Transcript of Mayor Ray Nagin's speech
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin gave this speech Monday during a program at
City Hall commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I greet you all in the spirit of peace this morning. I greet you all in
the spirit of love this morning, and more importantly, I greet you all
in the spirit of unity. Because if we're unified, there's nothing we
Now, I'm supposed to give some remarks this morning and talk about the
great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You know when I woke up early this
morning, and I was reflecting upon what I could say that could be
meaningful for this grand occasion. And then I decided to talk directly
to Dr. King.
Now you might think that's one Katrina post-stress disorder. But I was
talking to him and I just wanted to know what would he think if he
looked down today at this celebration. What would he think about
Katrina? What would he think about all the people who were stuck in the
Superdome and Convention Center and we couldn't get the state and the
federal government to come do something about it? And he said, "I
wouldn't like that."
And then I went on to ask him, I said, "Mr. King, when they were
marching across the Mississippi River bridge, some of the folks that
were stuck in the Convention Center, that were tired of waiting for food
and tired of waiting on buses to come rescue them, what would he say as
they marched across that bridge? And they were met at the parish line
with attack dogs and machine guns firing shots over their heads?" He
said, "I wouldn't like that either.''
Then I asked him to analyze the state of black America and black New
Orleans today and to give me a critique of black leadership today. And I
asked him what does he think about black leaders always or most of the
time tearing each other down publicly for the delight of many? And he
said, "I really don't like that either.''
And then finally, I said, "Dr. King, everybody in New Orleans is
dispersed. Over 44 different states. We're debating whether we should
open this or close that. We're debating whether property rights should
trump everything or not. We're debating how should we rebuild one of the
greatest cultural cities the world has ever seen. And yet still
yesterday we have a second-line and everybody comes together from around
this and that and they have a good time for the most part, and then
knuckleheads pull out some guns and start firing into the crowd and they
injure three people." He said, "I definitely wouldn't like that.''
And then I asked him, I said, "What is it going to take for us to move
and live your dream and make it a reality?'' He said, "I don't think we
need to pay attention anymore as much about the other folk and racists
on the other side.'' He said the thing we need to focus on as a
community, black folks I'm talking to, is ourselves.
What are we doing? Why is black-on-black crime such an issue? Why do our
young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the
face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood? He said we as
a people need to fix ourselves first. He said the lack of love is
killing us. And it's time, ladies and gentlemen.
Dr. King, if he was here today, he would be talking to us about this
problem, about the problem we have among ourselves. And as we think
about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America, he's sending
hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and it's destroying and
putting stress on this country. Surely he's not approving of us being in
Iraq under false pretense. But surely he's upset at black America, also.
We're not taking care of ourselves. We're not taking care of our women.
And we're not taking care of our children when you have a community
where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent.
We ask black people: it's time. It's time for us to come together. It's
time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate
New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever
they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.
This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God
wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way; it wouldn't be
New Orleans. So before I get into too much more trouble, I'm just going
to tell you in my closing conversation with Dr. King, he said, "I never
worried about the good people -- or the bad people I should say -- who
were doing all the violence during civil rights time.'' He said, "I
worried about the good folks that didn't say anything or didn't do
anything when they knew what they had to do.''
It's time for all of us good folk to stand up and say "We're tired of
the violence. We're tired of black folks killing each other. And when we
come together for a secondline, we're not going to tolerate any
violence." Martin Luther King would've wanted it that way, and we
should. God bless all.
Source: WWL Radio