The purpose of the "Lift Every Voice" podcast hosted by U.S. Senator Cory Booker is to share inspiring stories of change.
Booker usually interviews grassroots activists, stakeholders and organizers who are making a difference in their communities. However, this week, the tables have turned and audiences will have the first look into Booker's own life and upbringing.
"On this podcast I really just wanted to share a few words with you not just of my history but share words in the hope that we think about the future now and what we must do to carry on despite obstacles and setbacks like our ancestors did because there’s still work to do, there’s still wrongs to righted, there’s still injustice to be made just," Booker said.
Booker peels back the curtains on some of the more challenging times in his life. He goes into detail about the racial discrimination his parents fought through. His father was on the frontlines of the early stages of civil rights movement in Greensboro, NC. He also experienced racism within the housing market when his family made the decision to move up north to New Jersey, where Booker would spend the majority of his childhood.
Booker said his parents also taught him about black history, and its pivotal role in American History. Today, he says African-American are drinking from "deep wells of freedom," and we are living off the sacrifices our ancestors made. He also shares the wisdom his family instilled in him and reminds his listeners that even though we can't pay it back we must aim to pay it forward.
“My father became IBM’s first black salesman in the entire Virginia area, including Washington, D.C. This is a powerful thing in our country – when we lower barriers to entry to qualified people to serve to compete to be a part of organizations, we all thrive and that’s what happened with my dad," he said. "He was extraordinarily successful as a salesman and eventually got a promotion to New Jersey and New York to work in Madison Ave and Manhattan.”
"They [his parents] also let me know I couldn’t pay back all that was given to me through this incredibly rich history of struggle, of overcoming injustice, of advancing our country towards its ideals," Booker added. "I couldn’t pay those blessings I inherited back, but I had to pay them forward."
One of the highlights from this episode is his perspective on the last black congressmen to serve during the era of reconstruction, Congressmen White, from N.C. In 1901, the last year that an African American would serve in Congress for 70 years, White gave his final speech. In it, he said, that like a phoenix black people would rise up and come again. Through his lens Booker said he hopes that we use our past as compass to guide us to unlock our own potential.
"The spirit of our ancestors, the spirit of those that have come before, may we continue on, may we fight the good fight and may we – even if we don’t live to see it - give to future generations an America beyond our greatest dreams, an America that lives up to her promise in a way that we’re not experiencing now," he said. "We can make that happen if we persist."