September 24, 2021
Video available at: https://youtu.be/ux0I2WuQSlM
Kevin Livingston, President of 100 Suits for 100 Men: Today is a very special day. I'm joined by New York City's Finest, people who put their lives on the line to make sure our communities are safe. I'm humbled. In 2016, I was homeless. In 2016, I actually lost the contract, had to sleep in the parking lot at JFK parking lot, the cell phone lot, if you guys know about that lot, where you have to wait for the planes, I went there every night. Fast forward into this morning when we get ready to cut history. I love you, Veronica. True history. I'm really at a loss of words, but I dedicate this to the memory of my father, Henry Clayton, somebody who embedded this in me, my uncle who passed away, laid him to rest, I know they're up there smiling. This is for you. I have a lot of people behind me who have believed in me, who have challenged me. Erica, where you – I love Erica. Thank you, Erica. Lance, where you at?
Thank you, brother. My LIFE Camp family, Kenya, my King of Kings family. My staff, thank you for you being superheroes, but I'm going to introduce it, I mean – introduce somebody. He's going to introduce everybody else and I'm going to have my boy come in. This gentleman I've known before he got into power, when he first decided to go into running for City Council. We was at Applebee's on Jamaica Avenue having a shot –
And I don't drink. We are beyond proud of him. He took the mantle and created something that is incredibly special in New York City as being not only the first African American to hold the position, but to be in a position where he's creating lives and changing lives on a daily basis. So, I'm going to pass the mic to my brother, your Borough President, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards: Thank you. And let's give it up for Kevin who has – because it's not about me. It's really not about the elected officials today. It's really about community. And I want to say to you, Kevin, I am so proud of you because he doesn't remember – and I was just talking about you yesterday with the Mayor. You were at Carver Bank. And I never forget when he quit his job because I was like, are you crazy? But he said he wanted to do something to make a difference. He felt like he could do more for the community. I don't know if you remember that conversation. That was before we went to Applebee's. But I'm beyond proud of you. Your father is shining down and smiling upon you today. Congratulations on this victory for the community. And you always get to know a person's character during crisis. And most of you may remember during this pandemic, there were people – and rightfully so, people were afraid to come outside their doors, but yet there was some unsung heroes like Kevin, who went into Rochdale Village with justice involved young men and woman every day to make sure that all senior citizens got a meal because they could not go to the supermarket at the height of this crisis. So, thank you so much because that's what leadership is about.
Today is really a special day. And I don't like to shy away from my story. I'm here because gun violence impacted my own life. You know, my friend, Darnell Patterson was shot and killed when I was 18 years old. That's what led me here into getting involved in my community and getting involved in community service and eventually running for office. So, today is such a great day because we know that the Police Department, as great as they are, can only do what they can do. But really, we know that when you're trying to find solutions to addressing the systemic issues in our communities, that the people closest to the pain often have the solution to the pain, to the issue, and 100 Suits, 100 Black men – I said 100 Black men, but that's right, it’s for 100 Black men too.
Borough President Richards: They have the solutions. People need to see people who look like them from their community, people who've had this experience in the justice system. Validators in our communities are the answer to addressing the violence. Jobs – we're hiring people here. People say, well, how do you get people to get out of the system and not go to Rikers? You put a job in their hands. You make sure that the basic necessities that they need – housing, food – these are the solutions to addressing violence in our communities. So, I know 100 Suits, and I live in this neighborhood. My barber shop is right on that block. You know, we've had a lot of violence in this community – too much, too much. As good as this neighborhood is, we've had too many shootings, too many lives lost. So, having 100 Suits – and I want to thank Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers who really was a leading factor in getting the Mayor to put this program here.
But we were fighting for this for a long time. But to have your organization here is going to make a huge difference in this community. It's going to make it safer because guess what? You're speaking to the people that the Police Department cannot speak to. They are going to be touched by what each and every one of you do. So, it is a blessing to be here to see this come to fruition. You've been at this a long time and thank you for what you do. Thank you for putting a suit on our young folks, especially our young men, who need to know that they come from a place where kings and queens come from. And when they put that suit on, they feel good about themselves. They feel confident. They could go into that job interview feeling like, you know what, I might've had a setback, but I got to come back coming now. So, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. God bless you all. God bless Life Camp. God bless, Erica Ford. This would not have started in New York City. Erica Ford was doing this work when I was in my mama's belly.
She introduced my parents too, by the way. Seriously. But I want to thank you for what you've done as well, because you've started a movement and our city is going to be better for it. God bless you all. Thank you.
Livingston: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Queens Borough. I want to first invite some of our electeds. I want to make some shout-outs because I can't have everybody, but there's one sister who is incredibly powerful to me, and that's Jessica Mofield, who sat with me when I first came here to get a contract with Cure Violence. And she's been with me ever since. Thank you so much. I don’t know where you’re at, Jessica, but thank you so much for all you do. Thank you so much for your work. We really appreciate it. All right. I would like to.
