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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces 400 Years of African-American History Commission Appointments

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Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced appointments to the 400 Years of African-American History Commission, which serves to highlight contributions by Africans and African-Americans to our country and to New York State. The Governor made the announcement in Newburgh, where she also announced commemoration plaques to be dedicated in honor of Robert Mulliner and Robert Lewis, two victims of racially-motivated lynchings in Orange County. Robert Mulliner was killed in Newburgh in 1863, and Robert Lewis was killed in Port Jervis in 1892. 

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube in two parts here and here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

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AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Thank you everyone. Thank you for the enthusiastic welcome Mayor Harvey. And no, this is not my first time, not my second time, not my third time, I come here a lot because I really believe in this community. I have a chance now as Governor, certainly in seven, eight years as Lieutenant Governor to travel every corner of the state.

And I also go to communities and I have this sense of possibility, and I sometimes see some jewels that aren’t quite as polished as they should be. And those are the ones that need that extra attention. And I’m so proud to see the rebirth of Newburgh unfolding before our eyes. Your leadership has been instrumental in uniting this community and letting us also see neighborhoods that have been left forgotten and the history that’s here, but was never properly celebrated or acknowledged.

And as we are here before we talked about the Thornwillow Press, and we walked through that building and talked about that neighborhood, Liberty Street I believe, and how it’s coming back. And I had a chance to see how they’re making, not just the book binders, but they actually print the stationary for the White House there.

I mean, this is pretty significant to know this history as well, and I’ve seen what’s happening. There’s going to be more restaurants and hotels coming and spas. I mean, you are getting pretty fancy here, having spas and everything. I might have to check-in for a weekend in Newburgh.

I am really excited about what I see here in places like Newburgh and Port Jervis and places along the Hudson river. They’re just so vital. And I do appreciate the acknowledgment of my past history as a local official, I never ascended to be Mayor of Buffalo. I want to set the record straight to my good friend, Byron Brown would not appreciate that. There Brown, your job’s safe. I was a local government official, but for many years, and I did walk the walk and I knew what it was like at that most local direct level of government, where everybody knows you are, people can come to your board meetings and tell you what’s on their minds and you have to be responsive and accountable. And that’s how I was steeled in the knowledge of public service and how it really touches people’s lives so directly.

So to our mayors, I want to thank also Kelly Decker, Mayor of Port Jervis for joining us here. Another elected official I’ve had a chance to work with for a long time since his local days and that’s Jonathan Jacobson, our great Assembleymember. Great to see you here. I don’t know if Steve Neuhaus made it here yet. I don’t have my contacts in. There you go. Steve Neuhaus. So we’ve done many events together as well. Great to see you as well, County Executive. So, so glad to have you here.

So yes, this is, as you heard, Black History month. We are talking about, there is the positive history, and then there’s the history that no one wanted to look at. The history that was swept under the rug, the history that was never told because of the shame associated with it.

But Black History means we have to tell the whole story. The whole story needs to be unfolded. Being at a heritage center like this, it really lends itself to opening up our hearts and our stories and passing them on to the next generation to let them know that, maybe the people before us weren’t enlightened enough to talk about this, but we are here in 2022 prepared to spread some light on what has happened before.

And you think about history overall. In the state of New York, we are so proud of how leaders from generations ago, step up and took that mantel. And I think about leaders like Frederick Douglas and how he used great oratory skills to move, not just civil rights, but also women’s rights. And we’re just almost on the verge of Women’s History month.

So it’s a great intersect. I have been to Frederick Douglass’s grave site, many times in Rochester, he’s not buried far from his friend, Susan B. Anthony. The two of them were powerhouses, but he is the one who went to Seneca Falls, and there was talk about whether or not women should have the right to vote, this first gathering. And he was one of the few men, certainly the only African-American in the room, but he stood up with great eloquence and persuaded the women in the room that yes, you should continue to fight onward. And that even unattainable goal that you are all talking about that you’re not quite sure you can get there the right to vote, you should ask for that as well.

So Frederick Douglas is an important part of our history. Sojourner Truth, 45 minutes down the road. We’ll be talking about here in a couple of days, acknowledging her great work, but this is where she gave her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. Something that still inspires us to this day. Harriet Tubman people thought she was this tiny, tiny person from Maryland and she came back and forth and freed the slaves. And she was so courageous. I read her book when I was eight years old. I checked it out of the library so often because I was inspired by the grit of this tiny woman, that the librarian said “why don’t you just keep it?” And I had to pay for it but it was my book, it was my story. And I still think about how that inspired me as a child.

And she didn’t just stay and run. She lived 50 years in Auburn, not far from where we have our own Equal Rights Heritage center. If you’ve not visited, I encourage you to go to this place outside of Syracuse in Auburn, New York.

And also, this is where Dr. King, right after there had been an assassination attempt on him earlier luckily this was an unsuccessful one because he had many more years to give back. He talked about his belief in non-violent protest, even though there had already been violence against him. And I remember to this day, when we lost Dr. King. Yes. I’m that old, I’m older than a lot of you.

