Cuomo: “We’re going to have to get millions and millions and millions of vaccines in arms. Probably the largest governmental undertaking that modern government has done. That’s what we’re looking at. On top of it, and compounding it, it has to be done fairly. COVID discriminated. COVID may be race-blind, ethnic-blind, but COVID found the inequity in our society and it exploited the inequity. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at one and a half times the rate of whites. How do you explain that? Same virus. Because it exposed and exploited the inequities. I call it low tide in America. You know how at low tide the water goes out and you see all the ugliness that was underneath. We saw all the ugliness that was underneath. We saw the inequity in healthcare, the higher comorbidities, the higher level of underlying conditions, the fact that there were fewer vaccines for members of the Black community and the Hispanic community. All that injustice we saw rise up to the top. And that’s what COVID preyed on. When it now comes to doing the vaccines, we have to correct for that. The communities that suffered most should be first on the vaccine line. We’re not there yet.”
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took the Johnson & Johnson COVID-10 vaccine at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church pop-up vaccine site.
AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good morning, everyone. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, you noticed the green mask. In New York, we have a great history and a great legacy of celebrating all the different ethnic and racial groups that are part of New York. Our blessed David Dinkins used to speak about the mosaic of New York. We all bring our own ethnicity, our own race, and we all are more beautiful for the combination. Today we remember in our thoughts and prayers those who lost their lives in Georgia. We await to see the actual facts. But we also hope and pray that there was no ethnic or racial element to that senseless violence. You know, words matter. China virus, China virus, China virus. The number of hate crimes against the Asian community has gone up 150 percent. By the way, we were not attacked by the China virus, China virus, China virus. New York, we were attacked by the European virus. Came from Italy, came from Spain, came from France, didn’t come from China. So words matter. And the division has to stop, and the anger has to stop and the healing has to start.
Pleasure to be joined by so many esteemed members of the community and of this effort, we’re going to be hearing from a number of them, but I want to say a special thank you to Reverend Dr. Johnnie Green, who’s hosting us today. The Mount Neboh Baptist church is going to be a pop-up center, and I’m going to be one of their prime customers. Are you giving me the needle, is that why you’re laughing? Makes me nervous, now I’m nervous, now I’m really nervous. But I want to thank, let me just catch my breath, Dr. Reverend Green for hosting us and for hosting the pop-up center. We have the dean of the delegation. We have Congressman Charlie Rangel with us. We have our great Assembly member Inez Dickens. We have the head of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. I hear a voice, they told me she wasn’t here yet, but I hear a voice, there you are, Dr. Hazel Dukes, my second mother. We also have staffing this pop-up location and doing a fantastic job all across the state, all across the nation, the SOMOS operation, and I want to thank Henry Munoz and Dr. Ramon Tallaj for being here.
Lot of news to cover. Let me make a couple of quick points. We are still in the middle of a crisis in New York. And there are three different elements to the crisis. First, the vaccinations, the vaccinations. The vaccine is the weapon that wins the war. It is also of a massive undertaking to get these vaccinations done. President Biden, God bless him, has accelerated the federal government’s acquisition of the vaccine. When President Biden took over, and he went to the cupboard to find the vaccines, the cupboard was bare, right. This country hadn’t even bought enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone. President Biden has solved that problem, which was massive, and now by May, we’re going to have enough vaccines to make everyone eligible.
That means we’re going to have to get millions and millions and millions of vaccines in arms. Probably the largest governmental undertaking that modern government has done. That’s what we’re looking at. On top of it, and compounding it, it has to be done fairly. COVID discriminated. COVID may be race-blind, ethnic-blind, but COVID found the inequity in our society and it exploited the inequity. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at one and a half times the rate of whites. How do you explain that? Same virus. Because it exposed and exploited the inequities. I call it low tide in America. You know how at low tide the water goes out and you see all the ugliness that was underneath. We saw all the ugliness that was underneath. We saw the inequity in healthcare, the higher comorbidities, the higher level of underlying conditions, the fact that there were fewer vaccines for members of the Black community and the Hispanic community. All that injustice we saw rise up to the top. And that’s what COVID preyed on. When it now comes to doing the vaccines, we have to correct for that. The communities that suffered most should be first on the vaccine line. We’re not there yet.
