New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was full of praise for the Caribbean community when he welcomed nationals to a post Labor Day reception at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Sept. 8, stating that the compatriots have proud family values that they believe in, and fought for.
The mayor referenced his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray roots to Barbados, and spoke of her great grandparents who followed Marcus Garvey, and who understood what they were fighting, and what they believed in, like Chirlane, who stands on the shoulders of many, and speaks up for justice.
“We celebrate everyone here tonight who has a story of what your heritage has done for you,” said de Blasio adding that a strong heritage is what made the nationals who they are today.
“We saw the carnival on Eastern Parkway, it was something beautiful, one of the great events each year in this city, a powerful expression of culture,” said the mayor noting that the more than 600,000 people from the Caribbean who live in the city, “make us who we are.”
During the spirited evening of steelpan music provided by Mustafa Alexander, and festive fare, Mayor de Blasio acknowledged the politicians of Caribbean heritage present, and took time out to express solidarity with Dominica citizens uprooted after a recent hurricane.
The politician also expressed the sadness he felt for Governor Cuomo’s aide Carey Gabay who is in a coma after being shot on Labor Day, and asked for prayers to heal the young lawyer.
Mayor de Blasio also honored Dr. Una Clarke, one of the region’s brightest stalwarts who became the first Caribbean-born woman elected to serve in the New York City Council.
“I would like to recognize Una Clarke. She is great not only because of her skill and drive, but for her vision, and the power she used to organize people. She believed that the immigrant community deserved a powerful political voice beyond what anyone in the mainstream said was possible,” said de Blasio.
“I watched her all the way as she rewrote the rule. She said this city is changing to include immigrants and ensured that they came into their own,” said de Blasio, adding, that the activist talked to people about their own power and possibilities.
He praised Clarke who turned 80-years last December, for the many legislation she proposed, the resources she brought to the community, and the organizations she built, all the while nurturing a great congresswoman, Yvette Clarke.
The mayor went on to say that his administration borrowed some of Clarke’s ideas such as the pre-kindergarten initiative that has enrolled 65,000 children. He also praised the Municipal NY ID Card issued to half a million New Yorkers in every borough.
Noting that Clarke has no plans to retire anytime soon, de Blasio named the stalwart to the CUNY Board, because he needed a strong voice for young people, especially immigrant youth to help them achieve their dreams through the City University.
“I honor Una with this Proclamation, and a day named after her,” said the mayor, who was joined by international superstar Harry Belafonte and his wife, Julie to congratulate Dr. Clarke.
President of BAM Katy Clark was on hand to welcome the nationals, while First Lady Chirlane McCray paid tribute to Dr. Clarke who was born on the island of Jamaica.
Other dignitaries present included Senator Kevin Parker, Assemblyman Nick Perry, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Assemblywoman Yvette Clarke, NYC Councilmember Andy King and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte.