Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday, and inaugural celebrations are being held across the country this weekend. As always, elected officials never let a good parade or festival-type scenario go to waste. Yesterday, I went to a first-annual Juneteenth event in Jamaica, Queens which attracted the likes of Chuck Schumer, Bill de Blasio, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, and other NYC-area politicians who wanted to let everyone know how committed they were to “doing the work” — much of which, naturally, is yet to be done.
Even though this event was organized by a New York State Assemblywoman and, in theory, could’ve been an exciting post-COVID outdoor celebration marking a new federal holiday, the attendance was pretty paltry. I’m not sure if that was due to lack of interest, or poor promotion, or what. Nothing against the vendors and food booths and such — those were all fine. But when Schumer et al. were up on stage yesterday afternoon, they were speaking to a crowd of maybe 50 people. (Although the crowd did grow somewhat after the politicians left, with the arrival of various child dance troupes.)
It’s a bit strange when office-holders who belong to the party which overwhelmingly dominates New York City and State governments, and controls the Presidency and Congress, present themselves as quasi-revolutionary dissenters. But that’s exactly what happened at this soiree, hosted by Democratic Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman. “I just love Southeast Queens, we have the best elected officials ever,” the emcee said, further stating that these elected officials were in the process of “fighting the power.” Her words were uttered while Schumer, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, was posing cheerfully on stage.
After the speeches, Schumer strutted around in his brand new Juneteenth t-shirt in search of the piddling few attendees who recognized him and wanted to talk. He happened upon a father who instructed his young boy to take a photo with the Senator, because having a photo with a Senator is considered impressive. Schumer boastfully corrected the father, reminding him that his proper title is in fact “Majority Leader.” A smiling Schumer repeated this correction more than once. The boy didn’t appear to understand what “Majority Leader” meant, but Schumer’s boast conveyed the message that he was an extremely important person.
Curiously, none of the NYC mayoral candidates — the election is on Tuesday — appeared at this portion of the event, perhaps because none wanted to be caught dead with incumbent mayor Bill de Blasio. At a recent mayoral debate only one candidate, Andrew Yang, indicated that he would like to receive De Blasio’s endorsement. For kicks, I asked De Blasio if he’d decided who he’s voting for in the election. “Nope,” he replied. Asked when he planned on making up his mind, he said, “by Tuesday morning.” ...OK.