Editor’s Note: We republish here, courtesy of Harry Belafonte, his remarks from the inauguration of Bill de Blasio. Belafonte’s speech, while praised by many, also drew some criticism, including from the New York Times’ Jim Dwyer. Following Belafonte’s speech, we publish a rejoinder to Dwyer by Carl Hart.
When Bill de Blasio stepped into the campaign to determine who would lead the city of New York, he stated that he would not let this city remain a community divided; he would no longer let this city linger in the shadows as a parallel story to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” He inspired us; we listened…and overwhelmingly responded with a joyous sense that all problems are fixable. We made him OUR mayor.
While it is an encouraging sign that statistics have indicated a recent drop in our city’s murder rate, New York, alarmingly, plays a tragic role in the fact that our nation has the largest prison population in the world. Much of that problem stems from issues of race, perpetuated by the depth of human indifference to poverty. As important as changing the Stop and Frisk law is, the change of a law is only the tip of the iceberg in fixing our deeply Dickensian justice system.
Bill de Blasio has been overwhelmingly mandated to make many, who for much too long danced with despair, believe again in the American dream. A dream filled with hope, a dream filled with opportunity and justice.
Bill de Blasio was born at a time when courage and moral vision were often on display. He was touched by the political convictions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the indomitable courage and wisdom of his wife Eleanor. Martin Luther King Jr.’s valiant leadership of the civil rights cause profoundly influenced him. Bill de Blasio’s embrace of leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer, Bobby Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, Rabbi Heschel Abraham and others says that he will aspire to be no less courageous than they.
In the challenge to the inequities we face, we New Yorkers should insure our Mayor that he will not stand alone in facing the “Nay Sayers” of progress in our midst…that his invitation that we assist him in fulfilling his mission will not suffer from a detached citizenry. We shall commit ourselves to assisting in, and insisting that, the better part of ourselves live up to the political and moral courage that change demands.
How fortunate we New Yorkers are that at his side stands Chirlane McCray. Her eye is eternally on the hunt for truth and her moral center insures that Bill’s moral flame will never dim for the want of a guardian at the gate.