Archive | April, 2013


Junior League of Hartford to Hold Info Session

HARTFORD —  The Junior League of Hartford on May 2 will host a community breakfast at Billings Forge Community Works for organizations to learn how to submit a Letter of Intent/Request For Proposal Process for developing a new community project that focuses on Empowering Women and Girls to Overcome Obstacles.

The event, which happens every three to five years is scheduled for at 8:15 a.m. and will help prospective partners to choose a new project in which to invest time and resources to help that project become self-sustaining.

The JLH primarily provides skilled volunteers and funding to partnership projects in the Greater Hartford community, with the long-term goal of creating a self-sufficient project that JLH transitions to a community agency.

The JLH will The League is looking for proposals for new or ongoing projects that are innovative or pioneering in purpose and a collaborative venture between the JLH and the proposing agency or agencies.

“After a year of research and input from the JLH membership and the Greater Hartford community, the League is excited to announce a new focus area that is so in-line with our mission of developing the potential of women,” says Junior League of Hartford President Sarah Thrall.  “We are confident and look forward to empowering women and girls in our community through the effective action and leadership of our trained volunteers.”


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Immigration Reform: Who’s In and Who’s Out

By Juan Rocha,  New America Media

In December of 2001, an unknown law professor named Barack Obama lectured on the Civil War Amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments) to his law school students at the University of Chicago. As he explained how the Civil War Amendments redefined the social contract by transforming former slaves, who were considered three-fifths of a person under the original Constitution, into citizens of the United States, and placed the Union on a path to being a more progressive nation, I, who sat in the audience, began to think that my own transformation from illegal immigrant to United States citizen was the result of a similar reconstruction when President Ronald Reagan and Congress passed the Immigration Reform Act of 1986. More than a quarter of a century after that 1986 act, the country is once again at the precipice of defining who is in and who is out.

The political discourse surrounding immigration reform is about political expediency—Republicans need to recruit Hispanics to the Republican Party—; the economic benefits of immigration, and, of course, border security. (In fact, the bill is titled, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Modernization Act.”) And when policymakers in Washington refer to the 1986 reform, they remark that it failed in all three categories. The current bill, with its mathematical formulas and percentages, reflects a Congress not wanting to repeat the mistakes of 1986.

But in deciding who can fully share in the American experience, a key question missing in the immigration debate is: what kind of citizens can immigration policy cultivate? From this perspective, the 1986 act was a success and should be seen a standard, not a cautionary tale of passing immigration reform; because it produced hundreds of thousands of students like me — was 12 when I received amnesty– who not only benefited immensely from immigration reform, but later contributed to the life of our communities.

The Immigration Reform Act of 1986 allowed me to skip a generation in my education. Both of my grandmothers were illiterate, my mother, who finished the second grade, could barely write her name, and my father completed only the sixth grade. Against this educational background, and having no legal status, I would have been lucky to graduate from high school. Becoming a legal resident and eventually a United States citizen, however, made me eligible for federal student aid, and enabled me to attend Arizona State University.

In college, I met students from different socio-economic backgrounds who taught me, among other things, not to protect my family from my own ambition, a quiet sacrifice performed by Hispanics students for the sake of the family. College was a microcosm of American society. The knowledge I received from fellow students reshaped my perception of the world, and was central to my personal growth.

Instead of feeling campus alienation—which is something many students without legal status experience in school—college encouraged me to leave the nest. Armed with an American passport, I globe-trotted around the world where I learned of different ethical, religious, and intellectual ways of seeing the world. I also learned about how other people perceived the same world. (In Thailand I learned that Thais think of people from Mexico as elite athletes.) For fear of being arrested by Border Patrol and removed from the country, such mobility was a foreign concept to my family. Before being granted legal status, we never left Mesa, Arizona. I now understand that immobility not only prevents a person from understanding how people come at life from different places, but, more important, leads to societal incest, which contributes to nativism.

Cross-pollinating from American city to foreign country, from foreign country to the university, and from the university to American city, I returned to Arizona to engage in civic life on my own terms; I founded a scholarship, which I named after two of my public school teachers, who were instrumental in my educational development, which I give to a first-generation high-school student attending a four-year university; I use my law degree to teach young people about the American judicial system; and write essays on public policy. Civic engagement, in short, is the bridge that connects my life experiences to ideas on how to improve my community. The 1986 act had the design of responsibility and the stamp of civic duty.

American society has changed demographically and technologically since 1986, but one precept that remains constant is the rights and duties each of us has to one another; in this regard, the 1986 reform succeeded in engendering an active citizenry. When President Obama signs the immigration bill into law (I’m an optimist), he will not need to refer to Nineteenth Century American history to remind us of this principle, he will simply need to point out to the immigrants, who are now Americans, in the audience who embody this principle.

Juan Rocha is a criminal defense attorney in Tucson and holds a JD from UCLA and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

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UConn Commencement Set for May 11

STORRS, CT – The University of Connecticut will award approximately 7,000 undergraduate and graduate diplomas during 12 separate commencement exercises taking place on the Storrs campus during the weekend of May 11-12, 2013.  Separate ceremonies will be held on May 13 for the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, and on May 19 for the School of Law.