Livingston: All right. Cool. Cool. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So, I want to thank all the elected officials. We have Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, Assembly Member Clyde Vanel, Assembly Member Khalil Anderson, and the Honorable Bob Glover. And then some of my mentors, I have to mention them. Dr. Williams, CEO of Opportunity for a Better Tomorrow. Also, Joi Gordon, the CEO of Dress for Success is here for me, who has been a support to me. I appreciate you all. And everybody else, I'm so sorry if I can't catch everybody, but my staff, you guys are superheroes. I love you. But here's the moment of the time, like seriously, I'm thinking about this. Homeless in 2016 and have the Mayor come here to ribbon cutting your location. Nobody can tell me the power of God.
Many may not agree, many may agree, many may like him, love him, but I love the work that he's doing. The progressive work that he's done in Cure Violence and helping make sure our city goes on the right path of safety. So, I am beyond honored to have Mayor Bill de Blasio come to 100 Suits for our ribbon cutting. Please welcome Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Everybody, every time I stand with people who are making a difference and making a change, it moves me. So, I want to thank everyone here. I want to thank you deeply because it's a tough world out there. It's a tough world. And there's often – the greatest challenge is the lack of hope. I want to just dwell on this for a really quick moment. We live in a world where we're constantly bombarded with the problems, the images that cause us pain. We didn't use to worry – a lot of us when were coming up, we wouldn't have used the word trauma. Now we understand a little better how traumatizing the COVID crisis has been or tragically the everyday violence that we've all seen in our society and particularly our kids have seen. You would never blame someone who felt overwhelmed by that. You wouldn't blame someone who felt that there was no way to fight that torrent of negativity.
But what I have seen and been moved by over these last eight years is all the good people, like all of you here, who chose to stand up, change the paradigm, reset the equation, create hope where it didn't exist before. And this is sacred work to me. Everyone at 100 Suits, you made a decision long ago that you would not accept a broken society, that you would change it. And by your example, by your love, by your passion, by your commitment, by your energy, every day you are actually making that change. You are making that change. Everyone who sees your work starts to think a little differently. Every young person who sees your example starts to believe in themselves a little bit more. So, you could say we're here for a new office. That's not what I'm feeling. I'm feeling, it's a new moment. It's a moment of change. It's a new paradigm. It's a new possibility. I'm feeling that this is the way we need to go.
We used to have a model where the only concept of safety was if someone showed up in a uniform. And I want to say, very clearly, there is such important work that people in a uniform do, God bless the people who keep us safe. We need them to do it in a way that respects communities, in a way that is compassionate and not discriminatory. And so many people in uniform strive every day to do it the right way. And we honor them. We thank them. We need them, but we also have come to a new realization. That's not the only definition of public safety. That's the bottom line.
In fact, it can no longer be the only definition of public safety because it doesn't work to only have safety created when someone shows up in a uniform. In fact, the truest best way to create a safe and positive society is from the people, it is from the community, it is from the grassroots. We are learning this together, but the reason I wanted to be with you besides thanking you is that we have a task ahead to explain this to the people in New York City and ultimately this nation that there is a different way. Now I will remind you what you're doing is going to change hearts and minds because people will see a new way. It will be proven by your work. And then people will believe we can do something better. And we are not just doing this anywhere. What you are doing here in the borough of Queens, what you are doing here in New York City will reverberate all over this nation, all over this nation. There is a phrase, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, right? You are proving that the community-based solution to violence is the first and most necessary solution. And I don't blame anyone out there who hasn't experienced it and therefore doesn't feel it or understand it yet. Because I went on my own journey over eight years. But once you see it, once you feel it, you never go back because this is the best way. And this is also a beautiful way because each person teaches the next. Talk about the concept, teach a man to fish. Each person who participates in this sacred work, convinces the next person to participate and the next person and the next person.
So, everybody, I'm just moved by your commitment. I'm moved by your ability to give everyone else the thing they need most right now, which is hope. I’m moved because I know everyone here, you are saving lives right now. And in the months ahead, you're going to save more lives. People will be alive because of you. Families will be whole. Kids will choose a positive path who might've been pulled in the wrong direction because you are here. So, I'm going to call upon another public servant but before I do, I just want to say, God bless you all. I thank you for what you do. I am honored to be in your presence.
And one more thing, I think my sister, Erica, will agree. One more thing – every single dollar we have spent on community-based solutions to violence, every dollar on the Crisis Management System and the Cure Violence Movement, every single dollar has been worth it. And we need to put a lot more money where the solutions are because this is the solution. This is the way forward.
Someone who's been fighting in the City Council. She is new, but she is acting with extraordinary passion and energy, and understands that we've got to create a new paradigm. And I tell you, some of us have been in public service a long time and that's great. When you get that fresh blood in who sees we can do things differently it really, really helps. So, someone who is really prioritizing these kinds of solutions and pushing us all to go farther – I want to thank her for her leadership and want to bring up Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers.