NEWARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Rev. Al Sharpton was honored for his civil rights and social justice work during a special ceremony in Newark.

Mayor Ras Baraka presented the leader of the National Action Network with a key to the city during the event Monday at Newark City Hall, 1010 WINS’ Rebecca Granet reported.

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“We believe that Rev. Al Sharpton deserves recognition. We want to give him his roses while he’s still alive,” Baraka said. “We don’t want to wait until he’s long gone before we say thank you for standing in the gap. When people keep their mouths shut, his is open.”

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Sharpton was also presented with keys to four other New Jersey cities: Hillside, Irvington, East Orange and Orange.

“I cannot express my gratitude for all of the awards,” Sharpton said.

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The directors of the police and fire departments were among others honored at the event for their service.