Bertram Baker was a pioneer we must never forget. His voice still speaks to us from the first decades of black political power in New York City. He was a model in the New York State legislature for many of us who later went on to historic achievements of our own in New York City politics.
I followed Bert Baker into the State Legislature, as did Charlie Rangel, who became the most significant black Congressman New York City ever sent to Washington; and as did Percy Sutton, who preceded me as Manhattan Borough President; and as did Basil Paterson, who joined with Bert Baker in the 1960s to make the voices of Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant residents heard throughout the city. Basil Paterson later became the first black Secretary of the State of New York. We were all youngsters when Bert Baker entered the political arena, and we all stood on his shoulders.
I have no doubt that when I became New York City’s first black mayor in 1990, Bertram Baker was smiling with satisfaction from heaven. I am certain that Bert Baker is still watching, and we still have much to accomplish.