In recognition of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, Governor Kathy Hochul earlier today announced a new State Park planned for more than 500 acres of former industrial property along the Hudson River shoreline in Ulster County will be named for 19th century African American abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth. This will be the first State Park in the City of Kingston and the first new State Park to open since July 2019. More information is available here.
VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Governor Hochul: Thank you, Reverend Mapes. As I pulled up and saw what a little bit of a chilly day it was here today, I said, oh this is not a Sunday service, okay? No 1, 2, 3-hour services because we’re going to lose everybody. So thank you for your brevity, but also the passion with which you bring to it. And I am honored to be introduced in such a way and to be associated with the legacy of someone like Sojourner Truth.
And to all the people who’ve been speculating as to what we’re going to name this beautiful Parkland. It is going to be named in honor of Sojourner Truth. And I’m delighted to see thank you. I do want to acknowledge some people as well. First of all, Reverend Mapes for the heart that he brings to this and the work that you do in our communities. Thank you very, very much. Our Commissioner of Parks is here, Erik Kulleseid, who you’ll be hearing from. He is a legend already. I mean, what he has done, and bringing his talents and his passion for our incredible parks to bear and he’s personally responsible for breaking records at our attendance. So let’s give it up for Erik Kulleseid.
Richard Krupp is here, our chair of Scenic Hudson. Ned Sullivan, our president is here. I’ve worked closely with those individuals, especially Ned on our REDC, so thank you. Maude Bruce is here, the Ulster County Chapter of the NAACP. We’re going to be hearing from you in a couple minutes so thank you. Michelle Hinchey our State Senator. Michelle, come on, have a seat. You got a chair up front here Michelle, come on. Like Shirley Chisholm would say, grab that chair and bring it to the table here.
That’s a wonderful entrance and you have been responsible for bringing resources to this project. I want to thank you for your leadership on this as well. And Steve Nobel, the Mayor of Kingston and Pat Ryan. Two individuals that are sitting here today and we’re not talking about a storm or not in any DOT facility talking about how much ice and snow we’re ready to be dealing with and our DOT trucks. And I just want to thank you and incredible leadership during some tough times.
The community has been really under siege by mother nature. I don’t know what you did to make her so mad but she really had five days without power in Ulster county, only Ulster. And you’re like looking at a map of the state and I’m like, I have 62 counties, what’s with Ulster? But it went to the place with the people could handle it the most and I know your residents and Michelle and I and others, were all out there working so hard to keep them warm and get the heat back on. And so thank you, this is literally just a few weeks ago, February 7th, I think it was here.
And also some of our supervisors are here, Danielle Freer, Jim Quigley. I come out of local government. Let’s give a round of applause to these individuals. So, I come out of local government. It’s all about the supervisors and the town boards. So thank you for your support here as well. So, everyone is gathered here and again, perfect day, the last day of Black History month. And within hours, we’ll be celebrating Women’s History month.
So this is the day to do this really special event. And that’s why we’re gathering here right now. And we honor someone who is known for her fight for Civil Rights and for Women’s Rights. Sojourner Truth literally grew up or lived seven miles from here. So this is very appropriate that people will come to this park.
And certainly the locals know her story. Incredible resiliency and the grit and tenacity. She traveled around our country talking about these rights and these values. She gave her famous “Ain’t I a woman” speech, except I’m going to correct the record here. I actually think it was “Aren’t I a woman” and people put that in there as they transcribed it later, assuming she was from down south and she would’ve said “ain’t I”, except she’s a New Yorker. She would not have said “ain’t I,” she said, “aren’t I a woman?” So let’s correct the record on that.
So just a little bit on that, on August 26, 2020, we unveiled a statute to her as we crossed the Hudson with a beautiful – the Hudson state park, the river walk. And I remember walking across that and talking to people about – actually people thought I was just like a local, I look like a local. That’s good. And some tourists were asking me what this is all about. And I was like telling them and so it was kind of fun. I think they’re from North Carolina and they’re very intrigued that we’ve put up this statue to Sojourner Truth, and her family members were there.
Corey and John came only from Michigan, I recall. They couldn’t make this one, but they promised they’re going to do their best to attend, what will be – this is the groundbreaking, but the actual opening, which we’re going to try and time for Earth Day, this year. We’re going to get on schedule commissioner? Okay, I said it, so it has to happen now.
This is actually our first state park since 2019. And who did we name that state park after, for 10 points? Shirley Chisholm. There you go. Surely Chisholm in Brooklyn. And that was a beautiful again, a tribute to strong women of color with the hope that we not just honor their legacy, but also to inspire generations to come to learn these stories.
Much like when I was a little girl, I used to check this one book out of our local library so often the librarian finally said, why don’t you just keep it? It was the story of Harriet Tubman and, similar to Sojourner Truth, what they had overcome in their early lives, enslaved, and that thirst of freedom that they had that was so powerful that they literally broke their chains and went forth and helped other people.
And that’s the powerful story of Sojourner Truth, who grew up steeped in Christianity and felt it was her responsibility to help others, and earn the rights that had been so long denied. She worked with people like Frederick Douglas and others. So, an amazing story, a truly amazing story, and a huge point of pride for us here in the State of New York.
And to do it on this site, this rebirth of this land, which has had a long history, you know, making cement here, and making ice. I mean, it was an industrial site. And to think about how generations before us just neglected the possibilities, didn’t see the possibilities of what we have on this most beautiful waterway that has been explored, and part of our commerce, part of our story, part of the Hudson River School of Art, really dating back to Henry Hudson, 1609. Made his way up there, and really opened up the frontier of the Northern part of our State.
So this is a place to be celebrated, a place to be honored, a place truly to be revered for its incredible beauty and history. And Sojourner Truth is part of that history. And when people come to this park and explore, and get the fresh air, and enjoy the outdoors like so many people discovered during this pandemic. Again, I’ve mentioned our record-breaking attendance here. It is just incredible how people have come here, but I want them to not just come to parks and explore and to re-energize the soul, which is what outdoors and parks do for us. But to understand a history, and to understand that it is our responsibility to carry the torch that was passed to all of us from people like Sojourner Truth, who would expect no less because the journey for true freedom and justice and civil rights is not over yet.
And I stand here saying that very firmly in 2022, that we are continuing to take that torch, past us, make it glow even brighter before we pass it on to the next generations. We have a moral responsibility in her name and others to make sure that we’re fighting against prejudices and discrimination and injustice everywhere it rears its ugly head.
Sojourner Truth would expect no less. That’s why we’re gathered here today, to honor this place. This hallowed ground. But also to honor an individual. And that is why I’m very proud as Governor of the State of New York to declare that this is now forever forward, Sojourner Truth State Park. Thank you.
And with that, Erik Kulleseid will talk to you about how amazing our State Parks are. We all need stewards. This is the person who is the keeper of that flame as well, to ensure that we continue to nurture our parks and make them be stronger and even more vibrant. So Erik Kulleseid, our Commissioner of Parks.