Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Speaks at Black Institute Gala

May 16, 2014

First Lady Chirlane McCray: Hello everyone. I am so happy to be at this. I heard it was the grown and sexy party. Thank you. Thank you honey. Thank you Harry. It’s such an honor to be introduced by a legendary artist and activist and gatekeeper of the truth such as yourself.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Yes. Harry

First Lady: Thank you.

[Applause]

Please. You can applaud. Please. All right?

[Applause]

Congratulations to all the honorees. You were all very deserving. I heard that once you’ve been honored by the Black Institute it means it really happened, you’ve made it. And thank you also to Bertha and the Black Institute. Participating in The G Project has been so rewarding, not just for me but for our entire family. Bill and I are delighted to be named couple of the year, especially after celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary yesterday.

[Applause]

Mayor: You just turned on something. Just one second please.

First Lady: We have some technological difficulties. I always thought we had a good thing going, but I never expected an award. And I want you all to know that this award means that I get to see my husband two weeknights in a row.

[Laughter]

It’s a date, honey. In honor of our anniversary, we posted 20 family photos on my Tumblr page. And that’s FLONYC.tumblr.com just in case you want to look it up. It was so much fun to go through all the old albums and relive our adventures from our honeymoon in Cuba to our appearance on the View. And every photo touched off all of these memories, memories that involve not just Bill and me, but all of the friends and family who help make these moments possible. Because here’s the thing, they say it takes a village to raise a child, well I think it takes a village to raise a couple. And I’m so proud of everything that Bill and I have accomplished together. But also know that all of our accomplishments, large and small, have really been a group effort. We would not be here and we could not possibly have accomplished so much if it were not for people like Bertha and Harry and so many of you here in this room. You’re like our extended family. And you’re the ones who share our Progressive values. You’re there fighting alongside us every day. And I just want to thank all of you – thank the Black Institute and thank each and every one of you, because that’s what it’s all about, right? All of us standing together, fighting the good fight, and we really appreciate that. Thank you.

[Applause]

And now Bill, would you like to say a few words?

[Laughter]

Mayor: I think I have her permission to speak.

[Laughter]

Well, I want to say it is a special honor to be with everyone in this room on the first day of the second 20 years of our marriage.

[Applause]

And this is very special for us and we are deeply appreciative because we do everything as a couple. We think as a couple, we act in terms of everything we try to do for this world. This has been a love and a partnership from the beginning. And so to have that recognized is something very special to us. And we say thank you.

[Applause]

I want to talk in a moment about Bertha and about the Black Institute and how honored we are to be associated with her and to be associated with this extraordinary organization. But there are a lot of people I have to acknowledge just very quickly, because they’re so important to all of us. First of all, I always like to remember that Chirlane and I would not have gotten the opportunity to be a couple for the last 20-plus years if it weren’t for the man who employed us both, Mayor David Dinkins. Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Always got to remember who brought you to the dance.

First Lady: That’s right.

Mayor: And Chirlane – I think everyone knows what an inspiration she is to me in everything I do. But she is right that we – to keep going, to keep going in everything, to build our love, to build our family, to build our social commitment, we needed a village of people around us who we could draw strength and inspiration from. And we’ve had that – we’ve been so blessed. And last year when – you may remember history – things were not always going our way, some brave people stood up – and some people make a lifetime habit of bravery, conscience, boldness, true belief – and one of those people is Harry Belafonte. We want to thank him for all he has done for all us.

[Applause]

And please thank his wife Pamela, who I know inspires him every day and has been a great friend to us.

[Applause]

I want to thank our wonderful hosts at 32BJ. I want to thank Hector Figueroa and Kyle Bragg for their leadership. This place always welcomes progressives and supports them, so we say thank you.

[Applause]

To all the board members of the Black Institute, thank you for your leadership. I know a lot of progressive elected officials have been here tonight. We thank them. I also want to thank a man who’s done a lot to help me – and I want to just publicly thank him – our Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio. Thank you very much, Frank, for your leadership.

[Applause]

Now, let me make this simple and quick. The Black Institute matters. It’s one of the consciences in this city. And that is because of a lot of people who gathered together around the mission of the Black Institute, but it’s also because of the – dare I say – dynamic leadership of the young, shy, and retiring Bertha Lewis.

[Applause]

Maybe she just has a young spirit. And she is amazing. She has been a powerful voice for all the time I’ve been working in this city to try and help foster progressive change. Bertha has been one of the fearless voices, one of the people who cuts through the debate and the talks about what’s happening with real people – and we need more of that.

I talked last year about the tale of two cities we’ve been living. I’ve talked so much about the fight against inequality. You need some uncompromising voices to point out what people are really going through. And we can depend on Bertha to do that. Let’s thank her for being so much that person we can depend on.

[Applause]

And what she and so many others had built with the Black Institute means a lot to the people of this city to making sure we have a debate that reflects all the people, to moving progressive solutions, to recognizing the totality of this city. She certainly did that with The G Project. Now, for all of you of Caribbean descent, I have to say, that in our household, the islands of the Caribbean are particularly honored. Special honorable mention to Barbados and St. Lucia, from which Chirlane's family comes. 

[Applause]

Unknown: –in the house!

Mayor: [Laughs] And so, Chirlane participated in The G Project, and Dante did, and Chiara did, and I have been applying to become an honorary G. I am trying. I hope you will give me a recommendation so I can attain that level. 

But really, when you think about it, so much about the work of the Black Institute has been recognizing who we are,  fighting for people who haven't gotten the support they deserve. Look what happened with the Caribbean teachers, and the extraordinary efforts that this organization made on their behalf, and they deserve that support and that recognition. And we're going to depend on Bertha, we're going to depend on the Black Institute, we're going to depend on everyone in this room to deepen the fight against inequality, to move an agenda – which no matter how many times people tell you it's too bold, or too difficult – we keep coming back and saying, we can do this, we believe in it, we know the people believe in it. And so, we're going to create affordable housing on a never-before-seen scale. 

[Applause]

We're going to make sure our children have full-day pre-K and after-school programs. 

We're going to bring police and community together in every community. 

And we're going to make sure that a half million of our fellow citizens, who happen not to be documented, are treated with the respect that they deserve as our neighbors. We're going to have an ID card for them that respects them as a New Yorker. 

There is a lot we have to do together. But I think I can say safely that Chirlane and I know the path we're on, we share it, and we have it validated and energized and reinforced every day when we spend time with all of you, who believe in a better New York, who believe in a more inclusive New York, a New York City that's truly for everyone, and that's what we're going to create together. Thank you, and God bless you. 

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