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2014-01-02

Harry Belafonte Urges de Blasio to Fight Poverty, Stop-and-Frisk & "Dickensian Justice System"

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Singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte opened Wednesday’s inauguration for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "Changing the stop-and-frisk law is — as important as it is, the change of a law is only the tip of the iceberg in fixing our deeply Dickensian justice system," Belafonte said. "Bill de Blasio has been overwhelmingly mandated to make many, who for much too long danced with despair, believe again that the American dream is attainable. A dream filled with hope, a dream filled with opportunity and justice. ... Bill de Blasio gives New York another opportunity to open the door of possibilities. We New Yorkers must not let him fail."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Tony Award-winning singer and actress Patina Miller performing John Lennon’s "Imagine" at Bill de Blasio’s inauguration. It’s the mayor’s favorite song. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte opened Wednesday’s inauguration for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

HARRY BELAFONTE: When Bill de Blasio stepped into the campaign to determine who would be the leader of 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’s A Tale of Two Cities. He inspired us. We listened. And we overwhelmingly responded with a joyous sense that all things were possible. We made him our mayor.

While it is encouraging to know that the 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. Changing the stop-and-frisk law is—as important as it 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 that the American dream is attainable, 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 Abraham Heschel and others says that he will aspire to be no less courageous than they.

In the challenge to the inequities we face, New Yorkers should ensure our mayor that he will not stand alone in facing the naysayers 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. Her moral center ensures that Bill’s moral flame will never dim for the want of a guardian of the gate.

Today begins a new era, a transformative journey of hope on the road to promise. We have seen America wrestle with her conscience. We have seen her struggle to become her better self. I think the solution to what most people want America to become resides here in New York. We can become America’s DNA for the future. Bill de Blasio gives New York another opportunity to open the door of possibilities. We, we New Yorkers, must not let him fail. Thank you, New York. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so let’s get busy. Thank you.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte opening the ceremonies at the inauguration for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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