By Mary Alice Miller
The air crackled with excitement as the line of early arrivals stretched down the block to witness Congressman Hakeem Jeffries community inauguration as House Minority Leader. By the start of the event almost every seat in Brooklyn Tech High School’s auditorium and overflow balcony was full.
When Leader Hakeem Jeffries walked into the stage wearing a dark suit and his trademark sneakers the audience stood and erupted in sustained applause.
The event represented the diversity of the 8th Congressional district. The United States Navy Recruiting District Color Guard New York gave the Presentation of Colors while Elisha Ramos and the Brooklyn Music Choir sang the National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing. The event was blessed by Rabbi Efraim Zaltzman, Imam Dalouer Hossain and Dr. Reverend Lawrence Aker III. Ballet Hispanico and STEM From Dance gave beautiful presentations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the fact that so many people have filled this beautiful auditorium on a cold Sunday January afternoon is testament to the depth of relationships that Hakeem has built over his career, from his service, the quality of his character, and that he is beloved in the 8th Congressional district.
Addressing the audience, Schumer said, “I want to recognize all the people here today who made phone calls, knocked on doors, did all the work to get out the vote for Hakeem. You are democracy in action. Today is Hakeem’s day, but it is your day, too.”
Schumer went on to say, “Hakeem and I have finished the most productive legislative session in decades that benefit all Americans. Gesturing to Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke who were on stage sitting next to Jeffries, Schumer said We made sure as a bicameral team from New York we made sure that New York did well. I am proud to say that because of the work that we have done together this is the first two years that New York got more money back than we sent to Washington.”
Schumer was the first to make a recurring prediction that was repeated during the event. “So, my friends, it is good to have a Senate Majority Leader from New York and a House Minority Leader from New York, and it will be even better in two years when Brooklyn has not only the Senate Majority Leader but the Speaker of the House, as well,” said Schumer. “When I first met Hakeem I knew he was destined for greatness. In ten years he has become the first African American to lead any party in Congress. We have put in office one of our very best.”
“Every cold November citizens of this district line up in the cold at polling places in quiet dignity. We wait quietly and vote. Americans have always abided by that decision. Now we have a group of people in Washington who aren’t going by that great American credo. With people like Hakeem in office we are going to fight that tooth and nail,” said Schumer. “I have faith that we will prevail.”
Governor Hochul said, “Hakeem Jeffries has ascended to one of the most powerful positions in our country, which means the world. I love the sense of optimism he brings to the job. I need help from Washington to made sure we have all the services our people need and deserve. That’s why partnerships matter. I can just call and say Hakeem, remember when you asked for money? Guess what, I’m returning the favor. I need money for the state of New York.” She added, “This is the kind of leader our nation is craving at the moment. I am so proud that Hakeem Jeffries has answered that call.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez pointed out that “Hakeem doesn’t forget who was with him years ago when he first ran for Congress: Central Brooklyn and South Brooklyn. Velazquez told the audience, “Congratulations for having the foresight to send Hakeem Jeffries to the House of Representatives.” Velazquez added, “Today is a testament to the progress this country has made toward a more perfect union. But, there is a lot of work to be done. With Hakeem’s elevation to House Leader we have taken a giant step toward dismantling the systemic barriers that for too long have kept Black and brown people out of power.”
“Now, in case you haven’t noticed, Leader Jeffries is quite popular. After all, he was voted for Speaker 15 times by every single Democrat in the House of Representatives. Let me say this here and now, in two years, he is going to be Speaker of the House of Representatives,” said Velazquez. “But, we have much work to do. For him to become Speaker of the House, we have to pick up four seats here in New York. We have to get out there and organize voter registration and political participation. We need to get everyone out to vote. We need to help Long Island and upstate New York, not just in central Brooklyn. Democrats must be united in spirit and resolve. No one better equipped and with more skill to keep us united than Hakeem Jeffries.”
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke said,” I think we have all seen what Hakeem Jeffries has been doing in advocating for us, legislating, speaking out against injustice. To have a front-row seat, to work with him daily, to plan, to organize is truly an honor.”
“Let me say to the people of the 8th District of New York: you have made a very wise decision, and you have continued to make that decision. And now the nation knows how sophisticated, how in tune you are with the leadership you have elected. We have followed your example as members of the House of Representatives to get unanimous Democratic support for Hakeem Jeffries, Clarke said.
To the people of the 8th District of New York, do not be selfish. I know how my folk can get: He’s my congressman. He’s supposed to be at this function, that function. He will want to, but he can’t. He has a very able staff, and they will continue to be responsive on the ground daily,” said Clarke. “We are going to need to hold it together in unity because, in two years, this brother will be elevated to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, second in succession to the presidency of the United States of America. The district needs to hold it down so that this brother can get across the country, organize, and mobilize… This is not the time to take anything personally. This is movement time.”
Mayor Eric Adams and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, supported Jeffries. When Jeffries was in the Assembly, Adams was in the Senate, and James was in the Council, representing some of the same neighborhoods.
“Hakeem has never forgotten where he came from and who he belongs to,” said James. “While you are traveling, Hakeem, don’t worry. Tish James got your back in Brooklyn. I’ve got your back. We’ve got your back.”
After Leader Hakeem Jeffries was sworn in by Judge Raymond J. Lohier, Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, he gave his remarks.
“I want to thank all of you, the people of the 8th Congressional district,” said Jeffries. “It has been a professional honor of my life to serve you in the United States Congress.”
“I am proud to be from Brooklyn. I tell people all across the country. I stand on the shoulders of some legendary figures, such as Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ken Thompson, Al Vann, Barbara Streisand, and the Notorious BIG Brooklyn gave to the world,” said Jeffries.
Leader Jeffries concluded, “No matter what responsibilities I will now have down in Washington, DC, I will never walk away from you, and I will always have your back right here, on the ground, in the streets of Brooklyn.”