Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Aug. 27, “Nia Long Day in the City of New York” during a massive Caribbean carnival reception at Gracie Mansion where more than a thousand nationals feasted on Caribbean food and were entertained by Angels Caribbean Band.
Calling the honoree presentation the highpoint of the night, de Blasio said “Nia Long has done amazing things as an activist, as someone who gave back to the world around her, and has used her fame as an actor to make contributions to help others.”
“She is branching out to be a producer. She is not only from one community represented here tonight. If you come from Barbados, you would be proud of her, if you are from Grenada, you would be proud of her, if you are from Trinidad, you would be proud of her. And if you come from Brooklyn, you would be proud of her.”
“She sky-rocked to stardom in John Singleton’s masterpiece, ‘Boyz n the Hood,’ she became a household name on the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ She became a fixture on screens, big and small. In the ‘Best Man,’ ‘Big Mamma’s House,’ ‘Third Watch,’ and ‘Empire.’ And she is someone who has taken her roots in New York and made us all proud.”
“It is my honor to introduce to you. Brooklyn’s own, Nia Long,” said Mayor de Blasio, who along with wife Chirlane McCray presented the award-winning actress with a proclamation that showcased her accomplishments.
The actress who has fought for malaria victims, advocated educating children, and worked as a tireless activist for women’s rights, is a three-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award.
“This is how the city of New York honors her,” said Mayor de Blasio, adding, “it is my honor as mayor of the city of New York to declare today, Aug. 27, in the city of New York, Nia Long Day.”
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of warmth she received from the crowd, Long fought back tears as she thanked the politician and his wife McCray, for the honor, and promised to be of service to New York sometime in the future.
“Thank you so much for coming to see me, and to say hello, thanks for the work that you do for the community. I hope to be of service sometime in the future. You have blown my mind,” she said to the mayor, before breaking into a Caribbean twang, listing callaoo, Cou-Cou, plantain, roti and other Caribbean foods her grandmother cooked for her.
The actress of movies such as “Soul Food,” “Buried Alive,” “Made in America,” “Friday,” “Love Jones,” “The Broken Heart Club,” “Romantic Comedy,” “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” and many others, grew up on Park Place, between Kingston and Albany avenues in Brooklyn.
She spoke passionately about her grandfather, a Howard University graduate, one of the first dentists on the island of Trinidad, who changed the lives of her family members including her mother, a single mother who worked the graveyard shift as an assistant to famed CBS TV anchor, Walter Cronkite.
She spoke with fondness of spending summers in the Caribbean, learning to swim, after her grandfather threw her into the ocean.
“I grew up seeing my grandmother reading tea leaves, and one day she told me, Nia, you will be a star. In that moment I knew I was free to be who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to become whoever I would become,” said Long.
“I loved her laughter, her love, her colorful spirit and her zest for life. It is because of her belief in me, and her children, that I had the courage to follow in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Harry Bellefonte, and Cicely Tyson. I realize that I stand on their shoulders,” she said.
“When they started in the business, they planted seeds, but the soil was barren, so it was up to me and the rest of the young women and men who do what I do, to create legacies to continue to inspire our communities. My commitment is for us to expand, and be our truth,” said Long, as tears streamed down her face, loud applause and screams of ‘we love you Nia,’ comforting her.
“Thank you for the love. Thank you for showing up, because when we show up, we show out, quipped the beautiful petite actress, who shouted, ‘I am a proud, Afro Caribbean woman, today and until the day I leave this planet,’” said Long, with her last son, Kez Udoka at her side.