New York City, listen to these numbers. 53 percent of the population in New York City is white. 56 percent of the people who have gotten vaccines are white. Members of the Black community, 27 percent. Only 19 percent of the vaccines. Members of the Hispanic community, 28 percent of the population, only 21 percent of those who have received vaccines. That inequity has to be solved, and that’s what we’re attacking. That’s what we’re attacking here today at Mount Neboh, with 140 pop-up centers in predominately Black and Hispanic communities. That’s what we are attacking by doing vaccines in public housing projects, in community centers, in zip codes that have a high predominance of Black and Hispanic communities. We have to get out the word. The Black and Hispanic community already paid too high a price. We have to get people vaccinated. Now, they talk about vaccine hesitancy. I don’t call it hesitancy. Hesitancy is an amorphous term when you don’t want to call it what it is. It’s not hesitancy. It’s trust. The Black community is saying “I don’t trust government when it says don’t worry, it’s safe.” They’re saying “I don’t trust the Trump Administration when it says it’s safe.” By the way, I’m with them. I didn’t trust the Trump Administration when he said the vaccine is safe.
But, we put together a New York State panel. All the best doctors we have. They reviewed it and they say it’s safe. Top Black medical professionals in the United States of America, they say it’s safe. The pastors who are here today from all across the state, they say it’s safe. The SOMOS experts who know this vaccine, have administered over 5 million vaccines in this state, 5 million, nobody’s asking you to go first. We have to get the vaccine. I said I personally vouch for it. I said I had my mother take the vaccine. when my children are ready, I’m going to have them take the vaccine. Today, I’m going to take the vaccine. And I’m going to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because I want to make the point, take whatever vaccine you can take. They all work, they are all safe, don’t try to pick one over the other, take whatever vaccine you can get.
Second crisis we have to deal with is we’re up in Albany doing a state budget. Assembly Member Inez Dickens is here. Keith Wright is here. Many former state legislators. This is the most important budget in the history of the State of New York since I have been alive. A budget is not just a budget. Budget is a management plan for the whole state. We have a lot of damage to redo. We have a lot of people who suffered economically, who couldn’t pay their rent, who are out of a job. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of fairness to bring, and we have to get that budget done, and we will.
And the third element of this crisis is the Bible says “To everything there is a season.” this is the season, my friends, to rebuild. We have the vaccine, it’s coming, we’re going to administer it. Now is the season to rebuild. People are going to get back to work. We’re going to start to take back those streets. We’re going to start to rise New York up again. yes, we had a tough year. Yes, things happen in life where for one reason or another, you’re set back. That is going to happen. That is inevitable. The question in life is, who gets up? And who gets up stronger? And who gets up smarter? And who gets up faster? And that is New York. That is what we do, that is who we are. And for those doubters, for those doubters, “oh, I don’t know, COVID is hard, I don’t know if we can rebuild.” I heard those doubters after 9/11. Remember after 9/11? “Oh, this is bad, we’re a target. We’re a target. We’re going to be forever a target.” You couldn’t get people to come back into the city. You couldn’t get people to do downtown. “Oh, 9/11 is going to change things.” Yeah, baloney. We’re stronger than ever after 9/11. We’re more unified after 9/11. We rebuilt better after 9/11, and we’re going to do the same exact thing after COVID. That is the season we are in.
Let me now introduce and invite please Reverend Dr. Johnnie Green to say a few words. And again, let’s give the reverend a big round of applause for making this a pop-up center.
Reverend Dr. Johnnie Green: Thank you, Governor. John Maxwell tells us in one of his books on leadership that everything rises and falls on leadership. And we can truthfully say today that we’ve had the best of leadership under Governor Cuomo during this time of pandemic crisis. So let’s give our Governor another hand. I want to take this time to acknowledge my brothers and sisters in ministry, fellow pastors and leaders in our Christian work. I want to begin by acknowledging the presence of our state denominational leader and president of the Empire Baptist Missionary State Convention, and also the founding chairman of the board of Impact, Reverend Dr. Carl Washington. Reverend Al Cockfield, Reverend Carl Wauchope, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Reverend Cassius Rudolph, Reverend Greg Merriweather, Reverend Malcolm Byrd, Reverend Dr. Thomas Johnson, Reverend Dr. Robert Thompson, Reverend Renee Washington-Gardner, Reverend Dr. Helen Wingate, Elder Mark Young, Reverend Susana Rivera Leon, Reverend Sandra Baker, Reverend Jesse T. Williams, Reverend Willie Jay Spencer, Reverend Dr. Lawrence Aker III, my favorite nephew Lawrence Aker IV is with us today as well, Reverend Stanley Smith, Jr., and Minister Babette Hudson. Can we give them a round of applause?
