Remembering the Life and Times of David Dinkins
Mayor David Dinkins and Joyce Dinkins Memorial
Memorial Service to honor and celebrate the lives of Joyce Burrows Dinkins and David Norman Dinkins at Cathedral Church of Saint John Divine.
The ceremony was scheduled for 2-5 pm. It actually started at 3 pm. It took an hour to pass through the checkpoints of identification and vaccination records. The ceremony actually went far beyond the scheduled time due to Dave and Joyce having their own speakers. The speakers, apparently, were not given time restrictions for their presentations. Some of the speakers included Dr. James Forbes, Former Congressman Charlie Rangel, and Former Ambassador Andrew Young. There was a glaring contrast between Rev. Jesse Jackson’s birthday celebration at National Action Network, the night before, and David and Joyce’s Memorial. This helped us to understand why Dinkins lost the second election in his bid to become a two-time mayor. I would estimate that 75% of the audience at the Dinkins’ memorial were Euro-ethnic and at the Jackson celebration it was the other way around 75% were community people and 25 % were others. As I sat through the long ceremony I was forced to reflect on my many experiences with Dave and our long relationship.
As I stated Dave lost his Black base and therefore was defeated in his bid for a second term. “So by and large, Blacks stayed home, the 1993 turnout in no way matching that of the previous election in 1989. In 1993 Dinkins received 380,000 Black votes compared to the 501,000 he won in 1989, a difference of 121,000. Guiliani won the 1993 election by just 45,000 votes.” (See more in my book No Monopoly on Suffering published by Africa World Press)
The entire audience and number of participants were hard to gauge due to the length of the nave or center aisle (St. John has the longest nave in the world. It was constructed to be longer than St. Peter’s at the Vatican in Rome) plus the spacing of the seating which was consistent with covid-19 demands 6ft apart. In any event, it was a huge gathering. The music was rendered by Ms. Valerie Simpson, Clayton Bryant, Leah Roman, Dawn Tallman, and others. The music of Duke Ellington, vocal and instrumental, permeated the ceremony.
Andy Young in his remarks felt it necessary to include the experience with some members of the Jewish community when he was ambassador which resulted in his termination or resignation. At the time, U.S. Policy forbade U.S. Ambassadors from meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representatives. Andy Young did have a conversation with said representatives, which was discovered.
He said that he had met with the Chinese, Russians, and delegations that were not so friendly with the U.S. government. And there was no negative reaction. He even mentioned how he and the Russian Ambassador at the Waldorf Astoria had eaten black-eyed peas, collard greens, and barbeque that had been sent to him straight from Georgia. They, he said, ate on the floor. He said that he thought that communications, even with your enemy, were very important to prevent war and achieve peace. In no official capacity did he meet with or communicate with the PLO. Nevertheless, he was fired according to some people, but he resigned according to his own testimony.
He said, “the reason he gave was that he became deeply admired by Black folks in New York and that he did not want to see a disruption of the city and relationships that would follow his attempt to stay in office.” He said that he went home to Georgia and was encouraged to run for Mayor, which he did, and which he won. He cited that experience to underscore the mysterious workings of God.
I would simply add, I did organize a demonstration at the UN criticizing Jewish leadership and supporting Andrew Young.
As I sat through the ceremony, I must confess that it was hard to keep my mind focused on the speeches when my memory of my long association with Dave Dinkins kept competing for attention. I was forced to remember some of the times we spent together. It is impossible for me to remember my first meeting with Dave Dinkins. It seemed that he was always there, especially during any important issue.
One of the first important meetings that I can remember took place on January 12th, 1978. Dave was a city clerk then. The meeting was with the newly elected Mayor Ed Koch. At the risk of being repetitive, I must give the background for the meeting with Mr. Koch and community leaders.
After Mr. Koch won the election and scheduled inaugural meetings in each of the boroughs to mark the occasion. When he came to Brooklyn, he spoke or he was scheduled to speak at the Brooklyn Museum. The auditorium was packed. When Koch arose to speak I leaped on the stage and snatched the mic from his hands and told him, “I’m not going to let you speak here until you address the issue of Randolph Evans. The security surrounding him made a move towards me however, we had far more people present both as security and in the audience than Mr. Koch. When he saw that he couldn’t win, he asked me in a very subdued and respectful manner, “What do you want?” I said, “I’m not crazy and we’re not crazy. I am a Pastor. We’re here and have taken this action because a young lad named Randy Evans, fifteen years old, was shot in the head by police officer Robert Torsney for no reason. And we want Justice. No one seemed to be paying us any mind. That’s all, we just want justice.” He responded, “All right. Let’s have a meeting.” I said, “Okay we will meet. I will trust you to set up the meeting.” He replied, “ And can you quiet these people?” I said, “Sure. All we want is a hearing and justice.” In leaving the stage, our supporters were all calm. I said, “we hope to see you soon.”
The next day I received a call from Herb Rickman, his assistant to set up a meeting. We met on the day mentioned above. The meeting took place in Mayor Koch’s office. Dinkins as you can see from the photo was present at the meeting. (See in the Fellowship Hall at House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, NY)
To be continued…