Mayor Cory Booker: If You Want to Honor Dr. King, Do Something

Newark leader believes that service should be a way of life. 

Posted: 01/13/2012 05:55 PM EST
Cory Booker

For 26 years, the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been recognized as a national holiday, and although many appreciate the day off from school or work, others say service is how the “free” time should be spent. 

 

“If you really want to honor Dr. King, don’t talk about him, don’t quote his speeches, engage in answering his call to service,” Newark New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker tells BET.com.

 

As the mayor of a city with an over 52 percent population of African-Americans, Booker believes that civic activism –  no matter your race, is everyone’s responsibility.

 

On January 16, AmeriCorps and cities across the nation will offer specific opportunities to help combat poverty, neighborhood blight and racial discrimination. But, despite all the calls to duty on Monday, Booker says that service needs to be more than just a day; it needs to be integrated into our lives, and their needs to be more of it.

 

“We still have a nation that urgently needs more service and more engagement,” Booker said. “We’ve come so far in the city of Newark, and in our country as a whole, that unfortunately, we should be so much further down the road when it comes to creating a more just America, that it reflects our highest aspirations.” 

 

Quoting Dr. King -- who said change will not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but that it must be carried on the backs of people willing to work for it, struggle for it and sacrifice for it -- the 42-year-old mayor believes that not everyone wants that responsibility, and that needs to change.

 

“We’re not [successful as a nation] yet because still there are too many people who believe this democracy is a spectator sport,” he said. “That they can sit on the sidelines and give color commentary about what’s going on, as opposed to realizing that we all must be in the game —making a sacrifice, being there for others.”

 

On Monday, Booker plans to paint inspirational murals at West Side High, a local Newark high school. He encourages others who haven’t made a commitment to start making service a part of their life too.

 

“If that’s going to be the way we live, it should start today. It should start by doing something and engaging in activism,” he said.

 

To learn how to get involved in your city, visit here.

 

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(Photo:  Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

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