has taken advantage of that platform. She is a champion for social justice and has the courage to stand up for what she believes in.

The Simeon Booker Award for Courage is given to someone who exhibits the courage and tenacity of Simeon Booker. Mr. Booker grew up in Youngstown, became the first African- American reporter for the Washington Post and then wrote for Jet Magazine. He was responsible for Jet covering the murder of Emmett Till, which shocked the nation and let to the Civil Rights Movement.

The Simeon Booker Award for Courage, which is part of the events during Nonviolence Week (October 6-12, 2019),  is 7:00 PM Thursday, October 10th in the Chestnut Room in Kilcawley at YSU. The program is free and open to the public.

For more information contact Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, Chair Ohio Nonviolence Week committee at or 330-207-4467.

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