Photographer Reflects on Photo of Mayor Dinkins' Desk now in Baltimore Photo Exhibit
New York City Mayor David Dinkins
April 18, 1996, New York City
Thou has no right to judge, only view what people surround themselves with. The size of something matters, when one has to look at it every day.
Seeing a large picture of anti-poverty activist George Thomas “Mickey” Leland when I entered Mayor Dinkins office, puts a smile on my face. In 1989 Leland died in a plane crash in Gambela, Ethiopia during a mission to Fugnido, Ethiopia.
Seeing the image of Nelson Mandela reminds me of how far we as a people have come. I slowly looked along the wall at the many accolades.
The images of Mayor Dinkins and his wife on their wedding day on the shelf, made me think of how I would want my wedding day.
Sitting at the desk, I felt surrounded with love from photographs of family and friends around the office. I have a good idea of who he is from Congressman Charles Rangel and Percy Sutton. There can only be a sense of pride and respect for an individual who was the first Black Mayor of New York City.
I tap the Polaroid with the glass gravel on the desk. The Receptionist enters and says, The Mayor will be here in about thirty minutes. I replied, I need to use the telephone to reschedule a few appointments. She shows me what line to use on the telephone, then exited.
Thirty minutes have passed and I am pacing in front of the desk. I exit and walk up to the Receptionist’s desk. It was apparent in her expression that she thought I was upset. It was enough for me that she knew any normal person would see this as disrespectful, but I was calm. In my travel, it has never been beneficial to get upset. The telephone rang. As she picked up the receiver I walked down the hallway. Just before I entered the office she shouted, He is a few blocks away. I turned and replied graciously, Thank you.
My assistant lies across the sofa. I look at a framed picture of Mayor Dinkins, Percy Sutton, Congressman Charles Rangel, and former New York Secretary of State, Basil Paterson walking down a Harlem street. Mayor Dinkins says, We all display that image in our office proudly. My assistant jumps to his feet. I quickly turn to see Mayor Dinkins in the doorway. As I approach him with my hand extended Mayor Dinkins looks at my assistant. I say, afternoon, he shakes my hand and then walks behind his desk.
I show him the portfolio and then show him the Polaroid. He looks at me and says, How do you know I want to be photographed this way? I take a moment and then say, I made this appointment six months ago. Did you read the letter I sent you? He replied, I saw Charlie’s name and agreed to the photo shoot. I smiled at Mayor Dinkins and said, If I went to my college class without my homework; whose fault would it be when I failed? Mr. Dinkins turned to my assistant and said, Does he know who he is speaking too? My assistant replied, he is right sir. You came in here almost two hours late telling us you did not read the information you where sent for the project. What would you do if someone treated you with such disrespect?
Mayor Dinkins looked at the Polaroid and then said, I’m sorry.
Link to Terrence A. Reece's web page on Mayor Dinkins.