At the city’s biggest political bash of the year, New Haven celebrated the ways its citizens are striving to build a better city: From the elected officials in the statehouse who fight for more education funding to the high school leaders who train the next generation to the nonprofit programs that fill in the gaps.
Like the intertwined boughs of some great big elm tree, everyone seemed to be holding each other up.
The event was Thursday night’s annual Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus fall fundraising gala. Board President Pro Tempore Jeanette Morrison and the Board of Education Student Representative Nico Rivera, who co-hosted the event, sent the interconnected-city message home with reminders of the ways they’d been affected by other celebrants in the room.
Over 500 people turned out in their finery to walk down the red carpet into the sold-out dining room at Anthony’s Ocean View in Morris Cove, including Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn and Kwadwo Adae, the paint-dappled artist who recently completed a mural in her ward.
Throughout the night, three courses arrived on tiered platters. Attendees sat at sponsored tables that included big showings from Southern Connecticut State University, the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, and the Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.
Now in its seventh year, the gala has grown into a major event, just as the caucus itself continues to grow, now including 22 members out of a 30-member board.
The ticket sales have benefited nearly three dozen local nonprofits for youth and elderly, including scholarships for graduating high schoolers and funds for senior centers around the city. Since its inception, the event has raised nearly $300,000, Morrison said. She called it “party with a purpose.”
“Not only are we giving back to our community, but we’re bringing out all types of people from different backgrounds altogether on one accord,” said Tyisha Walker-Myers, the president of the Board of Alders. “I think that’s really important at a time like this when our country is being divided by hatred. We can’t allow that to happen. Every chance we get, we need to learn how to put our differences aside to stick together.”
With so much on the line in the coming elections, this year’s gala packed a particular urgency. Amid the celebration, party-goers shared their anxieties about who might take the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the governor’s mansion in Hartford after Nov. 6’s elections. Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Susan Bysiewicz and state treasurer candidate Shawn Wooden both urged everyone to get out the vote.
New Haven State Reps. Juan Candelaria and Alphonse Paolillo, Jr. (pictured with his dad, former Alder Al Paolillo, Sr.), were both recognized for fighting for New Haven’s interests each legislative cycle.
During his speech, Candelaria pointed out that his daughter went to New Haven Academy and volunteered for New Haven Reads, the night’s two other honorees. “Look at the connections here. Look how great New Haven is. We’ve got great programs and great schools, and that’s what New Haven is about,” he said. “This award’s not for me. It needs to be shared with all of you, because you make this community great.”
Paolillo, a former alder, thanked the caucus for welcoming him as an “honorary member,” and he committed to continuing to fight for immigrants who, like his own grandfather, arrive in America “with little in their pockets and so much in their hearts.”
New Haven Academy’s Gregory Baldwin and Meredith Leigh Gavrin both thanked New Haven for going along with their vision nearly two decades ago. They said they felt honored to be training the next generation of leaders, the ones who might be filling up the seats at Anthony’s Ocean View in the years to come.