Valdosta Daily Times

March 24, 2014

A woman for the cause

Adam Floyd
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — “I just want to bring down the man. Everything I do is kind of for that,” said Mary Booker, a Valdosta State University student who works with a local homeless shelter and works part-time at a pizza place to make ends meet.

Booker considers herself an activist and has recently protested the proposed Sabal Trail oil pipeline with a group called SpectraBusters.

“I made stickers and signs. I sent out letters to almost every person whose property will be affected by the pipeline explaining what can happen with eruptions,” said Booker.

When she isn’t protesting oil pipelines, Booker interns at the New Horizons Family Development Center, an outreach of LAMP, the Lowndes Associated Ministries to the People. The center provides temporary housing for families in need along with education programs to get them back on their feet.

“We do classes on self-sufficiency and life-success classes,” said Booker. “I see a lot of inequality in Lowndes County, and the kind of activism I do here I hope can make a difference.”

Booker sees the level of inequality in the area as a combined result of poor and unfortunate decisions made by individuals and a system that works against them.

“Honestly, a lot of people take advantage of the system like welfare and food stamps. A lot of people abuse it, but I support it because that safety net needs to be there, but the classes we offer here help people rely more on themselves,” said Booker. “And, you know, half of the people I work with are on probation here, and

 it’s hard to get back on your feet while you’re on probation.”

Booker hopes to see changes made in the judicial system that will make it easier for people who have made mistakes to make amends without causing further damage to their lives.

Booker has also recently added food to her list of causes.

“I’m a six-month vegetarian. Food has always been a big part of my life, so every meal is a struggle for me, and I have to search for recipes that will work,” said Booker. “It took a while for me to accept that meat didn’t have to be the main portion of my meals or a portion at all.”

Booker does not object to eating meat but disagrees with how many animals are raised and killed.

“If it wasn’t tortured before it was killed, I would eat it,” said Booker. “We’ve been hunting and killing our own food since the dawn of man. It’s the factory farming of animals that I have a problem with.”

Booker has broken her vegetarian streak just once over the last six months.

“I ate shrimp once, which was devastating,” said Booker. “I ate it and then remembered a documentary I saw about farm-raised shrimp, and I felt terrible.”

Not everything in Booker’s life carries with it such weighty responsibility. She’s an avid vinyl record collector and earns extra money doing what is known as hair wraps for girls around town.

“I love craft making,” said Booker. “Hippy glam is making its way back.”

She works at a pizza place to make ends meet, but looks forward to helping people as a full-time career after she graduates from VSU this spring.

“I’ve fallen in love with VSU. I haven’t taken a class that I wasn’t in love with,” said Booker. “I’ve learned something from every single class.”

Her favorite classes have centered on the counter-culture movement and about African-American women, and she plans to continue her education by earning her master’s degree at VSU.

“I work with the Students Against Violating the Environment on campus, and I would love to graduate and take what I’ve learned at VSU and what I’ve learned through working with SAVE and go to places like Detroit which have huge social problems and work to make a difference,” said Booker.