Remembrances are always so difficult to write. Where do I even start when trying to reflect on what David Dinkins, the 106th mayor of New York City, meant to me. A war veteran, a lifelong public servant, and the first and only Black American mayor of the largest city in the United States. David Dinkins was a beacon of hope, a model of excellence, and an innovator in so many ways. Words will never be able to express the impact of one man on New York City, Black America, city politics, and the African diaspora.
When Mayor Dinkins’ “beautiful bride” Joyce Dinkins passed away in October of 2020, many feared Mayor Dinkins would be eager to join the love of his life. Sadly, for New Yorkers and all who loved him, Mayor Dinkins joined his bride on Nov. 23, 2020. Similarly, my grandparents were married for 68 years and died just over one week apart. Sometimes true love works that way. It is painful for those who are left here on earth, but quite beautiful to know that two souls are reunited so soon into the spirit world.
I have been quite furious at the various obituaries I have read about Mayor Dinkins in several of the mainstream newspapers. It seems that yet again far too many journalists do not know how to write about race or racism. In honoring and remembering David Dinkins, far too many chose to go for the low hanging fruit and rehash stories of individual violent incidents in New York City in the early 1990s. Far too many journalists neglected to reflect on the daily obstacles David Dinkins faced as the first Black man to head the largest and arguably most powerful city in the country. Without David Dinkins there would be no Barack Obama. Without David Dinkins New York City’s children would not have abundant access to libraries. Without David Dinkins the low crime rates his successor passed off as his accomplishment would not be possible.
Mayor David Dinkins opened the flood gate for the possibility of Black mayors in large and small cities across the country. As we look at the Black female mayors, past and present, in cities like Washington, DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago, we have Mayor Dinkins to thank. When we look at the economic success of the U.S. Open and the enormous wealth it has and continues to generate in a myriad of ways in the city, that was the vision of Mayor Dinkins.
I will miss “my favorite and forever mayor” in ways I don’t think I can yet process. He was a true gentleman and leader and aimed to leave this world a better place for his children and the children of countless New Yorkers. Rest in power, Mayor.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the “FAQ-NYC” podcast and also the “What’s In It For Us” podcast.