I’m pleased to welcome you all to our church, Mount Neboh Baptist Church. This church has a long history of social justice and being involved in the life of this community. What we’re doing today and in the next two days could be considered an act of social justice. I personally want to appreciatively applaud the Governor for coming here today to get his vaccine.
As I look at that, I believe it says two things to us today: One, we are all in this together. Everyone, from members of this church and we’ve lost 19 members in 2021 and 16 to the COVID-19 virus. To myself, to this church, to the Governor and the State, we are all in this together. Number two, is safe. The vaccine is safe. It’s safe enough for the Governor, it’s safe enough for me. I’ve taken both the Pfizer shots. It’s safe enough for Dr. Fauci. It’s safe enough for all of us.
Let me tell you this, I can understand not wanting to be the first one to get the vaccine. At this point, there have been over 100 million vaccine doses administered. President Biden, Vice President Harris, leaders of this city and state have gotten the vaccine. Please understand and unequivocally that you are not the first, but we don’t want you to be the last either. That’s why it’s so important that the Governor is opening these vaccine sites at churches across the city and across the State. We’re making sure that communities of color who are most effected by COVID-19 have access to the vaccine that will finally keep us safe.
This church, the Mount Neboh Baptist Church, as I before mentioned, has lost too many of our members. This community has lost too many of our brothers and sisters. It hits us hard and fast and it’s still a threat to us. With the vaccine, we can finally protect ourselves and each other. As it is said in Corinthians, God’s temple is holy and you are that temple. You must keep that temple strong. You must keep your body strong.
To my community I say get the vaccine. Protect your life. Protect the lives of your loved ones and all of Harlem and all of New York because we are all in this together. If you are here in the village of Harlem, make an appointment to come to our pop-up Thursday and Friday. If you elsewhere in the State or can’t make it here Thursday, Friday, go to ny.gov/vaccine to make your appointment.
Thank you and God bless you, that is my prayer. You will now hear from State Assemblywoman Inez Dickens.
Assembly Member Inez Dickens: Thank you. Good morning. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for bringing us here today. I want to thank you for your leadership throughout this crisis. Now, I know that we’re at Mount Neboh and I know that we are here with you Reverend Green, Dr. Green, but I must have acknowledge my pastor, Pastor Washington.
We’ve got a lot of ministers here so we are truly blessed this morning because of all the ministers here that they have hands on all of us. A lot of other people would have looked the other way from addressing the injustices that COVID exposed in our health care system, but you did not. Today is a great day for a lot of reasons.
First, I’m excited to see the Governor finally get his shot which is a long time coming. I’m also excited that we have all these pop-ups at NYCHAs and at Mount Zion. I want to thank you for opening up so that the community doesn’t have to go far to get the vaccines. I am just as excited that the Urban League is finally coming home to Harlem where it started.
For more than a century, the Urban League has been a force for real change. That’s true today under Marc Morial as it was when the League was founded here in 1910. I was proud to sponsor the legislation that helped shape this vision into reality. This is a real community partnership with real community investment. The complex we’re breaking ground on is for our history, the Civil Rights Museum will be a nation-leading monument to where we have been and where we are going. It will honor those who came before us and they remind us of the struggles we have endured and they will help to formulate the leaders for tomorrow.
This entire complex will chart the course for where we’re going. I know that the Urban League will surely go to greater heights now that it has finally come home. We need them and Marc Morial to be right here in the community to empower residents to grow and thrive. The retail will generate much needed revenue to help this community survive. Today is just page one in the new chapter of Harlem that is an indigenous population.
Thank you, Governor, for being such a friend of the National Urban League. Thank you for signing on to the legislation that we passed in both the Assembly and the Senate that said 100 percent of the units will be affordable at AMIs of 50-80 percent max the tenant rent a year. Thank you for putting your faith in Harlem. Now we need everyone to get vaccinated so we can see this project through.
I know the Mount Neboh congregation are ready for this crisis to end. For this congregation, this house of worship has seen far too many losses as have so many of our churches. So many of our families, so many people. Please come and get your shot. It’s the only way we can get Harlem back to the vibrant, strong community we have loved for over 100 years.
