NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Just two weeks before election day, Anthony’s Ocean View Restaurant was packed for the third annual New Haven Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus Gala, honoring three individuals and the New Haven Peoples Center.
The event was a welcome opportunity to take a break from the hectic door-knocking election campaign schedule, kick up heels on the dance floor, and raise funds for youth and senior programs in the city.
Accepting the community service Heritage Award on behalf of the Peoples Center, Joelle Fishman expressed appreciation for the courage of the Caucus in recognizing this all-volunteer institution which has been a welcoming space for labor, community, youth, peace, immigrant, and many other groups for 77 years.
“All this does not come easy,” said Fishman, detailing activities over the decades for which the building was named a site on Connecticut’s African American Freedom Trail. “If you stand up for justice you can expect opposition from those who identify with the one percent and don’t want to change the system,” she said.
“The Peoples Center has been picketed by immigrant haters, union haters and anti-communist red baiters. They say the Peoples Center is unpatriotic. But what could be more patriotic than working toward equality?” she concluded to a standing ovation.
Attending the Gala as part of the Peoples Center were ten members of the New Elm City Dream and Young Communist League youth groups that have been organizing on behalf of the needs of their generation. Several other tables were filled with representatives of unions and organizations that utilize the Peoples Center space, including AFT Connecticut, SEIU 32 BJ, Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans, Unidad Latina en Acción, Connecticut People’s World Committee, and the New Haven Peace Council. Others throughout the audience also identified as part of the Peoples Center community.
Other awardees included Robert Proto, president of the New Haven Labor Council and Unite Here Local 35 at Yale, WYBC radio personality Juan Castillo, and Clinton Avenue School principal Carmen Ana Rodriguez.
Twenty of the city’s 30 Alders are in the Black and Hispanic Caucus, reflecting the composition of the city. Many came into office in 2011 as part of a large campaign that elected many union members and allies to local office.
“At that time we realized that we would like to do something positive for all of the youth and seniors of New Haven,” said caucus chair Dolores Colon, Ward 6. The Gala has raised tens of thousands of dollars that have been donated to dozens of youth and senior groups.
Photo: Joelle Fishman displays the Heritage Award, presented to the New Haven Peoples Center by the New Haven Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus.