It's been two weeks since Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was sworn into office. It was a special day for him in Madison as he was sworn in as the first black lieutenant governor of the state.
However, today, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is almost as special in his new role.
"It's so much bigger than me," Barnes said. "It's about how we come together as a community to solve the biggest problems in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin."
Barnes understands he is a role model. It's a role he takes seriously as he spoke to two different groups early Monday at the YMCA and Longfellow Public School with City Year.
"I want them to do more than anything I've ever done," Barnes said. "They have the ability to do so but too often they haven't been told that."
To Barnes, MLK is still an inspiration. He says he reads quotes of his to this day for motivation. Without MLK, he's not sure he'd be in the position he is today as the first black lieutenant governor of the state. However, he knows there is still a long way to go.
"It's a significant day," Barnes said. "When Dr. King was (last) here, he talked about segregation must die. The most recent report again showed what we already knew about Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin, as the most segregated place. It's consistently ranked as the worst place to raise an African-American child. We know we have work to do. That means bringing perspectives to the table. (MLK) is still absolutely an inspiration to me knowing that we have so much to overcome in the city of Milwaukee and state of Wisconsin, but we can do it. It starts with the belief, knowing that it's possible to make change happen."
Barnes' words bring hope to volunteers with City Year Milwaukee and the YMCA. Both groups are in charge of helping the next generation.
"There's heroes all around us," said Carrie Wall, the president/CEO of YMCA Metropolitan Milwaukee. "Let's just recognize them. (King's) dream and how we keep it alive and making sure the next generation of leaders are being supported as they need to be."
"I want them to do more than anything I've ever done. They have the ability to do so but too often they haven't been told that." — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, on opportunities for students
"As we celebrate Dr. King today, let's not do it by relishing the progress we made, but we can never be satisfied," Gov. Tony Evers said. "Never be satisfied by the progress. We can have better progress."
At Longfellow Public School, dozens of volunteers were there. They call MLK Day a day on, not a day off. They put in service to better the community. Today, they paint some 50 murals with inspirational words for students to be motivated by.
"When students come back to school tomorrow, they'll see quotes that represent people who look like them," said Meralis Hood, the executive director of City Year Milwaukee. "People they can relate to as well as motivational and inspirational quotes on the wall."
"The work (King) has done is not finished," said Julius Gayo, the civic engagement team leader with City Year Milwaukee. "Inspiring us to live up to what his work was and inspire us to do as good as he did."