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New Orleans at 300 

LaToya Cantrell

May 7, 2018 –  Mahalia Jackson Theater, New Orleans LA


Thank you and welcome.

To all of my fellow leaders and elected officials.

Thank you to my family, and to each and every friend, every supporter, every voter and every resident— for putting me right here in this moment, right now.

Wow. New Orleans: you look good at 300.

New Orleans: WE look good at 300.

And we broke every kind of glass ceiling and color line and old outdated rule about who’s supposed to be Mayor, about what that Mayor is supposed to look like and where he was supposed to be born.

It tells me that each and every one of you took a good hard look at where we are, where we want to be, and how we want to get there, and you put your faith in me.

And we made history.

Because after 300 years, it’s about damn time a woman ran things for a change!

You did that. And don’t for one minute think that you didn’t do it on purpose. It was intentional.

And I like that.

I like intentional because it’s thoughtful. It’s reflective.

Being intentional is absolutely key to what our new administration is going to be all about. We’re going to do things with purpose. We’re going to do things that matter. And we’re going to do things that make some people uncomfortable.

But we’re going to do them together.

Over the last few months, I’ve been told more times than I can count: “Good Luck!”

All right, I’ll take it!

But I am here today to tell you that luck simply isn’t good enough.

It’s not just me and ‘good luck’ that will fix our city. We are going to have to fight the battles that must be fought. We have to stand up to our challenges and face them together, with bravery, hope, trust, respect and love.

We are ready to do whatever it takes to do right by our city. We are ready to spread the love to every person, black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men, women, and everyone in between.

We may be a little different, but truly – I can say this now – we are WOKE people. We Are WOKE.

And there’s a lot of hope. There’s a lot of hope in this room. As I look at my little LaToyas that dressed up for black history month. There’s a lot of hope and I see it on the faces in this room. There’s a lot of hope in the bones of this city, and there’s a lot of hope expressed in the simple, surprising fact of my election as your Mayor. And there’s magic in that.

Of course, we all know, there is no magic wand.

There’s only us. There’s only you, and me, and the work we have before us.

And make no mistake: the task is great. It’s an awesome responsibility we are taking on together.

We are taking on the challenge of moving forward into the next 300 years of life in New Orleans:

— at a time when the political climate demands that major urban leaders step up;

— at a time when the environmental climate is threatening our livelihoods and our very lives so much faster than ever imagined, adding additional strain on our infrastructure;

–at a time when the financial climate sees growing success and investment in our city, but when far too many are still being left behind;

— when in a city that is over 60% African-American, over 92% of commercial and private construction contract dollars go to white owned firms

— at a time when regional cooperation is not optional, it is vital. New Orleans is interconnected to all of our regional partners, and we will be intentional about strengthening those bonds

— at a time when we’re fighting back obstacles on every front— when the opioid epidemic is outracing gun violence to claim more lives in our city than at any time in history since we started tracking it.

I lived through the crack cocaine epidemic, and I saw it decimate our families, and our cities. We cannot stand by and sit still and keep trying the same old tired ways while lives are being lost and families are being torn apart.

And that’s a lot to fix.

Remember, no magic wand.

The magnitude and severity of the challenges we face today means that I need your help.

It can’t be just me. It’s got to be we.

There is only one way we can make this city better, only one way we can continue to embrace and expand the progress we have made— we must do it together.

And for that to happen, you have to be willing to try. And you have to be ready to believe.

We have to step up to the challenge of moving forward together

The key to that future is you.

Each one of you holds the key in your hands. Each one of you holds the power and the commitment we need to move our city forward in our hearts.

You have to know and to believe in your heart that ‘tough love’ is different than just ‘tough’.

But we are here today, at a historic moment, not to look back at the 300 years behind us— but to look forward, to the days and years ahead that each one of us is shaping. And making it not about how the world views us at 300, but how we see ourselves, one another. Worthy of a clean city. Worthy of good paying jobs and opportunities. Worthy of quality affordable housing, and I can go on and on because you deserve it.

Today is the beginning. Today is the first day of what’s next— the first day of a new era for our City. A City open to all.

A city that embraces everyone, and gives every one of her children a chance— and a second chance, and maybe even a third or fourth chance after that, because we don’t give up on each other.

You don’t quit on your families, and we – we are not going to quit on you. We are going to embrace all families, regardless of what that family looks like.

We talk about how much we love our city. We talk about it. But I am calling upon each one of you, on every New Orleanian within the sound of my voice, to speak out— and show the same love for the people of our city

We must value and embrace every single person: regardless of our special needs, regardless of how we got here, regardless of who we love.

We are going to be intentional. And we are going to be inclusive. And we are going to move New Orleans forward, together.

Each of your lives will be impacted, no matter who you are. But each one of us has a stake and a vested interest in seeing this city succeed.

I want to show you what I care about. Who I care about.

I care about where you live, and how you live and I want to make sure that you and your family have the chance to thrive, not just survive.

We are people of substance, stamina and determination. How undeterred we are about the challenges we face!

Some people see us as a city of parties, food and parades. But no matter where you go in this nation or around the world, everyone talks about the resolve of the people of New Orleans.

This moment of history we are sharing today, really— is your moment more than it is mine. As we step together into this new era, we step into the beginning of something new, we are embracing the promise of something better, for everyone.

It may look like I’m up here alone, but make no mistake – I’m up here right now standing on the shoulders of every person who made their voices heard and made their choice clear.

I am uplifted by every one of you who saw what needed to be done, and who worked so hard to support moving New Orleans forward, together.

Thank you to my family,

I vow to each of you, standing here today before God allmighty: I will spend every breath and every moment of the next four years proving you made the right choice.

I love you. I thank you. God bless you. God bless America. And God bless the City of New Orleans!