As the clock struck 12 at the ball, there was no glass slipper breaking.
Instead, people heard the shattering of a glass ceiling.
It was in fact earlier in the evening Saturday when the belle of the ball, Mayor Toni Harp, entered an airplane hangar that had been transferred into a ballroom to voiceover asking: “Is that the GLASS CEILING shattering?!”
Members of the Governor’s Foot Guard accompanied Harp as she glided down a red carpet and toward the main stage to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” For the crowd of 1,300 well-wishers, the election of New Haven’s 50th mayor, and its first female chief executive, meant that a glass ceiling had indeed shattered, leaving the night sky – and the city of New Haven – wide open to a term of possibilities.
Throughout the night people kept talking about that erstwhile ceiling.
Held Saturday evening in an elaborately decorated hangar at Tweed New Haven Airport, the inaugural ball honored not just Harp, but newly elected City/Town Clerk Michael B. Smart and New Haven’s Board of Alders.
“I am so excited that the city of New Haven has its first female and African-American mayor. It’s a big deal for us, and for the state. To still have to say ‘first woman’ in 2014 feels odd ... but it will be interesting to watch her develop in this role and see what she does for New Haven. There’s no question that it’s exciting,” sad Heidi Hamilton. Hamilton (pictured with John Motley) works with Family Urban Schools. She said she believes Harp will be a positive force in New Haven school reform.
“To have a woman is just marvelous,” Rosanne Zudekoff said. “It’s wonderful,” her friend Jeanette Kordiak (at right) added. She continued with a hopeful adage: “When we have a woman mayor and this much rain, it means money for the city.”
In a brief address to attendees and the elected officials, Harp described a bright future of increased jobs, better urban education and safer streets. “We are on the move in New Haven and the move is up,” she declared.
Gov. Dannel Malloy agreed. “This is the first time a new mayor of New Haven is being celebrated in over twenty years, and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” he said before giving his own address.. “First woman, a black woman ... There’s just a lot of excitement, and you can feel it out there. I’m proud to be here.”
Speaking to attendees, he added: “[Harp is] a new mayor, and a groundbreaking mayor to boot. Someone who has broken that glass ceiling.”
Chaired by Kathleen Bradley, Sheila Carmon, Gabriel Da Silva, Cathy R. Graves, Roberta Hoskie, Michael Morand, Norma Rodriguez-Reyes, Barbara Segaloff and Audrey Tyson, the ball sought to honor two coexisting New Havens: the one from which Harp has come, and the one she hopes to bring into the future. Proceeds from the gala will go towards establishing the Mayor’s Endowment Fund for Youth and Senior Programs, to be administered by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
In addition to attendees from the city’s current educational, political and social landscape, the ball featured several performers who payed homage to not only Harp, but to the city that fostered their artistic development.
”The bands are a nice cross section symbolic to New Haven – what old New Haven used to sound like and what it is now,” Julius L. Stone Jr., one of the event’s assiduously working production managers, said, referencing the choice of five acts chosen to perform Saturday night: Jesse “Kilpatrick” Hameen II with a Jazz Quintet, Slammin’ Band (pictured), The Bernadettes, Mikata Salsa and Latin Jazz Orchestra ...
... and Freddy Ramirez’s Salsa Dancing Troupe (pictured). “There’s a smattering of people too, from dignitaries to people who have worked in and supported the campaign to people who run awesome organizations,” Stone added.
“We struggled to turn the space into a party space because it’s an airplane hangar, but it was a pleasure. There’s a new vitality at City Hall, and people are very excited about having the first woman for mayor,” remarked Andrew Rubenoff, who designed the event’s layout. “She’s broken the glass ceiling, and I wanted to capture that.”
Capture it he did. As the evening wore on, several changes in lighting design kept the audience dancing the night away with Mayor Harp. One of the many who joined her on the floor was Yale’s Morand, a former city alder along with Harp.
“Toni has an infectious, gentle passion for people and for the city. Her persona and personality, that sense of unity and moving forward,” Morand said. “It’s like a nice, warm embrace to bring people together.”
Click here to see the Register’s Arnold Gold’s photo album from the evening.