One of the most impassioned voices raised in support of Barack Obama’s campaign has been that of Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker. So he was a fitting choice to close the Congressional Black Caucus’ opening session on Monday afternoon. After touting Obama’s accomplishments and his commitment to all of the causes of most critical importance to African Americans — education, fair and affordable housing, employment opportunities, legal rights — Booker pulled no punches in declaring Obama’s inability to serve as a successful president without our commitment to serve alongside him.
We can’t put the brother in the White House and then sit back and wait to see what he does for us,” Booker said. “As he and Stokely Carmichael have so eloquently said in the past, we are the leaders that we have been waiting for!”
Echoing a sentiment that Obama has frequently expressed, Booker continued, “The strength of America does not lie in Washington, DC but in our grassroots communities, in ourselves.”
Booker then shared a moving anecdote about a “sagacious older woman” in his struggling city who continued to pay market rate to live in a violent and broken down housing project even though she could afford to live elsewhere. Asked by Booker why she continued to live there, where she had to walk each day through the lobby where her only son was murdered, why she continued to head up the tenants association and to surround and immerse herself in all of the project’s challenges when she could easily move, Booker said, “She crossed her arms and said, “Because I am in charge of homeland security.”
This exchange represented a watershed moment for him, Booker said. It changed his view of service and commitment forever and he urged the audience to answer the call of their own communities in the larger effort to improve the country and the African American condition overall. “America is not a spectator sport,” he said. “It is a participatory, full-contact democracy. It is about getting involved. We talk about the disdain we have for Washington, but let’s look in the mirror for a second. If we don’t step up, we get the country we deserve.”
Caroline Clarke is the Women of Power Brand Manager