Zellnor Myrie Inauguration

Zellnor Myrie Inauguration

Taking his oath

Taking his oath

On Sunday, February 10th at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center at 395 Lenox Road, there was an inauguration for the new State Senator in the 20th District, Zellnor Myrie. It was a lavish celebration beginning with a luncheon or various foods – jerk chicken, fried chicken, rice and beans, collard greens, roast potatoes, corn bread, plantains with rice with well seasoned salads so there was plenty for vegetarians, and of course at the end, there was a cake to honor the novice senator. Towards the end of the lunch, Zellnor appeared and anyone who wanted could have their picture taken with him. There was a long line, and many of the people on it Zellnor obviously knew by name. There was plenty of hugging and kissing and exchanges of confidences and stories. Eventually it was time of the program to begin and people left the lunchroom and filed into a large auditorium in another part of the building.

There was a long and varied program with singing and dancing as well as the expected political speeches. Just as the cuisine was varied, so was the entertainment. Kimberly Lewes sang a knock-out version of “The Star Spangled Banner” with a voice trained for opera. Organized Chaos from Brooklyn Tech did a striking step dance which was also a percussion piece. The Ballet Folklorico did an intricate Mexican dance, a Chinese group of older women did a graceful performance, and the Berean Community Drumline did a crisp presentation as well. There was an invocation by representatives of three different religions – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Dr. Riley of the Medical Center welcomed everyone and then came the political speeches. Among the speakers were Senator Charles Schumer, Letitia James, Scott Stringer, Yvette Clarke (who shouted out her mother in the audience), Eric Gonzalez, Michael Gianaris, Diane Richardson and Brad Lander. Myrie had had wide support from the Democratic Party, but he was hardly a sure thing against Jessie Hamilton who was a veteran with many backers of his own, including Eric Adams and many unions and community groups. Diana Richardson revealed that when Zellnor came to her, she advised him not to run. She told him beating an incumbent was very difficult and that he was young and inexperienced. However, when Myrie did decide to run, she was one of his biggest supporters, doing everything she could for him. Other speakers praised his courage, his hard work, his ability to get things done and his success at pulling together a formidable group of committed volunteers.

At last came the Oath of Office given by Michael Gianaris, the Deputy Leader of the Senate. Then finally Myrie had his chance. He gave a great speech with the underlying theme that what seems impossible can be accomplished He also pointed out that his election was part of a larger movement, a movement to take control of the Senate away from the Republicans and get rid of those Democrats who cooperated with them for narrow personal advancement. Myrie was just being inaugurated but he had already accomplished a great deal in just the few weeks the Senate had been meeting – a new voting law allowing registration of 18-year-olds and early voting, a bill to secure abortion rights, another bill forbidding conversion therapy for young gays. Even thought Myrie is a brand new member, some of these laws were written by his office and sponsored by him. He has clearly hit the ground running, and with unified Democratic control of the state government, we can expect many more interesting developments.

Myrie closed his remarks by giving tribute to a young woman who had worked in his campaign – Shakiema Harris. The young woman had tragically died. Myrie brought her family on stage and praised her dedication and commitment and conveyed his condolences. Thus the afternoon events came to an end and the hundreds of people attending headed for home with the expectation of hearing much more from their new Senator.

– John DeWind

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