I was a child who knew his story, whose parents talked about him, whose parents were involved in the Civil Rights Movement as social justice Catholics in the town I grew up in. Our family didn’t have much, but we had heart, and we also had a sense of what was right and wrong. And so my parents were involved in the movement to integrate white communities.

And my parents were ostracized for those beliefs. And as a child I saw what people said and did to my mom and dad. And you know what? It all made us part of this movement, the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties and how we got laws passed. Voting rights laws, civil rights laws that were so important at the time.

And then of course, this is where Shirley Chisholm said she wanted her seat. She was not going to be told what to do. And she says, I’m taking my folding chair if I have to, to the seats of power. So, what an inspiration she is. All this happened in New York. I mean, there’s a lot of other states out there, not that I’m going to talk about them at all, but this is New York, and I’m so proud of this history.

And we have our great leaders from the NAACP here, Ray Harvey. The NAACP started in Buffalo, the early Niagara movement, which became an outgrowth and blended in with another movement that became the NAACP right here in our state. But we also have a side of history that people, as I mentioned, don’t want to talk about. And that is the story that was referenced by our Mayor here.

When you always think about lynchings, you think of the south, right? That’s what they did down there. That didn’t happen in a place of enlightenment like New York, where the slaves came for freedom. People came for a new life here and the abolitionists gathered. Well, guess what? That is not an accurate portrayal of our history. Because two men, separated by 30 years, but accused of the exact same offense, falsely accused of rape, both of them in police custody, surrounded by a mob – the mob takes them out of police custody and takes them out and lynches them.

30 years apart. In two communities, not far away from each other. Here in the great state of New York. Have you heard that story before? Have you heard that before? I’m going to guess that most people have never heard of Robert Mulliner who was killed in Newburgh in 1863, or Robert Lewis killed in Port Jervis in 1892.

From this day forward, people will know their names, and they’ll read about them, and they’ll know this as part of the history that we have turned a blind eye to for too long. But we talk about that because you have to talk about it and say, we will stare that down to make sure that it never ever happens again in our society. That we stand up for everyone.

That’s a reminder of who we are as New Yorkers. So I want that to be an inspiration. To know that there is a history. And if we continue to memorialize these individuals and talk about them, and we’ll see the plaques in a couple of minutes, young people will understand that there’s a history we’d want to celebrate and talk about and then there’s a history that exposes the reality of why people had to take to the streets and march forward. And make sure that today in 2022, we are continuing to call out discrimination and hatred, wherever it rears its ugly head. That’s what today is about, here in the state of New York.

We also – thank you. We’re also here to announce 400 years of African American History Commission that was first, first signed at the very end, the final hours of 2019. Exactly 400 years when the first slaves were brought to Virginia. And I don’t know why, but the commission was never launched, even though it was passed back then. So I, as Governor, am announcing seven of my appointees to the other eight, so we can get this commission going and to find the stories and tell the great, the good, the bad, the ugly, the indifference, the accomplishments. And talk about that in a way that’ll be educational and people understand this.

And so I’m really proud that I’ll be announcing my appointees. In fact, I’ll do it right now. And someone we all know, someone was is very dear to me. Someone who has been, not just a friend, but more of a mother to me, that is Mama Dukes, Hazel Dukes, Dr. Hazel Dukes is going to be – who’s the president of the NAACP. She’s been an incredible fighter for a long time.

Also Dr. Laurie Woodward, a prize winning history and black studies professor at the City College of New York will be joining our commission. Dr. Henry Taylor, a professor at the University of Buffalo who I’ve known very well, who works on redevelopment of cities and social and economic justice. Dr. Anne C. Bailey, a writer, historian, a professor of history at SUNY Binghamton who focuses on connecting the events of the past to today’s stories. Dr. Kishi Ducre, Associate Professor and Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Syracuse University. Now, I didn’t play favorites, just because I went to Syracuse university. Don’t accuse me of playing favorites here, she’s very well regarded.

And Jennifer Jones Austin, the CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. And Joy Bivins, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. So yes, we’ll see plaques, but we’ll leave here today and I want this to be a visual reminder. I want children to stop by and ask their parents, and parents you need to know the story of why there are plaques put forth here and in Port Jervis.

And let people know how we honor their legacy, as being victims of hatred and mob mentality. And let people know that we understand that that kind of sentimentality, that evil can no longer lurk in our hearts or certainly not in our states.

So thank you very much. Thank you for joining us here today.

. . .

That was very inspiring Mayor, thank you. That was beautiful and those seventh grade students, they are very fortunate to have you. I was a seventh or eighth grade student when I all of a sudden developed a passion for public service because of the teacher that I had, who exposed my eyes to what the outside world is all about. So to all of you from these two communities, I hope this is a day of pride for all of you, it’s a day of reckoning, it’s a day of remembrance, and it’s a day of resilience. 

And talk about what people have been through, but they are strong and that is a strength we need as we go forth, we get through this pandemic. We also have to address these systemic injustices that were exposed during this pandemic and ask the questions. You know, why were black and brown communities hardest hit by this pandemic?

Why are they the slowest to come back in recovery? What is still going on there? So, just as our eyes have been open to these injustices, I assure you that our eyes are wide open to the injustices that still exist today. So thank you everyone.



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