The Governor is about to get vaccinated. It don’t hurt. No, it don’t hurt. He held out for 4 months waiting until it was truly available to Black and Brown communities. Now that it’s here, we all need to trust it and end this crisis that has nearly destroyed so many businesses and end it for good. Thank you.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you so much Assembly Member. Before Marc Morial comes up I just want to add some details to what the Assembly Member just mentioned because this is a very, very big deal.
Marc Morial, as you know, head of the National Urban League, national leader, he was way out on the forefront of whole social equity issue when it came to the vaccine. He was talking about it for months and months before anyone ever mentioned it. He’s always been a leader. I’ve known him from the old days when he was Mayor of New Orleans. New Orleans – no, how do we say that? Naw-lins. Naw-lins. Now I have a Southern accent. South Queens. That’s what that is.
So when he was Mayor of New Orleans, I would go down there, he was always a superstar. What is happening now in Harlem is going to be phenomenal because under this President of the National Urban League, he is bringing the National Urban League back to Harlem where it started in 1910. That’s a picture of the rendering of the new center. The Urban League Empowerment Center. It is going to be a headquarters, it’s going to have a museum. It’s going to be an office complex, it’s going to be housing complex, it’s going to be a retail complex. It is a $242 million complex, one half of a million square feet. The largest mixed-use development in Harlem, period. That’s what this is going to be.
New York State is going to partner in this complex with $110 million to finance the affordability of the housing and make sure the commercial gets off the ground. It is going to be another chapter in the rebirth of Harlem. It is going to be another chapter in the future of the new Harlem. It does not happen but for Marc Morial’s leadership and vision and capacity and it does not happen without Assembly Member Inez Dickens who got up $110 million. $110 million is a lot of money and the Assembly Member took to the floor, she argued, she fought, she cajoled, she does whatever she needs to do that Assembly Member, and she got it done. Let’s give the Assembly Member another round of applause and give a big round of applause to Marc Morial.
Marc Morial: First of all, good morning. To Pastor Green, thank you for having us in your home today. To all of the assembled leaders, the faith leaders, Ms. Dickens, Representative Dickens, the Dean Charlie Rangel. To you, Governor Cuomo for many, many reasons I’ll outline in a minute, let me just say before I talk about vaccine equity how significant and important each and everyone standing behind me has been to produce this opportunity for the National Urban League to return to Harlem on 125th Street.
Here’s the story: In 2010 Chicago, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia came knocking on the door of the National Urban League saying why don’t you relocate to Chicago or Philadelphia or Atlanta or Washington D.C.? Mind you, we have been and we were founded here in Harlem in 1910 by a Black man named George Edmund Haynes, the first PhD social worker from Columbia University and Ruth Standish Baldwin, a white woman who was a leading suffragist of that period.
After 100 years, I asked myself and the board of the National Urban League should we entertain these offers? I said before we entertain any offers, I want to go talk to my friend Andrew Cuomo. Because we’re not going to entertain any offer if there’s a better offer here in New York City and in New York State. That journey began almost a decade ago for us to do something spectacular but really, ladies and gentlemen, for us to practice what we preach.
We preach home ownership and I ask myself, why am I renting space in the Financial District? We preach affordable housing, Black business participation and the question was could we assemble all of these thoughts, the aims together to do something spectacular? Ladies and gentlemen, what you have here, thanks to Ms. Dickens – and I went to Ms. Dickens and Ms. Dickens said, ‘I’m only going to support this if there is a focus on affordable housing.’ I said we will not embrace or endorse a project that further gentrifies Harlem.
With the support of Ms. Dickens and the Governor and the City and the leaders, the faith leaders here, Reverend Young, who I did not know well, called me up, Reverend Green, early on when there was some community conversation going and said, “we’re going to stand with you.” So, I want to thank immensely and enormously for this is for Harlem. What will you have? 170 units of affordable housing, the National Urban League headquarters, and the first ever civil rights museum in New York history, along with retail anchored by Target and Trader Joes. And ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing this with a team of developers with a lead developer who’s African American, architects and lawyers who are African American. So, Governor, you had faith, Ms. Dickens, you had faith early, and by it’s been a road to get to where we are. So, I want to thank you today and say how proud we are to be returning. This headquarters is for the Urban League movement. We have affiliates in 90 communities, including here in New York, the New York Urban League, one of 90 Urban League affiliates around the nation. We serve almost 2 million people a year. We’re an advocacy voice for racial, social justice, and economic opportunity. So, thank you very much for giving us the chance to be a part of the Harlem of the 21st century, Governor, Ms. Dickens, and others.
