July 26, 2018 - Issue: Vol. 164, No. 126 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 2nd Session
CELEBRATING BEA LUMPKIN: 100 YEARS OF FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE AND INSPIRING GENERATIONS OF ACTIVISTS; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 126
(Extensions of Remarks - July 26, 2018)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E1097-E1098] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] CELEBRATING BEA LUMPKIN: 100 YEARS OF FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE AND INSPIRING GENERATIONS OF ACTIVISTS ______ HON. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY of illinois in the house of representatives Thursday, July 26, 2018 Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, in the 1930s, Bea threw herself feet first into the social and political struggles transforming the nation during the Great Depression. She attended rallies and stood on street corners denouncing Hitler and the wave of fascism gripping Europe. She participated in the 1930 National Hunger Protest that saw one million unemployed people descend on their state capitols demanding relief. Bea joined the fight for unemployment insurance and Social Security--all before she graduated from high school in 1934. Bea enrolled in Hunter College, a free college for women where she studied chemistry. At just 18, she took time off from school to accept the challenge of organizing New York's laundry workers, a campaign that resulted in 30,000 people (mostly women) organized under the newly- formed Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO). Bea moved to Buffalo in 1942 where she married and had two children, Carl and Jeanleah. She and her husband amicably divorced and Bea went to work for Western Electric. Bea still found time to organize a Wallace for President Committee in support of Progressive Party Candidate Henry Wallace's bid for the presidency. At a fundraiser for Wallace, Bea met her partner and the love of her life Frank Lumpkin. As an interracial couple, they encountered many hard looks and racial slurs. The two married in 1949 and moved to Gary, Indiana, where they had two more children, Paul and John. Bea and Frank were an impressive team. When they discovered that the septic tanks in their predominantly African- [[Page E1098]] American neighborhood had contaminated the water wells, they organized their neighbors and launched a seven-year battle that won them safe drinking water. In 1962, Bea and Frank moved to Chicago, where for decades they were involved in every civil rights struggle--and there were many. They joined the fight for fair housing, against lynching, and against segregation. Bea began her career in education at age 47 when she became a Chicago Public School teacher. She later became an assistant math professor at Malcolm X College, publishing numerous groundbreaking books on the multicultural roots of mathematics and science. To this day, she is an active member of the Chicago Teachers Union, never missing a rally, always fighting for the rights of teachers and their students who deserve a quality education. In 1983, Harold Washington, former Illinois State Senator and U.S. Congressman, ignited the hopes and dreams of Chicagoans across the city when he ran for and won election as mayor. Bea and Frank were on the frontline of the campaign and remained committed supporters throughout his administration. That same year, the Republican Governor of Illinois proposed a budget that slashed funding for basic human needs. Bea and Frank responded to the call to join the Crisis March to Springfield. They walked 200 miles to the state Capitol with a group organized by Illinois Public Action, stopping for meetings in small towns, talking to the media as they went, and being met for the last mile by more than one thousand supporters. The Governor capitulated and the cuts were restored. As the organizer of that march, I had the opportunity to begin a never-ending friendship with Bea and with Frank that lasted until he died. Bea wrote many books, but her most acclaimed is Always Bring a Crowd: The Story of Frank Lumpkin Steelworker, that chronicles Frank's battle against Wisconsin Steel. On March 28, 1980, Wisconsin Steel closed its plant with no notice. Three thousand workers lost their jobs, their last paycheck, their benefits and their pensions. With Bea at his side, Frank formed the Save Our Jobs Committee. Their fight would last 17 years and win those workers $19 million. Bea participated in the formation of the Coalition of Labor Union Woman in 1974, remains involved in the organization, and continues to mentor young trade union sisters. To this day, Bea remains active on the national and local stage. She is an activist member of the Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans, fighting to protect and expand Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. She is a familiar face at demonstrations, peace vigils, and rallies. She has joined countless picket lines including in front of laundries, as she did as a young organizer, still fighting for workers' rights. By example, Bea Lumpkin has demonstrated how one person's passion for social justice can transform families, communities and societies. For the last one hundred years, Bea has devoted her life to improving the condition of others, from exploited laundry workers in New York City to unemployed Steel workers in Chicago, from union women fighting for equality in the workplace to seniors demanding affordable health care. It's impossible to feel cynical about the potential of ordinary people to shape history when one thinks about the indelible mark Beatrice Lumpkin has had on so many lives. Her relentless and passionate pursuit of justice has inspired me to be a better person and fills me with hope for the future. ____________________