Argonne’s African American Employee Resource Group (AAA-ERG) and Veterans ERG hosted a Black History Month fireside chat on February 22, 2023. Diana Schmitt, co-founder of the Veterans ERG, coordinated the Chat. AAA-ERG President, Justin Breaux, moderated the Fireside Chat.

Fireside Chat Event recording.

Bobby Rush,Justin Breaux, Diana Schmitt

The conversation delved into Congressman Rush’s life of service as a Black Panther, soldier, and elected official, and his insights into mobilizing partners and people to bring about fundamental change for disenfranchised communities. During the Q&A session, he shared his experiences and insights on various topics.

When asked about what he has learned about mobilizing partners and people to bring about change, Congressman Rush stressed the importance of a strong faith and ability to form coalitions with people who share similar values and goals. He emphasized that change happens when people come together to demand it.

When asked about which piece of legislation he would like to be known for, Congressman Rush spoke of the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Health Care Act (MBS Act). The Act was named after a woman who suffered from postpartum depression (PPD) and died by suicide in 2001, just three months after giving birth to her son.

The Act aims to increase research on postpartum depression (PPD) and improve the delivery of healthcare services for individuals experiencing PPD. Congressman Rush was a co-sponsor of the Act and played an important role in advocating for and helping to pass the legislation, which was signed into law in 2018.

Congressman Rush was also asked about how the Black experience has changed in terms of access and opportunity since he entered the military. He noted that while there have been some improvements, much work still needs to be done to address systemic racism and inequalities in society.

On the topic of energy sustainability and justice, Congressman Rush emphasized the importance of addressing climate change and promoting clean energy. He praised Argonne National Laboratory for its contributions to advancing energy sustainability and justice through research and development.

Congressman Rush also shared his experience of joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and co-founding the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. He discussed how his time in the Army influenced his decision to join these organizations and his desire to fight for justice and equality.

The event also featured a gift presentation by Diana Schmidt, co-founder of the Veterans ERG, to Congressman Rush, thanking him for his service and contributions to the country.

In conclusion, the Fireside Chat with Congressman Bobby Rush was an insightful and engaging conversation, shedding light on his life of service and providing valuable insights into social justice and activism. It was a great way to celebrate Black History Month and honor the contributions of Black leaders and activists throughout history.

Written By: Justin Breaux