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Ray Nagin.
“The Chocolate City Speech.”
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin gave this speech Monday during a program at City Hall commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

Full speech from 4WWL

First, give it all praise, glory, and honor to Almighty God, the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Fathers of all religions, that same Lord God of my Savior Jesus Christ.

I greet you all in the spirit of peace this morning. I greet you all in the spirit of love this morning, but more importantly, I greet you all in the spirit of unity. Because if we are unified, there is nothing we cannot do.

Now, I’m supposed to give some remarks this morning and talk about the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You know when I woke up early this morning, and I was reflecting upon what I might say that would be meaningful for this grand occasion. And then I decided to talk directly to Dr. King.

Now you might think that’s some Katrina post-stress disorder. But I was talking to him, and I just wanted to know what would he think today if he looked down and was part of this celebration. What would he think about Katrina? What would he think about all the people that were stuck in the Superdome and the Convention Center and we couldn’t get the state and the federal government to come do something about it? He said, “I wouldn’t like that.”

And then I went on to ask him, I said, “Mr. King, when they were marching across the Mississippi River bridge, some of the folks that were stuck in the Convention Center, and were tired of not having enough food and were tired of waiting on buses to come rescue them, what would he say as they marched across that bridge? And they were met at the parish line with attack dogs and machine guns firing shots over their heads?” He said, “I wouldn’t like that, either.”

Then I asked him to analyze the state of black America and black New Orleans today and to give me a critique of black leadership today. And I asked him what does he think about black leaders always or most of the time tearing each other down publicly for the delight of many? And he said, “I really don’t like that either.”

And then finally, I said, “Dr. King, everybody in New Orleans is dispersed. Over 44 different states. We’re debating whether we should open this or close that. We’re debating whether property rights should trump everything or not. We’re debating how should we rebuild one of the greatest cultural cities the world has ever seen. And yet still yesterday we have a second-line and everybody comes together from around this and that and they have a good time for the most part, and then knuckleheads pull out some guns and start firing into the crowd and they injure three people.” He said, “I definitely wouldn’t like that.”

And then I asked him, I said, “What is it going to take for us to move and live your dream and make it a reality?” He said, “I don’t think we need to pay attention anymore as much about the other folk and racists on the other side.” He said the thing we need to focus on as a community, black folks I’m talking to, is ourselves.

What are we doing? Why is black-on-black crime such an issue? Why do our young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood? He said we as a people need to fix ourselves first. He said the lack of love is killing us. And it’s time, ladies and gentlemen.

Dr. King, if he was here today, he would be talking to us about this problem, about the problem we have among ourselves. And as we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America, he’s sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroying and putting stress on this country. Surely he’s not approval of us being in Iraq under false pretense. But surely he is upset at black America, also. We’re not taking care of ourselves. We’re not taking care of our women. And we’re not taking care of our children when you have a community where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent.

We ask black people — it’s time. It’s time for us to come together. It’s time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don’t care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.

This city will be a majority African-American city. It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way; it wouldn’t be New Orleans. So before I get into too much more trouble, I’m just going to tell you in my closing conversation with Dr. King, he said, “I never worried about the good people — or the bad people I should say — who were doing all the violence during civil rights time.” He said, “I worried about the good folks that didn’t say anything or didn’t do anything when they knew what they had to do.”

It’s time for all of us good folk to stand up and say “We’re tired of the violence. We’re tired of black folks killing each other. And when we come together for a secondline, we’re not going to tolerate any violence.” Martin Luther King would’ve wanted it that way, and we should. God bless all.

Text prepared by:


Nagin, C Ray. Full Video of Nagin's Chocolate City Speech. 4WWL, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 18 Jan. 2021. <https:// www.wwltv.com/ video/ news/ local/ full-video-of-nagins-chocolate-city-speech/289-1329596>.

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