Reflections


Dear Mr. Booker, My entire life I have lived in the little town of Middlebury, Ind. Coming to Youngstown State University, my eyes have been opened to challenges and situations I have never seen before. It’s not even as if these challenges are directly mine. Middlebury is an upper-class area with little to no poverty. When I first arrived to school at Youngstown, I hated it. I felt as though my parents dropped me off to the worst girl camp ever and left me to fend for myself. Little did I realize, Youngstown was exactly what I needed. In class, we read an article about you’re bravery and impact on the Civil Rights Movement. I also learned how African Americans were not given activity cards at Youngstown College. This was a huge injustice as I am sure you know. After learning more about your work in class discussions, my mind has been opened to the injustices that are still around today, so – “Thank you.” I am studying to become an early childhood teacher. City schools with high African American populations seem to need extra care. I have talked a little bit about this problem with the Rev. Morris Lee of the Third Baptist Church of Youngstown. You have inspired me to teach in a challenging school to make it better. Although I am only a freshman, I have changed my views on getting my diploma and heading back to Indiana. I would now like to either stay in Youngstown and make an impact here, or choose another low-performing school in the area. I already have many ideas as to what I can do to encourage my students and help them learn. I want to be the inspiration of my student’s success much like you have been an inspiration in the Civil Rights Movement. Thank you for all of your time and effort. Your success is truly inspiring. With gratitude, Caitlin...

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Dear Mr. Booker, Welcome back Mr. Booker; we appreciate you being here. Your name – Simeon Saunders Booker Jr. – may not be mentioned as often as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but in terms of importance to the Civil Rights Movement of the last century, your name and King’s rank are very near to one another. Several of my classmates and I in the Composition I course at Youngstown State University spent a few weeks reading and researching your life and work. As a member of the millennial generation
and a large supporter of racial equality,
I cannot offer enough gratitude to you
for your years of work in journalism and
for helping bring down the wall of racial
segregation. I’m sure that I am just one of many who feel this way. I’m sure that the victims of racial attacks that you wrote about in stories in Jet and Ebony magazines are grateful that their horrific experiences did not go undocumented. Your will to shed light on stories of abuse and murder of innocent African Americans and your bravery to venture into the dangerous, Deep South were vital in fueling the Civil Rights Movement. Many leaders of that movement took inspiration from your work. In my opinion, you deserve every bit of praise and civilian honor available in our country. You were a catalyst in getting this country to change its ugly ways. For this I say: “Thank you. Thank you, Simeon for playing your part in making the country I call home a better place for people of every race.” With gratitude, Michael...

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Dear Mr. Booker, Everyone just loves my husband, Fred, and me. Together we paint a portrait of 21st century Americana. We are proud to own a little yellow Cape Cod, smack dab in the center of Boardman, OH. With two dogs, full-time jobs and college life, we traded our nightlife for domestication and studies; we have also become excellent knitters. Today, Freddy and I celebrated two years of marriage, which is no small accomplishment in this day and age of 36-hour Las Vegas marriages. All in all, our life together does not sound much different from most Americans. However, my husband and I are not legally wed. According to the ring on my finger and his last name attached to my first, one would think that we have the major ingredients for a binding marriage arrangement. Sadly, if we want to make it official, we have to move away from the very place we have always called home and now together have made a home. It was two years ago in New Orleans. I was applying my fangs to go to The Anne Rice Vampire Ball, my boyfriend then jokingly got down on one knee and proposed to me with a cheap plastic gold-tinted ring featuring an orange, cushion-cut plastic jewel, that he bought with his mother. I blushed and chuckled, and then, before I knew it, he and I were actually engaged. For months, I screamed with joy, “I’M A BRIDE!” With the full support of our families and friends, a year later, we went back to the same place were we had fallen in love and by the stroke of noon on the 30th of October, we where pronounced husband and husband. Behind the happiness lurked the knowledge that the act of consummating our marriage was punishable with five years of imprisonment under a 195-year-old law that today is still upheld in some cases. There were many questions when we bought our house, got life insurance, made out our last will and testament, changed my last name and signed power of attorney papers. However, we did not mind repeating answers, making jokes and signing on the many dotted lines. Fred and I thought if we could have 12 different pieces of paper then that would be equal to the one piece the heterosexuals get when they get hitched. Our struggle is not new and is far from over. Even today, on my anniversary I am forced to grin and bear it when people look me in the eye and ask if I am “legally” wed. What they are asking is: “Are you ‘really’ married or just playing...

