June 22, 2023
Commissioner Sideya Sherman, Mayor's Office of Equity: Thank you so much and thank you for those remarks, Commissioner Cumbo. So very inspiring. I'm Sideya Sherman. I'm commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Equity, and it's really wonderful to be here today to celebrate what is a bittersweet holiday, but certainly a holiday that signifies the steps that our country has come to realize democracy.
Juneteenth is an acknowledgement of our history, our country's history, and its very painful and violent past, but it's also a reminder of our long fight for freedom. Juneteenth. It went from an intimate family holiday, backyard barbecues, community festivals to a city and a federal holiday, and now us standing here raising the flag to commemorate Juneteenth, who could imagine?
To say that I'm deeply honored to be here today is an understatement because I'm not just honored, I'm proud. Us being here today, our very presence is a revelation. Right? I'm proud to be part of an administration that demonstrates daily why diversity matters. Right? I'm proud to be the granddaughter of Miss Mary who came to New York from the rural south and faced discrimination in this city. And now I get to lead an office that's focused on equity and racial justice in that same city.
So in a time across our country where there are book bands and there is a historical accounting of contemporary issues, it's critical that we celebrate and we lift up holidays like this. Holidays that acknowledge our tragedy and our triumph and keep us honest about the history of this country. And so by gathering here today, we're celebrating the accomplishments as us, as a people, as Commissioner Cumbo said, "We're standing here being our ancestors' wildest dreams. We're honoring them, we're lifting them up, we're thanking them for this fight, for this fight towards freedom and for never giving up."
And so now it's my honor to introduce a man who exemplifies never giving up the fight towards freedom and the fight for New Yorkers every day, the 110th mayor of New York City, Mayor Adams. Thank you.
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much. And to brother Ben who created the flag that we are going to raise today, thank you so much, brother. The symbolism that is associated with it and the long road I think that Commissioner Cumbo, who I'm sure she's the first commissioner in cultural affairs had ever dawned a tie to wear to Commissioner Cumbo's doing so. Showing that African diaspora, the spirit and energy.
This is a significant moment. The first time this flag is being placed on this pole here at Bowling Green, a place that symbolizes power. And it just shows you how much and how we should always remain resilient because it was right here where people of color were sold into slavery, was right here with many of the auctions took place, and just a few distance and yards away. You see the Indian Museum where many of our Indian brothers and sisters saw their land removed and taken from them.
And so this is a historical moment that we raised the flag for the first time here in Bowling Green, but it also is a moment of reflection. Slavery brought a level of Draconian and terrible deeds. We saw even some of the famous songwriters describing the tone of strange fruits. When you saw a large number of African American men and women hung from trees. We saw the demonization. We saw the challenges of giving birth in the cotton fields and then going out and having to continue to pick the cotton. We saw the Klansmen riding through destroying homes. We saw Tulsa, Oklahoma, and how Black Wall Street was destroyed.
We've come so far and we stated that we never surrendered to violence again. If that is our real belief. As we focus on Juneteenth, we must also reflect what happened across our country during Juneteenth. Right here in the city of New York, we had 10 shootings, six homicides. On the day that we acknowledge our ancestors, it became one of the bloodiest days of violence in our city. And the hands of those who inflicted that violence were those who we are raising this flag with. We cannot believe that it's all right to stamp out slavery, but be enslaved to violence in our city and in our country.
Look what happened in Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, all across the country, as we paused on Monday to reflect on our ancestors and what they fought for. They did not fight and die for us to fight and die among each other. In all honesty on this moment, I refuse to submit to the belief that someone with a white hood should not kill us, but it's all right with someone with black skin to kill us. It's not acceptable. It's not acceptable.
We have an obligation as we acknowledge Juneteenth, our liberation, our freedom, our fight, our fortitude, our discipline, our resiliency. We have an obligation to make sure that these young boys and girls grow up to understand the contributions that we have made in this country. America is America because of the Black and brown people who built this country. As Dr. King would say, we made cotton, king. We built the foundation of this country, and we did not build this foundation to watch it turn to violence across this entire nation.
So I thank all of you for coming here, acknowledging the importance of Juneteenth, going from a federal holiday, and I was able to sign it into law as a city holiday, the 110th mayor. It took 110 mayors before we realized that we should raise the flag and raise the rich tradition of our community.
Thank you so much. Let's continue to say forward ever, backwards never.