McCray at a rally to protest the closure of
Long Island College Hospital in 2013
|First Lady of New York City|
January 1, 2014
|Preceded by||Donna Hanover|
Diana Taylor (de facto)
Chirlane Irene McCray
November 29, 1954
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Bill de Blasio (m. 1994)
|Alma mater||Wellesley College|
|Occupation||Writer, public affairs|
Chirlane Irene McCray (born November 29, 1954) is an American writer, editor, communications professional, and political figure. She has published poetry and worked in politics as a speechwriter. Married to current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, McCray is the First Lady of New York City. McCray and de Blasio have two children, Chiara and Dante. As an unpaid member of the de Blasio administration, McCray chairs the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City; has led ThriveNYC, a mental health initiative; and has been described as de Blasio's "closest advisor."
Early life and education
McCray was born in and spent her early years in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her mother, Katharine Clarissa Eileen (née Edwards), was an assembly worker at an electronics factory, and her father, Robert Hooper McCray, was an inventory clerk at a military base. She is of Barbadian and St. Lucian descent, but traces her grandmother's last name (Quashie) to Ghana.
When she was ten years old, her family moved to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, becoming only the second black family in the area. Other families in the neighborhood circulated petitions demanding they leave.
In high school, McCray was for a time the only black student in her school. McCray cites this early experience with racism and bullying as part of the reason she began to write, using her poetry as an outlet for her anger. She also wrote a column for her school newspaper, in which she denounced classmates for their racism.
McCray enrolled at Wellesley College in 1972. While studying there, she became a member of the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist organization, which inspired her to write prose and poetry.
After graduating from college, McCray moved to New York City to work for Redbook. She published an essay in Essence in 1979 entitled "I Am a Lesbian". Essence later described the essay as "groundbreaking", asserting that it was "perhaps the first time a Black gay woman had spoken so openly and honestly about her sexuality in a Black magazine". The purpose of the essay was to "dispel the myth that there are no gay black people". Some of her poetry is included in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology.
In 1991, McCray entered politics. She worked as a speechwriter for New York City Mayor David Dinkins. During the Clinton administration, she worked for the New York Foreign Press Center as a public affairs specialist. She also worked as a speechwriter for the New York State Comptroller Carl McCall and for New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson.
In 2004, McCray left Thompson's office to work in the private sector. She worked for five years at Maimonides Medical Center. She also worked for Citigroup in its public relations department for six months before deciding it was "not a good fit". During her husband's campaign for mayor of New York City in the 2013 election, she edited his speeches and helped interview candidates for staff positions.
When de Blasio became mayor, he hired publicist Rachel Noerdlinger to be McCray's chief of staff. Noerdlinger later resigned her post following a series of controversies surrounding her behavior and the behavior of persons close to her.
In his second month in office, de Blasio named McCray chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Since then, the Fund has focused on mental health, immigration, and youth workforce projects.
In November 2015, McCray led the launch of ThriveNYC, a plan to overhaul the city's mental health and substance abuse services, promoting a shift from a traditionally more reactive model, which can strain police, prisons, hospitals, and schools, to an integrated public health approach, focused on awareness and early identification.
McCray published an essay in Essence in 1979 entitled "I Am a Lesbian". In that essay, McCray "frankly discussed her sexuality and expressed gratitude that she came to terms with her preference for women before marrying a man". McCray met Bill de Blasio in 1991, when they both worked at New York City Hall for Mayor David Dinkins. At the time, de Blasio was an aide to a deputy mayor and McCray was a speechwriter. McCray and de Blasio were married in 1994 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Asked about her sexuality, McCray has stated that she hates "labels". In 2012, when asked about her 1979 essay, she commented: "In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him."
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- Chirlane McCray on Facebook
Donna Hanover (2002)
| First Lady of New York City