Let me just turn and talk about vaccine equity. It was in November of last year that my phone rang at 7:25 AM on a Sunday morning. My wife’s like, “who is that?” I picked up the phone, it was Governor Cuomo. He said, “are you aware that the plan being hatched,” this is under the previous Administration, “is to deploy the vaccine through hospitals and chain pharmacies?” He said, “that sounds like it isn’t going to work, and it just buys into the same old inequitable plan.” I said, “Governor, it sounds like a train wreck, like it’s not going to work and it’s not going to be equitable.” So, at that point we began with others working on lifting up the voice that for this to work, 200+ to 300 million people, there had to be an equitable system to vaccinate people. This pop-up at this church is exactly what we called for last November, Governor, all across the land. Now, I want to add something else, the National Urban League just commissioned a poll done by an African American pollster by the name of Cornell Belcher, we tested attitudes with respect to the vaccine in the Black community, in the Latinx community, and in the Asian American community. Let me tell you what we found: we found that 70 percent, nearly – 67 is the number – of African Americans say I am prepared to take the vaccine, not withstanding some concern, and potential distrust. I am deciding that I am better off taking it than allowing my fears to engulf me, consume me, and paralyze me into inaction. We found that there is a segment of 15 percent who are not inclined to take it under any circumstance, and then we found about 14 or 15 percent who, with messages about safety and efficacy, and seeing their friends, community leaders, pastors, messages from health care providers, would be willing to take it.
So, what I want to do today is we have got to change this blame narrative. We understand a lot of the distrust in the vaccine was driven by number 45. Y’all know who 45 is? And the numbers have changed and confidence has grown, so that people are now prepared. So, what is the task in front of us now? Exactly what’s happening here, pop-up locations, mass locations, community-based locations all across. This Governor from the beginning his voice has led the way. This Governor has helped us. For civil rights and social justice leaders to talk about equity everyone expects that and that’s our job and our mission every day. When elected officials and leaders of one of the largest states in the nation give, if you will, amplification to that idea then public policy is impacted. So, the Biden administration from the very beginning has heard exactly what the Governor has said, what we’ve said, what other civil rights leaders said, and therefore in the American Rescue Plan there are dollars coming to the states and to the cities to stand up more community vaccination sites. But what I want the ladies and gentlemen of the media to know, it is your job to report that there’s hesitancy and distrust in the community, but it’s also your job to report that 70 percent, and we have the only data and this is scientific data — not I went on the corner and talked to 5 people, or I saw it online — that 70 percent and that the issue for the majority for Black people in the United States, the majority of Latinx people, is access, access, access.
Faith leaders and community leaders all across this nation are saying come and deploy the vaccine at my location. So, we’re here today in a demonstration of what community-based vaccination is all about, at a church with all of us assembled together. I took my first shot, Governor, so I’m a little bit ahead of you, and I’m just proud today to be a part of this continuing effort for us to move beyond COVID, to move where our children can get back to school, where people can get back to work, where we can heal our communities, and achieve some financial stability. So, thank you for having me today and thank you for the support.
Governor Cuomo: Let’s give him another round of applause, Marc Morial, National Urban League comes back to Harlem. It’s my pleasure now to introduce Dr. Hazel Dukes, head of the NAACP. I refer to Dr. Dukes as my second mother, because no other woman has been as frank and candid in disciplining me and telling me where I make a mistake, being as forthcoming and honest with her helpful advice on the error of my ways. Also, I want Dr. Dukes to know, this state is the progressive capital of the nation, not because we talk the talk, because we get things done. There is no state in this country that has passed more progressive legislation than the State of New York. That is a fact, it’s not an aspiration. We did it. No one else passed the criminal justice reforms that we passed. No one else passed Enough is Enough. No one else passed the highest MWBE goal in the United States of America. We did that. We did that. And that change does not just happen, it doesn’t just happen because somebody gets up and gives a speech, and runs in a campaign, and puts down a plank in their campaign; it happens with hard work, change is hard, and it takes somebody to fight that fight and push that stone up the hill, and deconstruct the stranglehold of the status quo. That is Hazel Dukes. Fight after fight, after fight. Whenever we need to make social, racial, economic justice Hazel Dukes is the voice we go to, and we have a beautiful thing to celebrate today, because today with all this good news, whose birthday is it today? Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Hazel. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, Hazel.
Hazel Dukes: I will bless the Lord at all times, and his praises shall continue to be in my mouth. Good morning to Reverend Johnny Green, my friend. We’ve been having some ups and downs and rounds, but we all stayed together. And then Reverend Washington, New York State Baptist. Now I know all these ministers in here, every one of you. I know all of you. I know what you stand for, I know what you preach, because I’ve been in your church. Some of you have allowed me to stand behind your pulpit and deliver an address. Mr. Washington, you and I have been running a long time, I haven’t gotten tired yet, when they didn’t want us in the pulpit.
Let me say a word about my Assemblywoman, and my Congressman always. Inez Dickens is a fighter for what is right, but I must say that Morial forgot one thing. We had an elected official say we don’t need no Urban League here, and Keith Wright and Hazel Dukes when to service with you. I put the breakfast together and I said the Urban League is coming. She was not in the Assembly then, she was in the City Council, that’s why we sent her to Albany, because we needed somebody with some good sense to fight and to revitalize Harlem. This woman was born in Harlem and never left, so when she got there Harlem, you know, state of mind for her. Harlem is real. Born and reared, never left. When everybody was running to the suburbs, she stayed in Harlem with her family. So, let’s give it up for her.
Now I come here today, I took my shot at a Harlem hospital, and I said roll up your sleeve, community. I don’t know anybody who has died from the vaccine. Some people say they had a sore arm. Well, I’m so strong nothing stops me. I didn’t have a sore arm, I didn’t have nothing. So, I come today to thank my son. I’ve known him since he was 12 years of age. I brought him a picture today of me and his daddy. See me sitting by his daddy? I’m sitting next to his daddy giving his daddy direction. So, I want to thank my son for his leadership. Somebody called me and said, “I didn’t know you had a white son?” I said, “he ain’t white.” I always like when you call me your second mom. I’m proud of all your leadership on COVID and all the great things you’ve done for our state. We were the last state to raise the age. We were treating children the same as adults. I wrote him a letter, I said, “We got to get this done.” I went to the Speaker and to the Assembly Leader. We’re the last in the country, progressive, we shouldn’t be treating children like adults – raise the age. We got raise the age.
We fought for 50-A, the police that have misconduct in New York City should not be able to go to Nassau County or go anywhere else. Hard work, but I went to him, and we got 50-A passed. Police unions, we got brothers and sisters who are police. But if you wrong, you wrong, Marc. We don’t care what color. We want the blue to protect us, I’ve not called for defunding of the police, but I have called for accountability. And this Governor, I was there with Reverend Sharpton and Mrs. Carr and Mrs. Bell, he put an Executive Order – we want to reimagine in this state accountability of policing, and they are running like hell, they’re so scared. All NAACP has been sitting all around here raising hell. They said, “My President told me to come.” Lady up in Albany, she said, “What?” The mayor. I said, “Yeah, we got to sit down, the Governor’s Executive Order said on April the first he wants it on his desk and he wanted to make sure that the community had input in what you’re writing and sending to him.”
So that’s the kind of leadership. He’s done a remarkable job leading New York over the last year. We’re learning now, the test is here, the vaccine is here, I am glad that Marc Morial told the press. I am so, I wish I was a press person sometimes. Write the truth about what’s happening here. We didn’t have the vaccine. We did not have the vaccine. I was there when Reverend Butts took his from SOMOS. I was there. I know that. Reverend Byrd called me on Saturday telling me about his pop-up. The vaccine is coming now and so stop writing, but telling the truth that the vaccine is coming. He didn’t keep the vaccine away – he didn’t have it. One time when he thought he was going to get the vaccine the weather stopped it, the transportation. And so now we have the vaccine. I know that some of our community, I talk to them daily – one part of the day I do social worker, and the second part I do civil rights. Social working is telling my community to come and take the vaccine. The next part is raising hell with him to get something done, to get my budget passed so my children can get back to school, that’s what we are talking about now, me and the Governor. Me and the Governor are talking about getting the budget passed by April 1st, no other nonsense, and get this vaccine out to people.
And to all those asking what the vaccine is – the vaccine is safe. So now let’s get out community and go. I’m asking you to come, I know the parishioners that were lost here at Mount Neboh. I know the parishioners that were lost here, I know them personally. And so I stand today to remind of the Governor and the health people’s for coming into our communities. We have screamed and yelled – Jesse can tell you how I have fought with the Governor’s staff. Oh yeah you know that. I want it in Harlem. I want it in walking distance. We had one. We wanted the Armory, but at that time we needed refrigeration with the Pfizer. And now we have the Johnson & Johnson that do not require all the refrigeration requirements. And so we can get it into our houses of worship, we can get it into our community centers.
So community – come on, let’s get it. Let’s not hear what the people are saying, let’s believe the scientists and the doctors. Morial brought all the national leaders together, I was on that call, and we heard from African-American doctors who told us it was safe. We also know some of the women that were in the trial. So, come on community, stand with us, because we are standing with the Governor as we get the pop-up centers and all that is available to us. If it’s necessary, we might get a truck and have it on the corner. Mobile. So guests, come on, and stay with us while we work with the Governor and his staff to get more facilities to get out into the communities, but we need you to be there. So the sooner we have more people vaccinated, the sooner we can put an end to the suffering of COVID. We will be able to reclaim our lives back and get back to our normal routines of being out, seeing our families, kissing our grandchildren and having a life. Thank you, Governor, for all that you have done and we stand with you. These men and women, they don’t talk about when they get to heaven, they say heaven is right here now, and we want to be able to put on our shoes and shout. God bless you.
Governor Cuomo: You wonder why I am the way I am. You see how I was raised. Happy birthday, Hazel Dukes.
The last speaker today is, in many ways, the first speaker. And I asked the Congressman if he would give us the honor of closing comments today. I was raised by Hazel Dukes, Mario Cuomo, Charlie Rangel. As a young fellow I was always in the room listening to them. And I learned very early on one important lesson – the good fight is a fight. The good fight is a fight. Things don’t change without a fight. And it is hard. The progress that Hazel was talking about – 50-A, raise the age, criminal justice reforms – these things were hard. Special prosecutor for police misconduct in killings, these things were hard. Every one of them is hard. Every one of them is a fight. And if you’re not willing to make the fight, then you lose. It’s that simple. Inez Dickens had to get $110 million to build the Urban League – it was a fight. And if she doesn’t win, then it’s just another cardboard dream that somebody walks around with. Hazel Dukes, you heard her passion, her soul. She’s there to fight, to win the good fight.
Congressman Charlie Rangel, he was on the battlefield before anybody and he was there alone. He was a pioneer who broke trail. When you break trail, it makes it much easier for the person who’s walking second. It’s the person who goes first that gets all the branches and all the thorns and all the pain of going through that trail first. And it was Congressman Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Carl McCall, David Dinkins – they broke the trail. Percy Sutton.
I was in Washington, young fellow. I went down to work with the Clinton Administration. Bill Clinton was going to start a new Urban Development program called “Empowerment Zones.” It was a renaissance of urban rebuilding, hadn’t been done in decades. Congressman Charles Rangel was in the room and there was a discussion with President Clinton – I was there because I was at HUD and I was going to actually administer the program – and they were talking about how to design the legislation for the Empowerment Zones. Empowerment Zones were going to be like $150 million, it was a phenomenal grant to an urban community. And the Congressman and the President were discussing how many there were going to be nationwide. And they wanted to keep it small because they wanted to make sure there was enough money for each one to be done right, they didn’t want it to become model cities where everybody gets fifty cents and you wind up accomplishing nothing. So they wanted to keep it small so they had enough funding. And the President said, “Well, maybe we can do six.” And the Congressman said, “That’s an option. You can do Harlem and five others.” And the President said, “Maybe we can do four.” The Congressman said, “That’s an option, you can do Harlem and three others.” And I’m looking at the Congressman, his face is not moving. The President said, “Maybe we can do seven.” You said, “We can do Harlem and six others.” But there was no way Harlem was not going to be an Empowerment Zone.
And that began all of this. That began all of this. That was the bold, boastful optimistic statement – we can bring Harlem back. We can bring 125th street back. We can reverse decades of decline – nobody believed it, but Charlie Rangel did. And now you look at all the things that that begat. Apollo Theater. New Urban League. Commercial development on 125th street. Prices of housing now going up, people wanting to live in Harlem. That all starts because of one person’s courage to lead the way. An inspiration to all of us, an inspiration to me to this day. Congressman Charles Rangel.
