Thousands of New Haveners lined the street in Dixwell and Newhallville Sunday afternoon for a parade that has been marching through the city’s historic African American neighborhoods — and bringing pride — for over half a century.
They lined Dixwell Avenue to watch, dance, and cheer to the annual Elm City Freddy Fixer Parade. The parade, which had been rescheduled from a few weeks ago due to an initial rain out, featured 55 units and around 900 participants, including high school drill teams, drum lines, horseback riders, brewery founders, health clinic operators, and local and state politicians.
True to the decades-long history of the annual parade, which grew out of a local black community clean-up in 1962, this year’s Freddy Fixer brought together New Haveners across generations and professional and economic backgrounds to celebrate the proud, rich, diverse cultural heritage of African Americans.
“The theme for this year’s parade is putting the ‘neighbor’ back in ‘neighborhood,” said Petisia Adger (pictured), the new president of the Elm City Freddy Fixer Parade Committee. Adger, a retired assistant chief of the New Haven Police Department, is a two-time former organizer of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Adger said the parade is not only about celebrating the unique musical, dance, and cultural heritage of African Americans. It is also about reminding the black community of its own collective knowledge and self-sufficiency, of holding up the black doctors and lawyers and teachers and librarians who grew up in and still serve Dixwell and Newhallville.
“Everything we need in the black community is all right here,” she said.
Before the official start of the parade just after noon, Adger and the parade’s vice president, Dixwell Stetson Branch Librarian Diane X. Brown (at left in photo), corralled the dozens of group participants to their starting positions near the intersection of Bassett Street and Dixwell Avenue.
Adger and Brown warmed up by practicing their step routine with Waterbury’s Berkeley Knights drill team. “I could do this for a minute,” Brown said with a smile as she raised her right arm, marched in step, and led the group’s evenly-filed turn onto Dixwell.
“I grew up with Freddy Fixer,” Brown, who is 60, said about the parade. “It’s the history of my people.”
At the other corner of Dixwell and Bassett, drillmaster Eric Green walked the Blue Steel drumline (pictured) through the carefully choreographed beats and moves they would be performing during the parade in just a few minutes.
“You are the best company out here,” he shouted towards the fired-up team of drummers clutching at their bass drums. “Now start acting like it.”
The parade was led by New Haven Fire Chief John Alston, Jr. (pictured), who served as this year’s Freddy Fixer Grand Marshall.
Alston said he was honored to have an opportunity to shine a light on the fire department, which provided a contingent that marched closely behind him. He called the parade an opportunity for public servants and Dixwell and Newhallville residents to see each other’s faces on a positive, celebratory occasion rather than during a public safety emergency.
The King/Robinson Inter-District Magnet School Marching Jaguar Band (pictured) followed with horns blaring and cymbals crashing, propelling the front of the parade on with a charging, energetic beat. Behind them came dozens of city officials, ranging from Mayor Toni Harp and Police Chief Anthony Campbell to over a dozen alders from throughout the city.
“This parade means community, love, neighborhood, and a time for us all to come together,” said Dixwell Alder Jeannette Morrison (picturerd). She said she first marched in the Freddy Fixer parade as a child as part of the Phoenix drill team. Her second time in the parade was as a teenager, when she served as the captain of Hillhouse High School’s cheerleading team. Now she walks proudly in the parade as an alder representing Dixwell, she said.
As the parade worked its way down Dixwell Avenue, the crowds sitting and standing along the side of the road got fuller and fuller with onlookers.
Stamford Rep. William Tong, who is vying for state attorney general, and Newtown labor organizer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who is running for the state Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, (pictured above) joined New Haven State Reps Toni Walker and Robyn Porter in handing out free books to children in support of the local literacy tutoring organization, New Haven Reads.
Darry Robinson said he and his son Junior came out to support the community and just to see what was going on. Dottie Mack said she and her grandson Jake, Jr. looked forward to a parade that celebrated a proud past and a better tomorrow.
“I want them to experience what I’ve always experienced,” Sharadae Borrero said about why she brought her two daughter Bella and Cali out to Dixwell Avenue on Sunday. She said she loved the food, the music, and the drill teams the best.
Indeed, as the parade marched its way to its culmination point at Dixwell Avenue and Foote Street near the Stetson Library, the many drill team participants took 30 seconds each to strut their stuff and wow the audiences with their flexibility, coordination, and bravado.
Along with the Berkeley Knights Drill Team, some of the other drill team participants included the Fusion Steppers, the Nation Drill Squad (pictured), and All Blue Everything.
Hartford’s Ebony Horsewomen (pictured) clip-clopped past Varick AME church with a crew of black and brown female riders on horseback.
The riders of the Flaming Knights motorcycle club (pictured), which was founded in New Haven 50 years ago, revved their motors in salute as they rode past the library.
And parents and children who had lost loved ones to gun violence shared their collective grief and determination to put an end to gun violence through their advocacy for the Victims of Gun Violence Botanical Garden project pictured).
After the parade had ended nearly three hours after its kick off, Adger expressed delight at the success of the parade. She said she heard from a lot of people about how disappointed they were when the parade was postponed two weeks ago due to rain. But, she said, 90 percent of the originally booked participants showed up for the rescheduled date on Sunday.
“It show how important this parade is to the black community,” she said.
Parade officials handed out awards:
The Trinbago American Association of Southern Connecticut won the Grand Marshal Award.
DJ Majestic won the Elm City Freddy Fixer Spirit Award.
The Berkeley Knights Drill Team won the Best Drill Team Award.
Blue Steel Drumline won the Best Marching Unit Award.
The Flaming Knights motorcycle club won the Best Motorcycle Group Award.
The King-Robinson marching band won the Best Marching Band Award.
The Hamden Academy of Dance and Music won the award for best float.
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch some of the parade.