Freddie Reborn

by Thomas MacMillan | May 18, 2009 7:37 AM | | Comments (8)

TM_051709_079.jpgMembers of the Nation Drum and Drill Squad strutted down Dixwell Avenue Sunday, marking the revival of an annual tradition.

The Freddie Fixer parade, an annual tradition in the black community that stretches back almost half a century, was smaller than in previous years. But Sunday afternoon’s event nevertheless marked a comeback after last year’s parade was canceled in the wake of youth violence. Organizers said that the 2009 Freddie Fixer parade is the start of a new era. Onlookers too said they hope that the parade was “a new beginning” for Freddie Fixer.

Parade organizer Doug Bethea said that 50 different organizations participated in this year’s parade. He acknowledged that it was “a little bit smaller than previous years,” with only two drum and drill squads. (Click the play arrow to see them perform.) The parade also included several motorcycle clubs, an SUV club, a little league, local dignitaries, and members of the New Haven police and fire departments.

TM_051709_024.jpgThe Parade began in the early 1960s, when Dixwell activist Ed Grant began organizing local residents to turn out in force and literally sweep the streets clean, giving birth to a symbolic neighborhood improver, Freddie Fixer. The parade is traditionally preceded by a week of community clean-up events.

The event had been troubled in recent years by gang violence coinciding with the parade, which travels a route down Dixwell Avenue, from Morse Street past the Dixwell Q House. The 2008 parade was canceled due partly to the threat of youth violence. The parade used to continue to the Green; this year it stopped at the Q House on Dixwell.

Sunday’s parade went off without incident, according to Dixwell top cop Lt. Anthony Duff. “It turned out very well, from a policing standpoint,” he said. (There was one Freddie-related incident: a bust of out-of-town dirt bikers who said they had showed up for the parade.)

TM_051709_026.jpgThe marching started at 1 p.m. , headed up by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and state Attorney General Dick Blumenthal. Mayor John DeStefano, Police Chief James Lewis, State Sen. Toni Harp, Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield, Hill Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks and a contingent of Firebirds were also at the front of the parade.

TM_051709_018.jpgMasons marched in their dress aprons.

Members of the High Rollaz SUV club, based in Brooklyn, rolled through in tight formation, with their subwoofers competing thumping various basslines.

TM_051709_046.jpgThere were a handful of motorcycle clubs in the parade, including the Presidents.

TM_051709_042.jpgBig Tone was in the rear guard position, riding a flaming dragon motorcycle.

TM_051709_053.jpgThe parade included two different drum and drill squads. The first was Waterbury’s Berkeley Knights, dressed in gold and black.

TM_051709_072.jpgLater came New Haven’s own champions, the Nation Drum and Drill Squad, in purple and black. The Nation squad included a division of six-, seven- and eight-year-olds, known as The Midgets (pictured at top).

TM_051709_094.jpgAt the end of the line, after a big NHFD ladder truck, two street cleaning machines were staying true to the parade’s roots by sweeping up Dixwell Avenue.

After the parade had passed by, two gentlemen named Jim and Woody reflected on the rebirth of Freddie, standing in front of the Mt. Hope Temple Church.

“It was a little short,” said Woody, who was surprised that the parade was over already.

TM_051709_095.jpg“It was really short,” agreed Jim. He said that it was the smallest of the 43 Freddie Fixer parades that he had seen.

TM_051709_096.jpgFurther up Dixwell, Jeff (at right in photo) had set up a grill with a friend next to the Reliable Liquor Shoppe. The two men also expressed surprise that the parade was over so soon.

“But you got to stay behind it,” said Jeff, expressing his support for the return of Freddie. “Everything goes in cycles.”

“It used to take two hours to go by,” said Walter Hammie (at left in photo), owner of Reliable Liquor, which celebrated its 34th year on Saturday. The parade had passed by in less than 45 minutes.

Hammie, a Dixwell native, recalled the first Freddie Fixer Parade, which he said was marshaled by none other than Jackie Robinson. “I remember it very well,” Hammie said. “It gave the parade national exposure.”

The Freddie Fixer Parade used to draw people and bands from as far away as Virginia and Canada, Hammie said. “This is what my generation was used to.”

The reason that the parade has gotten so small, Hammie said, is that the organizers “got away from their base.”

In the beginning, Hammie explained, the parade was funded by collecting small donations door-to-door from members of the local community. As the parade grew, the parade won sponsorship from local corporations and stopped collecting from neighborhood residents. Then, when there was trouble with violence, the corporations pulled out and the parade no longer had the local network of support.

Even if the 2009 Freddie Fixer Parade is just a shadow of its former self, when “thousands of people” lined Dixwell Avenue, Hammie was hopeful about the parade’s renaissance. “Maybe it’s a new beginning,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll recapture the vision.”

Hammie suggested enlisting a contemporary black celebrity to lead the parade, as Jackie Robinson did. Michael Jordan would be good, Hammie said. Barack Obama would be better.

Contacted by phone after the parade, organizer Doug Bethea acknowledged that the parade was “a little bit smaller” this year.

“This is the start of a new regime,” he said. The parade had a new president and a new committee, Bethea explained. “Next year it’ll be bigger.”

Bethea said that the parade was put together in just five weeks, with the support of the city, the teachers union, the Community Foundation, and local barber shops and churches. He was pleased that there had been no fights or violence this year. “It was beautiful.”

“We’re marching towards a better future in the inner city,” he said.







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Comments

Posted by: Streever | May 18, 2009 11:56 AM

That's really great, and defitely inspiring. The city is doing the right thing supporting this parade--be the change you want to see in the world.

Thanks to the organizers & the neighborhoods for putting this together & patiently approaching City Hall & doing what it took to get it together! This is what our City needs.

Posted by: norton street | May 18, 2009 1:43 PM

i mad i was unable to attend. hopefully next year.

as a kid, the parade always seemed huge, more recently, its appeared to be smaller. i dont know if thats true or just perception. i hope to see the parade grow and become a much larger cultural event with booths, tables, activities, etc. it could be a real asset to the community.

Posted by: citysavior [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 18, 2009 8:08 PM

good to see the Freddie return. But what role do motorcycles have if according to another story motorcycles are traveling in from out of state to drive around in a reckless manner? hopefully the Fixer's new committee will weed out the motorcycles and let the floats,drill teams and bands play on.

Posted by: robn | May 18, 2009 8:58 PM

Kudos to Rep DeLauro for once again, boldly busting a super-bad Italian black leather Serpico jacket!

You go girl!

Posted by: Alexs | May 19, 2009 3:07 AM

A big congrats to Dougie for all his hard work. He never gives up. We need more men out there pitching in like he does. Also congrats to Atty Gen Blumenthal for coming. He has done a lot for children of color including helping rescue Highville Charter School.

Posted by: Answer | May 19, 2009 6:24 PM

Alexs-
Dougie was not the person that put this together. The person that should get the applause and he was not stated at all in this articles is parade president, Maurice Smith. He is the one that organized the whole thing and got everyone together. Dougie came in at the last minute like he always does and tries to get publicity. I worked with them and Maurice was behind everything. I'm surprised he didnt even get one mention in the NHI!

Posted by: robn | May 19, 2009 8:37 PM

I have an example of the importance of context. If you heard me say, "Hey Ho! Lets Go!", what would you think I was talking about?

Posted by: dougies daughter | May 20, 2009 11:43 AM

its funny that even though my dad (dougie) does do so much for his community by having a non profit organization such as his drill team around for 20 years he still has a million & one haters... but big ups 2 all of you.. like alexis said congrats to my dad & we do need more men like him around he never tried to steal anyones shine as you can see viz the article he was contacted he didnt contact them.. he doesnt need publicity it follows him trust me i see it first hand... im my fathers biggest supporter.. i not only thank him for having me be a part of his drill team for 15 years but for allowing me to see places in this world that if it had not been for him a lil black girl like me would have never gotten to see.. i think im backed by many youth in new haven that have ever came in contact with douglas bethea when i say thank you for all that you do for us... & lets continue to build eachother up instead of tearing eachother down

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