Chirlane McCray Talks Immigration at First Solo Appearance as First Lady

Chirlane McCray speaking last night at the Christian Cultural Center.

Chirlane McCray speaking last night at the Christian Cultural Center.

Chirlane McCray made her first solo appearance as first lady last night, kicking off a panel on black immigration at the sprawling Christian Cultural Center in East New York.

Ms. McCray took the stage an hour late and spoke for less than 10 minutes in front of an audience gathered for a discussion of The Black Institute’s new “G Project,” which aims to identify first to fourth-generation black immigrants. According to the group, the country has more than 60 million black residents with immigrant backgrounds, whom it believes should play a greater role in the immigration reform debate.

And Ms. McCray, whose grandparents immigrated from Barbados, fully embraced the message, recording a video with her kids Chiara and Dante to promote the project and urging those gathered to become involved in the fight for immigration reform.

“Every day, every single day, children are torn away from their parents and families are ripped apart by severe and unforgiving immigration policies. This is not acceptable,” she declared. “Whether you have recently arrived in the United States or you’ve been here for generations, you know the benefits of reforming our immigration laws cannot be denied.”

“I hope you’ll join me in pledging to be a part of the push for immigration, both locally and nationally,” she later said. “Our very existence depends on it.”

Ms. McCray also said her family had spent some time over the weekend visiting their oldest-living relatives–her and the mayor’s 94 and 95-year-old aunts–and said she was putting together a family tree to explain to her kids “why our ancient family came to live in Claremont, N.H. of all places, with no cuckoo and flying fish.”

“Everyone needs to know their heritage. Everyone needs to know their roots,” she told the group, encouraging others to do the same. “After all, you cannot fulfill your future unless you honor your past.”

When she was done, Ms. McCray was quickly ushered out a side door with an entourage numbering nearly a dozen, including her new chief of staff Rachel Noerdlinger, avoiding questions from the gathered press.