Congressman Charles Rangel: First let me thank all of you on behalf of my wife and family for the wonderful support that you have given to me to been able to serve this village for half a century. I always say I was raised on the streets of Lenox Avenue and became a bigshot, moved uptown on 32nd street – Lenox Avenue is on 35th – and that’s where I was, that’s where I’m staying. And every one of you have been such support, such an inspiration, and God has been good to me and I hope he, she’s just as good to all of you.
Inez – you may be the last one staying behind from the old days, but it’s all a beginning. And I guess for the Governor, a lot of people really want to see him, but he’s home. I think the Governor’s been to Mount Neboh more than a lot of the elected officials in our district. But this is a good time for all of us to get together. To me, we are really going through the second reconstruction. To me, whatever reason people came to this continent and took it, when they were drafting that beautiful document, the Declaration of Independence, I looked long at how I may find no place in it, and I got the impression that they weren’t thinking about a lot of Black folks or Brown folks coming here, but someone put in that document, “In order to perfect a more perfect union,” and I said that must be what they’re talking about.
We’ve been through some rough times. And that reconstruction was almost as bad as the Civil War. But I got a call not too long ago and someone said, Congressman, I’ve got some very bad news to tell you, but I want to tell you first that Spring is coming. And I just lost my dad and your friend, but Spring is coming because we all now appreciate all that he’s done for all of us and we don’t want you to feel sad. And so when the Governor says that there’s a season for everything, and I see all these wonderful clergy who, every day, try to make life a little better for all of us, and I realize that I can’t jump up like I used to, but I’m here. And I know that it’s hard for me to imagine. I knew Donald Trump. There was no way in the world that I thought that someone as dumb and mean as he could possibly, I was in total amazement when he would speak, but it just seemed like if ever God or Jesus wanted to test us, we have been tested, you know? And then on top of that, on top of that, always struggling through poverty, and looking for better education and homes for our children, to have a disease that no one knows where it came from, how we’re going to cope with it, what’s going to cure it, how many people are going to get it, and to know that if you were born sick in the beginning it’s going to be worse for you now than ever before. And yet, as this call came, I was reminded that Spring was coming, because there was a no nonsense guy that didn’t give a damn about the confusion that the president had, and he took charge. And his name was Andrew Cuomo. And he didn’t tell us not to forget and that it’s nothing, that it’s just passing through. And didn’t just tell us to panic, that we weren’t going to be around tomorrow. He said let me tell you what’s going on here. This is some very serious business. And he not only brought the most scientific evidence, and political direction, but he brought it in such a way that so many people said I don’t know what the hell he said, but I have so much comfort that somebody is in charge and that we’re going to get over this thing, and we’re going to do it together.
And governors from all over the country were saying what the hell is going on? But they watched and they listened to Governor Cuomo, and I felt so proud as a New Yorker because people were calling saying you got hit the hardest, but you really are pulling through because somehow you managed to have a Governor that had the spirit to allow you to know that this is just one little obstacle. The reverend’s going to explain to you what my mother meant when they say that God works in mysterious ways. But Governor, I truly believe that as a result of what has happened to us, not only in Washington but with this virus, that in order for this country to get back on its feel and become, once again, the international economic and moral leader, that we’re going to take Washington to rebuild this country like that proclamation meant and like the Constitution should have meant, and we’re going to rebuild our schools, our hospitals and our communities. And we don’t have to love each other, but we’re going to need each other because of what this world is going through. And we have a Governor that has the experience from his father and generations that he has served with to make certain that when America is rebuilt, that the color of our skin would not be how you’re going to be treated in this country. Now some people will say, well, why would the Governor pick a time like this to be coming to Harlem to be getting his shot. Well, in my opinion, when people start piling up on you and you’re trying to figure out is this the same country that says that you can make any allegation that you want to make, but due process and a hearing is basically what we believe in in this country, then you would hope that any one of us, and when I say any one of us, I mean it. I don’t care whether you’re clergy, a politician, a businessperson, you go to your family, you go to your friends because you know that they are going to be with you. And I could not have felt more proud than I did. And I called Inez when I read a statement that she had issued. Reminded me of it. And she didn’t just speak for an assemblyperson, she spoke for our community, saying back off until you’ve got some facts, and at the same time to say to the governor, thank you so much for what you have done, what you are doing, and what you continue to do, because Springtime is here.
Reverend Dr. Johnnie Green: The president of the state convention said we’re going to give Congressman Rangel his license back. Governor, it’s time to get your shot. Elder Mark Young from our church is going to get his shot as well.