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Dear Mr. Booker, My name is Justin Passaro and I am a freshman at Youngstown State University. Through my writing class, I have learned much about you and your work. Mr. Booker, words cannot describe how much of a positive impact learning about you has had on me. You fought for what you believed in with dedication, bravery and an outstanding work ethic. Although, out of all your great work, the
1963 March on Washington is what really
made me a fan for life. Knowing there
was potential for violence, showing no
hesitation, you remained dedicated to
your work by doing what you knew was
right. I honestly feel that not many other
people could have followed through with their work in that situation. I truly believe that your work played a very substantial role in the progress of civil rights. That progress needs to continue though. As you said before, “This is just the end to the beginning.” I am also a firm believer that the people of America, as a whole, must come together and continue the progress. Mr. Booker, your work has also inspired me to become a person even more focused on equality. It has been an honor to have the opportunity to write to you. If I could just be half the person you are, I will be satisfied with my life. Thanks for the inspiration, Justin...

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Dear Mr. Booker, America, as we all know, is a nation formed by the diverse minds of our founding fathers, but changed by influential people fighting for a cause. Throughout history, there have been standout people and events that have forever changed the course of our country. Abraham Lincoln’s work against slavery, Elizabeth Stanton’s struggle for women’s rights, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, and your work, Mr. Booker, for exposing injustice and advancing the Civil Rights Movement. I would be lying if I were to say that I understand what you endured. No person, especially no white woman living today, could ever understand the injustices and violence that African Americans had to face. What I can say though is that you have my most sincere gratitude for the passion and determination you brought to your work. Changing people’s mind was only the beginning of this massive movement, changing the ways of the nation was the optimal goal. This goal was accomplished, I believe, in large measure, due to your perseverance, positive outlook and educated ways. The problems I’ve dealt
with in my life are so trivial
compared to what you’ve faced
and conquered. So instead of
saying I understand, I found
a different way to relate to
you and to your work. Finding
something I’m passionate
about is my optimal goal for
college. Doing something
ordinary that merely earns
a paycheck doesn’t hold
my interest. I would rather do something I love and that has greater meaning. While reading your work, your emotion almost streams off the page. I want people to sense the love I feel for my work, just as people were able to sense how strongly you felt for what you stood for. For everything you have done, I thank you. I thank you for the impact you made on our country. I thank you for bringing the tragedy of the Emmett Till murder to the surface and grabbing the emotion of our country. I could only imagine how I would feel if Till had been my brother or friend. I thank you for keeping on, even if it seemed like luck was pointed in the other direction. At last, I thank you for the positive impact you have made on my life. By doing what you’re passionate about, you found your way in this world, and I hope one day I will be fortunate enough to do something as great as you. There are very few people in this world who could be deemed as amazing as you. Thank you for being such an inspiration. With eternal gratitude, Jessica...

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Dear Mr. Booker, I have read a lot of articles about your life and some passages from your book. When I was younger, I never felt the undercurrent of racism of our world. Then I listened to my 69-year-old father talk about living in Philadelphia during the days of segregation and serving in the Vietnam War, when he was ridiculed and bashed. I now understand what a hard place it was for African-Americans in that time period. Your stories and also my father’s made me value how so much has changed. Yet I worry if Americans’ mindset about civil rights in general is slowly atrophying because we think a paper that tells us we have rights makes us free. I fear that we African Americans have become lazy in our efforts to create change. Some of us think that because we have an African- American president we don’t have to work as hard anymore. Before we had President Obama, we had the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X and – you. From elementary to high school, I learned about the more notable people of the Civil Rights Movement. However, your story inspired me because I got to learn about someone in black history that I hadn’t known about. I learned more about history through your accounts of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the efforts of the Freedom Riders. When I first started looking at your story, I thought of my father. He wasn’t an activist or even a high school graduate, but he lived in that same time period. He experienced everything that people were fighting to end. He could not go to certain bars in the South because he was a “colored” man. He was in jail the day the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He remembers the moment when chaos struck inside the jail. Even though my father wasn’t a journalist like you or an activist like Malcolm X, he still had a story – one he would tell his children when we were old enough to understand. When I was younger, I did not value these stories, but now I am aware. Mr. Booker, your story is beyond inspirational. These stories are scary, but they are the truth of what was going on in America. I started to think about how much we truly need to change, not just to be better African-Americans, but also to be better people. We have a lot more inequalities to deal with because the world will never be perfect, but as you said, “This is just the end to the beginning.” Thank...

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