August 17, 2022
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Commits $8 Million for Upgrades to Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Commits $8 Million for Upgrades to Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

State Funding Will Invest in Repairs and Improvement for Renowned Research Library and Center of Black Culture

Announcement Comes During Harlem Week, a Weeklong Celebration of Historic Neighborhood and Culture

Governor Hochul: "This is more than a facelift of a building. It is putting the best face forward to the rest of the world about the pride that we all feel, not just here in Harlem, but as a state, that this is right here in our midst. These treasures are ours in this beautiful treasure chest. And now this is not just what we're doing physically, but it's also an investment in our history, in our culture. We'll continue to support this. Talk about how Black culture has shaped the American story and honor this rich heritage."

Hochul: "To the keepers of the flame of learning in our libraries, I salute all of you. I salute all of you and let's make this a more accessible place where you want to be. So, we make this building look beautiful and welcoming and a place where people want to be. We're going to be sharing that same flame. The one that torched a passion in me toward public service. I want that to happen to other young people."

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the commitment of $8 million for improvements to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The funding, which is being administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, will enable the refurbishment of the building façade, replacement of windows and roof, and will allow for safety enhancements and energy-saving improvements. DASNY will also provide design services and construction management for the project. This announcement comes during Harlem Week, an annual celebration of Harlem's wide ranging culture and history.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Great to be back here. I know this community well, and one of my early ambassadors was none other than, Hazel Dukes, who made sure I went to all the right restaurants, and met the people and just went to the churches. And all of a sudden, like everyone else said, "How come she spends all her time in Harlem?"

So, but I love it here. I really do. There's an incredible vibe here. A sense of history, a story that needs to be told beyond the borders of this community, but also just the people of today and how you've risen up, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic that took so many people down in such a harsh, cruel way.

And so, celebrating Harlem Week is really putting an exclamation point on a community we know and love, but also after what we've been through to be able to just open up the doors of the businesses, and the arts and culture and say resoundingly, "We are back." And that is a powerful, powerful testament. And I cannot think of a better place to be right here and right now than at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This is an institution which is renowned. You don't realize you walk past - oh, this is really nice to have here. I got my library card. I can look at - the whole world talks about this place because they know that we have over 11 million items available to study and research and know the past, but as a precursor to the future.

So, the Black experience says it was created here in Harlem, is a story that people want to know about. And we're so honored to have this right here in Harlem. So, it's not just the heart of Black culture, but it is defining part of New York culture right here. And that is what we have to recognize. And yes, Harlem tells the story of the Black experience in America, but there are so many different chapters.

You know, I was not long ago at the Mother AME Zion Church, and to think about the fact that this was founded as an abolitionist church in 1790. And people came there and talked about challenging the status quo, saying this is not okay that we enslaved fellow human beings, and people like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were members and played a critical role in the underground railroad. And some of you may not know I'm not from Harlem, I'm from upstate. But also, those are two people that changed the story of New York elsewhere as well. I've been to the Equal Rights Heritage Center right in the community where Harriet Tubman lived her last 50 years. She lived there for 50 years. And what did she do? She was worried about the Black soldiers who'd fought in the Civil War, who could not go back home again. So, she founded a home for these individuals to live in.

So, a powerful story that really started here in Harlem and spread. Spread throughout the state and the same with Frederick Douglass, who I've been to his gravesite many times in Rochester. So, these are just icons of the story and it all started right here. Langston Hughes, whose words and narrative helped spark the Harlem Renaissance. Bebop was born here. Jazz took a new form here. You know, people look here for just a sense of energy and electricity that Harlem has always been known for. So, this is truly a very special place.

And Arturo Alfonso Schomburg knew this very well. He wasn't born here, he was born in Puerto Rico. And he remembered that there were no notable teachings about the African story, that there were no great achievements. His mother was Black, and he didn't know the story of his family and he was in search of that. So that led him to a lifelong pursuit of collecting materials from around the world. All over he went. And he compiled a collection of over 5,000 books. I'm not sure where he kept them at first. 3,000 manuscripts, 2,000 paintings, and he donated them to the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints way back in 1926. He knew he had something special.

He knew he had a story that he had his hands around, but this would later be named in his honor, the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. And he was the curator here all the way up until 1938. And that's why, that's why what we're doing here is not just honoring the history, but protecting and preserving it and sharing it.

So, that truth is being passed down for future generations because people sometimes try to rewrite the truth, right? Yeah. Okay. Don't let me go there. There's just too much material. But we're not supporting big lies, we're not supporting the retelling of stories and sugar coating it, acting like it didn't happen because it did. And the treatment of Blacks in this country will forever be a mark on all of us. And as we talk about how we repair, and to rebuild, and to hopefully someday forgive the experience here, and this place allows us to do that. To take the truth and put it out there in the bright sunlight as it should be. And so, this is really part of democracy, part of making sure we are honest about our nation's story, but also that feeling of optimism about how we write the future as well. The future is being written right now with what we're doing. Let's be very conscious of that. So, New Yorkers will continue to benefit from this storied place. I'm so honored to be the governor of a state that understands the importance of this place and the materials contained within. That's our job, to protect and preserve.

That's why I'm proud to announce $8 million in state funding to renovate this great center - needs a little sprucing up, right? Needs a little facelift. And so, it'd be critical infrastructure, a new facade windows and the Dormitory Authority is going to begin design immediately. Also, energy-saving enhancements so we can reduce the cost and protect our environment, let's get that done. Safety enhancements.

