By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — It was the most electrifying moment ever, at least for one young man.
“Tavon Greene, stand up!” Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker boomed to his “little brother” Wednesday in the cavernous Belding Theater in downtown Hartford. Booker had just ended a two-hour conversation about reclaiming the American Dream, sponsored by the Connecticut Association for Human Services.
Greene did rise from his seat. And he stood tall, about 6 ft tall. The 24-year old part time producer and part-time ShopRite worker in Shelton connected with his former mentor backstage at the Bushnell after about eight years of no contact. Back then, Booker mentored Greene while attending Yale Law School in New Haven.
This meeting, Greene said, was a long time coming.
Greene and his aunt, Lucille Brown, tried for years to reconnect with Booker, especially after Booker won his election bid for mayor in 2006, which led to the beginning of his national prominence. He was reelected again in 2010 but with 12 percent less than his 72 percent victory sweep in his first election. Greene would call Newark City Hall and tell the person at the other end that he was Booker’s little brother.
“They would laugh at me,” Greene said.
That’s because Booker does not have a little brother. Much to his dismay, Greene never got though to his former mentor. So he gave up about three years ago.
But yesterday during the 10-minute intermission of CAHS celebration of its 100 years, the two bonded brothers reconnected. They hugged. They chatted. Booker asked a lot of questions and gave Greene a number and email address. Prompted by a reporter to call and check to see if the number was a direct line to Booker, Greene called. And he said received a voicemail with Booker’s voice.
He was happy.
“I was trying to reach him because I missed him. I need to talk to him,” Greene said in the lobby at the Bushnell after the Greater Hartford Nonprofit elites filed in a back room for a ticketed reception. “I never did no time in jail, and you know it’s terrible there. Just for him being there, helped. He’s taken me out of that environment.”
Greene was one of about a hundred people gathered at CAHS forum titled “Reclaiming The American Dream.” The other panelist at the event included Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Community Bank ‘s President and CEO Peter Hurst, Elsa Nunez, President of Eastern Connecticut State University and Jacob Hacker, Yale author and Professor.
The discussion centered on the need for a paradigm shift on how to serve poor people.
“The old model doesn’t work. There has to be a new way of doing this,” Nunez said. “ Access to education has to be maintain…[young people] need to see successful minorities.”
Booker closed the panel by saying he’s “a prisoner of hope” and sees hope all around him. He saw hope in young men such as Greene, whom he recognized by asking him to stand and wave.
The audience applauded. So did Greene. But he felt something else that perhaps no one else felt that evening after the sobering discussion.
“I am happy. I’ve been waiting for a long time to see him,” Greene said. “I feel rejuvenated.”
The forum can be seen at CT-N.com.