By Carol Yost
The whole city mourns the loss of David Dinkins, our first and, so far, the only Black New York City Mayor (1990-93). He was 93 years old. His wife Joyce passed away just one month earlier. He is survived by their two children, David Jr. and Donna.
He had already survived major heart surgeries and bouts of pneumonia over the years.
He was noted for his gentlemanly, calm demeanor, and a relief after the loud theatrics of his predecessor Ed Koch’s three terms. He began his term with a city hopeful for change toward justice for people of color and the poor.
Unfortunately, he had trouble trying to contain the racial violence and crime that increased during his term, although certainly he had not caused it. Police corruption was uncovered. The Crown Heights riots of 1991, followed by harsh criticism of Mayor Dinkins for failure to quell the violence, apparently contributed to Giuliani’s election to the Mayoralty after Dinkins had served only one term. But he started the Safe Streets, Safe City campaign, although he didn’t get much credit for it.
In 1991, he marched in support of gays and lesbians in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and was hit with slurs and beer cans.
Dinkins had struggled against racial prejudice in his own life; an especially stressful experience was his being rejected after repeated attempts to join the Marines as a young man, although his persistence ultimately paid off when he finally got in near the end of World War II. He then rose up through the ranks in a long political career.
After his term as Mayor, he led a fairly quiet life, only to show up in support of the protests against the shooting of unarmed black immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999. He was then arrested in a show of civil disobedience, and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge with the Rev. Al Sharpton. He joined the Diallo family a year later in Washington, calling for a federal investigation.