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Remembering Joyce Dinkins, Champion For Children and First Black First Lady of NYC

Remembering Joyce Dinkins, Champion For Children and First Black First Lady of NYC

May we all pick up the mantle she laid down.

Joyce Dinkins, the former First Lady of NYC, has passed away, The Washington Post reports. 

Dinkins was the wife of the former mayor of NYC, David Dinkins, the city’s first and only Black mayor. She was raised in Harlem, one of two daughters born to Elaine (Nelthrop) Burrows and businessman Daniel Burrows, one of the first Black men to serve in the state Assembly. Dinkins attended the illustrious Howard University, where she obtained her degree in sociology and became a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. It was at the HBCU where she met David, and the two wed in 1953.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Henry Adams/Facebook

Her father encouraged David to get into politics, mentoring him throughout his career. Joyce, who'd planned to become a social worker, delayed her dreams until after their two children were school age. Instead, she worked at the State Department of Taxation and Finance, retiring from her post as coordinator of metropolitan affairs just as her husband became Mayor. During his tenure from 1990-1993, she served as the consummate First Lady, focusing her efforts on children in NYC, promoting literacy and arts programs for all.  

Photo Courtesy of Boenzi/The New York Times

The New York Times described how she used her time as First Lady to visit soup kitchens, libraries, and schools and was the honorary chairwoman of the Mayor's Task Force on Child Abuse and of "The First Day Back to School," a multimedia public service campaign. In 1990, she established a public school program called "Reading Is Recreation." She was a board member of the New York Urban League and WNET and had a children's book collection named in her honor at New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Henry Adams/Facebook

Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who formerly worked in the Dinkins administration, spoke about her passing, saying, “To my friend and mentor Mayor David Dinkins: New York City joins you in your grief. [Chirlane] and I offer you our deepest condolences, our solidarity and our love. Without Joyce Dinkins, there wouldn’t have been a Dinkins administration. She was an incredible woman and an inspiration to [Chirlane] and I. The light she brought into this world will be forever missed. Tonight, the city she served is heartbroken.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed those sentiments in a post to Twitter, saying, “Very sad to learn of the passing of Joyce Dinkins. Born in NYC, she spent her time as its First Lady with grace & purpose - dedicated to education and a champion for literacy. My deepest condolences go out to Mayor Dinkins, their children David and Donna, and all her loved ones.”

Dinkins passed away at their family home at the age of 89. She is survived by her husband, two children, and two grandchildren.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Dinkins.

Photo Courtesy of Kathy Willens/Associated Press/The New York Times