NYC's new Black politicians take oath of office
Nayaba Arinde | 1/9/2014, 11:40 a.m.
Black New Yorkers got all “turned up” this week as a spate of glossy yet grassroots inaugurations took over the city.
While the City Hall inauguration ceremony of Mayor Bill de Blasio was no doubt the biggest, those of the likes of Public Advocate Letitia James (on the same City Hall stage as de Blasio), new East New York Council Member Inez Barron and new Central Brooklyn Council Member Robert Cornegy also drew crowds.
Last weekend, Barron celebrated her New York City Council victory. The keynote speaker for the event, who came all the way from Jackson, Miss., was Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. “I think Inez’s election is a very eventful thing for our movement,” Lumumba told the Amsterdam News after the splendid inauguration, which included his rousing speech; the Rev. Herbert Daughtry officiating the oath of office—both the official one and, as he said, “the one for the people”; and glorious presentations from Felina Backer, Anointed Voices of the House of the Lord Church, Linwood Smith and the Rev. Eyesha Marable Dance Ensemble.
Speaking to the paper about Barron, Lumumba continued, “Anytime that we can get a strong warrior who has proved herself throughout the years fighting for the interests of our people, it is important that we recognize that, that we support that and encourage other people to follow in her footsteps.”
Asked how she managed to get a mayor to come from as far away as Mississippi to keynote her inauguration, Barron told the Amsterdam News,“Well, he and Charles [Barron, husband] have a long-standing relationship through the struggle over the 30-40 years that they have been working on different issues together; and when we started planning this program, I said ‘Charles, I want Mayor Chokwe Lumumba to come.’ He said, ‘He is busy running the city.’ I said, ‘Let’s call him and ask him.’ And he said that he would adjust his schedule and be here. “We have been blessed by what he has said and shared with us. He educated the people, he elevated the people and he showed them that you can be consistent and faithful to your mission and still advance the cause in politics.”
During her speech, Barron spoke of the importance of backing “character over charisma” in governance.
“Yes,” she told the Amsterdam News, “character over charisma in supporting people who are in positions of power. We don’t want people who are just charismatic and [who] people are drawn to just because they speak well. We want to look at their character and see what it is. We want substance over sound bite—not just something cute that’s going to get some press. We have much work to do for and with our community, and we need people who are prepared to do it.”
All of the speakers—from the Freedom Party’s Viola Plummer and Man Up! Inc.’s A.T. Mitchell to outgoing Councilman Charles Barron—spoke of the need to keep building stronger and more economically viable communities. As Charles Barron essentially handed the reins of the position he held for 12 years to his wife, the outgoing assemblywoman from the 42nd District (a position Charles Barron will run for when Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls that special election), he spoke of the need for community vigilance and pressure on the new administration, as old issues such as unemployment, inequitable allocation of resources, inadequate housing and education still need to be addressed.
It might have been subzero temperatures outside on Friday, Jan. 3, but inside the City Hall chambers, hundreds of community people and elected officials brought comforting warmth to New York City’s seat of power.
Among the families and everyday citizens, activists with Black revolutionary notions peppered the audience. Indeed, elected officials such as new Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and second-term Council Member Jumaane Williams sat side by side with activists who for decades have called on equal distribution of resources, reparations and the end to institutionalized racism. Keynote speaker Lumumba himself is the activist lawyer who worked diligently in the Black nationalist movement for decades. He was a proponent for the realization of the Republic of New Africa and is a co-founder of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. He went from revolutionary councilman to chief executive of the city of Jackson.
The December 12th Movement’s Plummer, Omowale Clay and Roger Wareham were in the building alongside activists like “the people’s attorney” Michael Tarif Warren, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, former Comptroller John Liu and City Council speaker contenders Melissa Mark-Viverito and Daniel Garodnick.
All of the inaugurations were grand affairs. Barron’s and Cornegy’s inaugurations brought out masses of everyday people: campaign workers, ardent supporters and focused residents.
Hosted by CBS Sports anchor Otis Livingston, Cornegy’s event at Bedstuy’s Cornerstone Baptist Church was blessed with performances by the New York City Housing Authority Choir and Brooklyn’s Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Gordon Chambers. A virtual who’s who of New York City officials sat in the pews.
As mounds of snow melted outside, a well-healed mix sat in the sweltering church: Cornegy’s predecessor, Al Vann; Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries; new Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson; James; Adams; state Sen. Kevin Parker; Liu; Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; and a host of other community leaders. Even de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, dropped by Corengy’s packed-to-the-rafters affair.
Cornegy went in as the council member-elect and came out sworn in with big issues to address and a constituency eagerly awaiting answers to long-standing issues. Saying that he had a personal relationship with so many people in the room, the oft-seen local family man said that he understands the needs of the community in which he lives and where some of his six children go to school.
There have been swearing-in ceremonies all across the city, as new elected officials—from borough presidents to judges to City Council members—begin or extend their terms. New Fort Greene Council Member Laurie Cumbo is one such newly elected official, and she will be hosting a “Swearing-in Ceremony and Inauguration Celebration” on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 3 p.m. at Ingersoll Community Center (177 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn).
“We’re all in this together,” Cumbo said in a statement. “I am overwhelmed by the love and support that I have received throughout this campaign to create one Brooklyn where we respect all our neighbors old and new, build on our incredible history and move forward with our collective voices ... together. The work does not end here ... we will move forward as a movement to close the economic divide in New York City and to bring a level of humanity back to our city. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to make this ambitious goal a reality. Now the real work begins!”