African-American Mayors on 9/11 Day of Service: When we lift up our communities, we are stronger

OPINION: We must come together across differences and ideologies to stand together, lifting each other up just as Americans did more than 20 years ago.

The Tribute in Light is illuminated above lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City behind a row of candles and flags on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2021 as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

On this day of remembrance, we believe there is no better way to honor the fallen and those who stepped up to help than to roll up our sleeves in our own communities and promote the same spirit of unity and volunteerism that swept this nation after the tragic loss of thousands of lives to the 9/11 attacks some 20 years ago. As African-American mayors of cities large and small, we are committed to demonstrating our shared values by working together to achieve more than could be accomplished alone.

The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is honored to join with AmeriCorps and thousands of Americans of all ages and backgrounds all year long, and especially today, to participate in service projects to honor the lives and service of those we lost. As the federal agency charged with supporting national days of service, including the 9/11 Day of Service and Martin Luther King Day of Service, AmeriCorps has partnered with organizations nationwide to provide opportunities to unite through service. 

In cities led by AAMA members, AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps senior volunteers are helping us to address some of the most pressing challenges facing our cities.  

  • In Atlanta this past year, more than 700 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers served at more than 145 service locations, working in environmental stewardship, education and mentoring, housing, and economic development. 
  • Last year in St. Paul, more than 1,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers participated in projects at more than 240 service locations, including helping homebound seniors, supporting veterans, providing environmental stewardship, education and more. The city is also proud to have AmeriCorps VISTA members currently serving in city offices promoting equity and meeting community health needs. 
  • In Washington, D.C., this past year, more than 1,600 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers served with nonprofits, schools, and government agencies at over 370 service locations helping to build the capacity of community organizations, supporting K-12 students through mentoring and addressing food insecurity.

In our AAMA mayor cities, Americans are coming together to serve in big and small ways in honor of the 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance. Volunteer efforts range from food drives and home repairs to neighborhood cleanups and disaster preparation activities. In 11 cities around the country, thousands of volunteers led by 9/11 Day, a national nonprofit created by 9/11 families, will pack millions of meals to support food banks and address food insecurity in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

At more than 65 VA national cemeteries in cities, including Houston; Los Angeles; Little Rock, Ark.; Fort Smith, Ark.; Denver; and Baton Rouge, Carry the Load, another 9/11 Day nonprofit partner, will engage thousands of volunteers to clean and beautify headstones, honoring the service and sacrifice of our military, veterans, first responders and their families. 

AmeriCorps places more than 250,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps senior volunteers in service roles at more than 40,000 locations across the country. They are responding to disasters, improving childhood literacy, addressing public health disparities, improving our public parks, and much more. As mayors looking at more innovative ways to leverage funding and sweat equity for municipal projects, AmeriCorps has been an excellent partner for cities to use to leverage the necessary skill sets these volunteers bring to their communities. It is vital that our government continues to fund these efforts, for they are the lifeblood of many of our communities.

The global pandemic and events over the past two years have opened our eyes wider to the inequity in our world, but data shows service has the power to unite. On this day, we are reminded that service is a constant opportunity to build bridges and strengthen communities. The time is now to roll up our sleeves and make a difference for our neighbors in need—together. 

Let’s never forget that the things that divide us are infinitely smaller than what unites us. We urge everyone to take action to make those words have meaning, to reach across lines of difference to seek opportunities to serve with neighbors and strangers alike. We must come together across divides, differences, and ideologies, and stand together, lifting each other up, neighborhood by neighborhood, just as Americans did more than 20 years ago. Please visit to find a volunteer opportunity near you and share your story of service or message of remembrance on social media using the hashtag #911Day.

The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is the only organization dedicated to representing over 500 African-American mayors across the United States. AAMA seeks to empower local leaders for the benefit of their citizens. The role of the AAMA includes taking positions on public policies that impact the vitality and sustainability of cities; providing mayors with leadership and management tools; and creating a forum for member mayors to share best practices related to municipal management.

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