But again, this is more than a facelift of a building. It is putting the best face forward to the rest of the world about the pride that we all feel, not just here in Harlem, but as a state. That this is right here in our midst. These treasures are ours in this beautiful treasure chest. And now this is not just what we're doing physically, but it's also an investment in our history, in our culture. We'll continue to support this. Talk about how Black culture has shaped the American story and honor this rich heritage. And as we know, because libraries aren't just where you go borrow books.

And I'll tell you, I was a little girl, and I mentioned Harriet Tubman before. I grew up in kind of a big rambunctious, Irish Catholic family. Too many kids all over the place. There were always kids everywhere. And the only place I could go as a little eight-year-old was the public library. One of those little Carnegie buildings, very small. And back then little kids could walk down the streets by themselves, cross the traffic light, and go. I used to go there and curl up in a corner. And the book that I checked out the most, to the extent that the librarian said you might as well keep it, but I didn't, was the story of Harriet Tubman's childhood. I would check it out and I'd read it at night under the covers and imagine what it was like for this young woman, a girl, who was being chased through the woods in Maryland and the sound of the dogs yelping and how she would touch the side of the trees because she knew the moss grew on the north side. That's how she found her way. All the way to bring, not just herself, but went back countless times to bring others to freedom.

The library gave me access to that story. I will never forget that because that had a profound impact on how I looked at my country at that time as an eight-year-old. How could this happen in my country that this girl just like me had to run for her life and I didn't have to?

So, to the keepers of the flame of learning in our libraries, I salute all of you. I salute all of you and let's make this a more accessible place where you want to be. So, we make this building look beautiful and welcoming and a place where people want to be. We're going to be sharing that same flame. The one that torched a passion in me toward public service. I want that to happen to other young people.

So, we're going to continue. We're going to continue to maintain this and celebrate the place where Sojourner Truth was born in our state. Frederick Douglass, as I mentioned, Harriet Tubman. Dr. King spoke here, Shirley Chisholm, all those who just said yes, we can do more, and challenged us every single day.

That's what we're doing here, you know? It's not just fixing up a building and windows and all that stuff. So, I want you to understand the significance. To me, personally, this is the first major project that I've had the privilege to do as Governor - been on the job just a little less than a year. And to me, this is transformative. This is what the role of a governor can do is to make a community believe in themselves in a powerful way. And that's what we're trying to accomplish here today. This is a community that matters. This is a building that matters. It's a collection that matters. And above all a story that matters.

So, we must actively go forth from here today and say, share the knowledge, share the light, share the flame, and inspire the next generation to do exactly what we're doing here today as the keepers of this story in 2022.

I look forward to coming back for a groundbreaking celebration. I look forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting. I've got enormous scissors. They're bigger than I am. One of those skills you learn in kindergarten, which I'm still using today, how to cut a piece of paper. I thank you for the extraordinary privilege of representing you but also for being able to bring the resources of the state to do something that I believe is critically important to our state's story.

Thank you for the outpouring of love that I felt from the people who just spoke, and I am humbled. I am humbled to be in this presence of a history, a story that just needs to be told and continue to be revealed, but the story of the real people. And we talk about places and buildings, but it's the people. It's the elected leaders today, who you'll be talking about now, but also future generations will speak of them in the same whispered tones that we honor at the names that I just mentioned earlier. So, you're seeing history unfold. When people look back and say, "How did we get through the pandemic?

How did we rise up again? And how did Harlem retain its soul and not let it be stripped away?"

The elected officials you have here today from our Council Members, the Assembly to the Senate, to our Borough Presidents, all the way up to our former Governor, who's still a force of nature. And the team you see here, these are the protectors of the flame, and you're witnessing history in the making as we continue on that March toward justice that will never end. But we must take up the pace. We have a long road to go.

And also in honor of that and to celebrate the spirit, the vibe of Harlem, it is the 48th Harlem Week. And I've not been there for all of them, not all 48, but I've been to a lot of them. And I've had the pleasure of working so closely with the team that innovated this idea a long time ago, but we celebrate arts culture, religion, business, entertainment, sports, but I love this year's theme, inspiration, impact and legacy. That's what we're talking about. That's what we're going to continue to talk about.

And so, with that, I have a chance to present a proclamation to Lloyd, but also to recognize that we also are paying tribute to the people who keep society safe. The people that put on a uniform every day to ensure that we keep the fabric of society kept together. Keep our children safe, people in the workplace and people in our subways. And I'm here to also pay tribute as you are during Harlem Week. NYPD's fallen heroes, Detectives Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora. We honor them and all of them, all those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for all of us. And so, it is with a heavy heart that we recognize them as well, but they deserve that continual recognition.

But right now it is my great honor to present a proclamation on behalf of New York to Lloyd Williams, the Chairman and Co-founder of Harlem Week. And I want to thank Lloyd for just being the face of Harlem for such a long time. And it is a beautiful face. It is a face that is who understands the power that we all possess to lift up our businesses. Why the Chamber is everything because communities, their character, their soul are truly reflected in the businesses as well. When you walk down the streets, you get that feeling. And I've had that feeling. It is uniquely special here. So, Lloyd, you are the person who's kept it all together through the good times and bad. And now we celebrate the good times, once again. Let me present this proclamation on behalf of 20 million New Yorkers to you.

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