Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Adams Calls in For Live Interview on Wurd's "Keepin' It Real With Rev. Al Sharpton"

May 2, 2024

Reverend Al Sharpton: Today is National Day of Prayer. It's an annual day of observance designated by the United States Congress and held the first Thursday of May when people are asked, quote, to turn to God in prayer and meditation. One that recognizes it is the mayor of the biggest city in the world, who has always, since I've known him about 35 years, been devout about his belief and his faith. I'm talking about Mayor Eric Adams, who's on our live line. Mayor Adams, thank you for coming on.

Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director, FPWA: Afternoon, mayor.

Mayor Eric Adams: Good afternoon. Hey, how are you doing, sister? Thanks so much. It is said that if my people would call for my name, shall humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal the land. I think that that's what the architects of the National Day of Prayer thought about. 

Sometimes when we continually talk about the separation of church and state, I don't think people understand how much God and faith is rooted in the American experience. It doesn't mean just those of us who are Christian, but those who follow Sikh, Buddhism, Muslims, Judaism. It's real all about faith. That's what we wanted to do today.

Reverend Sharpton: Now, when you deal with the question of faith, there certainly is and should be a separation between church and state. But that does not mean some of the people like you that lead in government are not guided by their own inner compass about their faith and their use of prayer and meditation. Just like I don't think people should be forced to do that, we should not be forced not to do that if that's what drives us to serve the public well.

Mayor Adams: Well said. I think that oftentimes we talk about, as you just put it extremely clearly, that we talk about not forcing people to acknowledge any faith, and you should never do that. But we should not force people not to. When I think of faith, it is how I carry out my role. I could not, in good faith and in my belief, allow people who are dealing with severe mental health issues to remain on our streets. It was my faith that drove me. It drove me when I saw 30 to 40 percent of the young people on Rikers Island were dyslexic. My faith said that is not right to not do dyslexia screening, and to build housing, to allow people in the homeless shelters to be permanently there, to have more people transitioning to permanent housing in the history of the city in a one-year period. That was faith. So much of what in my performance as mayor is rooted in it's the right thing to do based on my faith.

Reverend Sharpton: Now you've had some close calls when you were in the Police Department, then as you developed leadership of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and on into Albany, and on into being the borough president of Brooklyn, and then the mayor. Tell us where your faith really became the thing you had to lean on. We've all had crises in our lives. What has been the thing that comes to your mind that made you say, wait a minute, this can't be handled without me praying and leaning on my faith?

Mayor Adams: That's a great question because all of us must find faith for ourselves. Much of my life, it was because it was the tradition of the family and what mother wanted me to do. She was such an influence in my life and I always wanted to please her. 

Back when I was studying for the sergeant exam and Jordan, my son, I believe he was less than a year old. I forgot how old he was at the time, but he was a newborn, that's for sure. I was driving down Atlantic Avenue and made a left turn onto Classon Avenue and someone pulled up beside my car and called out my name and let off one round and he shot out my back window. I remember how shaken I was and it was a moment, it was in the height of my advocacy. I didn't know where it came from, but I remember in that moment after going to the local precinct, going home and getting on my knees and said, God, I'm scared. I was undecided on what I needed to do and how to move. I came out that next day with this renewed spirit that was the day I found God for myself.

Reverend Sharpton: It wasn't rhetoric then. Jenny, you're a daughter of faith. Do you have a question for the mayor and the faith and prayer? 

Jones Austin: I do. Absolutely. Tell me, as a man of faith, as you're leading a government, you're not able to tell everybody, you got to do this because God says do it. But how do you live out your faith in your work? You know, I mean kind of when you're talking with your staff, because I work in a Protestant organization, so I can get in there and talk about my faith. Are you able to do that? 

Mayor Adams: That's a great question. What I try to do is create an atmosphere where, as Rev. said, and I'm going to reiterate that over and over again, where they don't feel as though they're forced to talk about faith, but I don't want them to feel they're forced not to. 

We opened up City Hall for those Muslims who want to come and do their Friday prayer, which is an important prayer for them. We allow the call of prayer like we do with church bells ringing or in our Jewish community, the siren goes off when it's time for Shabbos. We allow our Muslims to have that same call of prayer, and we pray at different opportunities. My chief advisor, Ingrid, is a chaplain and we pray that those who want to participate can pray with us. They can say a silent prayer. So I like to create the atmosphere where you're not forced to do any form of faith interaction, but you’re not forced not to.

Reverend Sharpton: Before I let you go, one of the things I've been saying all day, both on this, my radio show, and I was on Morning Joe all four hours this morning, is that with all of these things that are going on, students' protests, which I agree with the aim of it, other situations we're facing, that I keep hearing about, well, we went through this in ‘68 in Chicago, Democratic Convention, but the landscape is different. Now, I think the way people act, they need to remember there's a difference between Richard Daley in ‘68 and a Black progressive man, Brandon Johnson now, or Karen Bass in L.A. and Eric Adams in New York, and we've got to advocate what we believe and stand for it, but do it in a way that we don't undermine the progress and the power that we've made. 

Mayor Adams: Well said. And also Rev., as you know, and Sister Jones, you know that what happens when cities burn, because cities did not burn, our communities burn. We saw what happened to Brownsville, South Jamaica, Queens, the Bronx. We know what happens when this violence boils over, and we need to be always conscious of that.

And so there's a way to voice our complaints, which is so important, because the right to protest the right is the cornerstone of democracy, and we've all participated in one way or another, but we cannot see all that we've built up watch the destruction of our inner cities, and we need to be very conscious of that. A lot of people who are leading some of the movements now are not aware of those days and how long it took our cities to recover, from the Rodney King uprising to what happened during the Watts riots, so we got to be very conscious of this.

Reverend Sharpton: Mayor Eric Adams, thank you for calling in and being a part of this National Day of Prayer, mayor of New York City. 

Mayor Adams: Thank you. 

Media Contact
(212) 788-2958