Awards & Events

DeBartolo York, Edwards Honored for Courage

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Denise DeBartolo York, owner and co-chair of the San Francisco 49ers, does not think she’s “that terribly creative” or “courageous,” she said.

However, the resources her parents gave her and the example they set have been the biggest blessings in her life, she said.

“They blessed me so that I could bless others,” DeBartolo York said to those attending the Simeon Booker Awards last night at Youngstown State University. She was presented with the Simeon Booker Award for Courage.

In a quiet and unobtrusive way, DeBartolo York has advocated for the underprivileged, underrepresented, minorities and women. Her focus on social injustice stretches from the Mahoning Valley to San Francisco.

“I’m a pretty meek, mild, quiet person, but when I see somebody that’s treated inappropriately, I really do get angry and speak up and try to do something,” she said.

The 49ers were the first professional football team to have an equal pay agreement. In the Mahoning Valley, DeBartolo York has quietly provided college scholarships for students across the area and has funded numerous nonprofit organizations.

Even when Annie Hall, a local community activist, has a party in the park, DeBartolo York is there providing hotdogs.

“I never thought of myself as being that courageous, but I could never turn away an admirable child or somebody that needs help,” she said. “Annie is in her 80s, survived colon cancer and she distributes clothes and food every day. If she runs out of food, she cooks it herself. I bought her 800 hotdogs and buns last month.”

Youngstown is a great town, DeBartolo York said. She often gets teased in San Francisco, but “Hey, it’s home,” she added.

“I love to mentor young women,” she 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.”

The Simeon Booker Award for Courage is given each year during Nonviolence Week to an individual or group that exhibits the characteristics of Simeon Booker: courage, tenacity, social justice and the willingness to put their lives on the line for a cause.

Booker grew up in Youngstown and was the first African-American reporter at the Washington Post. He went on to work for Jet Magazine and covered the Civil Rights movement.

National awardee of the Simeon Booker Award for Courage, Harry Edwards, said he has come to define teaching as the “greatest of all professions.”

“Unlike a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a dentist or an engineer, who all do something for our people, a teacher inspires people to learn and insights them to think so they can do for themselves,” Edwards said. “A teacher can fill students with the courage to follow their bliss.”

For more than 50 years, Edwards, who has a doctorate in sociology from Cornell University, has been a counselor for 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.

“When you’re giving out an award for courage, you’re not giving out an award to altar boys,” said John York, co-chairman of the 49ers and friend of Edwards. “You’re giving out awards to people at some point or other were considered a SOB. And Harry beats that.”

Edwards still strives to be a mentor for athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, and a voice for social justice. He supported 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.

In addition, Edwards supported the action of John Carlos and Tommie Smith, athletes from San Jose State, who raised their fists in the Black Power salute in protest against racial injustices when they received their medals on the Olympic stand in 1968.

“Today, we would be able to have a much more informed, enlightened discussion and debate about how to resolve our problems as a nation and society if we were not afraid, mostly of each other,” Edwards said. “We have evolved a culture of fear. This is where we are, but this is not who we are.”

In terms of looking forward, as his late friend Maya Angelou would say, “still we rise,” because that is what Americans do, Edwards said.

Pictured: Simeon Booker Award for Courage recipients Denise DeBartolo York and Harry Edwards.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.