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NYC's new Black politicians take oath of office

Nayaba Arinde | 1/9/2014, 11:40 a.m.
Council member Inez Barron hosts her inauguration at City Hall, with Jackson, Miss. Mayor Chokwe Lumumba as the keynote speaker and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry delivering the oath of office. Photo by Bill Moore

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.