The university is awarding eight honorary degrees to individuals who have shown leadership in their chosen fields.

They are: Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Corp. who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters  degree and who will deliver the graduate ceremony commencement address; Wally Lamb, author, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and  who will deliver the commencement address at the Neag School of Education; Dr. Ferid Murad, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree and who will speak during the Health Center commencement,  and Jerry Adler, actor and director who will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree and who will deliver the commencement address at the School of Fine Arts.

Also, Charles Zwick, philanthropist and former director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and who will serve as keynote speaker at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources commencement, and Elizabeth Shanahan, executive director and CEO for the Society of Women Engineers who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the School of Engineering where she will deliver the commencement address.

Gary Bailey, internationally recognized leader in the field of social work, and Lyudmila Harutyunyan, known as the ‘mother of Armenian social work’ will each receive  honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees during a special ceremony sponsored by the School of Social Work on May 11.


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Connecticut and Other States Seek “Best Practices” to Implement Health Care Reform


As the deadline to fully implement the Affordable Care Act nears, health care professionals gathered in Hartford on Monday to unpack mountains of data wrapped in regulations attached to the first major overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965.

This Act, also known as “Obamacare,” became a reality when President Barack Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010. If implemented thoroughly, the Act would expand healthcare access and increase health coverage, key components to mitigate health disparities, experts say.

Enrollment for the program is set to begin Oct. 1, 2013. Medical coverage is to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

Some contend this Act could significantly address health disparities.

healthbeatlogo“I think it could have a major impact of health disparities because proportionally to the population, individuals who are more likely to be affected by the Affordable Care Act are people of color,” said Dennis P. Andrulis, a senior research scientist at the Texas Health Institute. Andrulis was one of about 200 public health researchers, policy makers, practitioners and other stakeholders who attended the Institute of Medicine’s daylong conference entitled, Achieving Health Equity via the Affordable Care Act: Promises, Provisions, and Making Reform a Reality for Diverse Patients, at the Mark Twain House on April 22.

Of the 6.8 million newly eligible Medicaid recipients, about 45 percent would be people of color, a figure that mirrors the demographics in the country. Consequently, more than 60 provisions in the ACA are related to race, ethnicity, language and cultural competency to reduce disparities in urban and rural America, Andrulis said.

The work to see this ACT implemented, which will cost $5.1 billion, includes community outreach. It also includes materials to be developed for people with limited English proficiencies, low medical literacy and low reading skills. And already resistance, manifested at various levels, has begun.

In Texas, Andrulis said, discussions are centered on how to navigate the penalties for opting out.  Already, 14 states have opted out. And 12 states are undecided. Since it was signed into law, the U.S. House Republicans voted 39 times to repeal Obamacare. In the coming months, health advocates expect there will be persistent attempts by conservatives to dilute the potential of the law. Of course, Andrulis said, it’s in the Obama administration’s best interest to ensure effective implementation of this act.

To implement this sweeping act, it will be necessary to engage communities at the grassroots level, said U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-1st), who with Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Nancy Wyman gave opening remarks at the daylong conference.

Connecticut is one of several states that have already opted in and have begun to expand Medicaid. Malloy said that the legislature has just started deliberating over this “monumental task” of expanding access by setting up health care marketplace to sell insurance to about 242,000 uninsured people in Connecticut.

Part of delivering services to traditionally underserved population also includes diversify the workforce that serves them. Groups such as Access Health CT have also begun that process, according to Access CEO Kevin J. Counihan.

It’s uncertain, however, how much progress has been made toward implementing networks to engage health consumers in Connecticut. But officials said they are working to ensure health equity, a term bandied about by stakeholders.

And what exactly is health equity?

According to Medical Director of Community Benefit at Kaiser Permanente Winston F. Wong, health equity is the proposition that people in the United States should achieve optimum health without barriers related to their social status, such as income, race, ethnicity, immigration, sexual orientation and other social factors.

Such has been the case for decades, said Wong.

“If you look at the mortality among African American men, their risk ratio is 1.8 times that of their white male counterpart,” he said. “And that pattern has been there for more than 50 years. So we haven’t actually made much progress, particularly around African American males.”

Wong added that with the growing Asian and Latino populations, there is also a reflection of continued disparities, such as diabetes among Hispanics. According to a recent report, up to 50 percent of Hispanics will develop diabetes in the next generation.

So between now and October, there is an emphasis on reaching these population with new information that would help mitigate acute health disparities.

Ignatius Bau, a health researcher, and other health advocates said officials at the top must have meaningful engagement with communities of color, to not just tack their logos on websites as “nice partners” but to also provide significant financial support to have impact. Additionally, there needs to be robust efforts to inform these communities in a timely manner, not close to major deadlines.

Bau also suggested that to truly address the existing health disparities among patient centered health homes and clinics, state officials and other high-level stakeholders should consider the following recommendations:

  • Educate and engage diverse and vulnerable patients, families, caregivers about medical homes
  • —Sponsors/payers for medical home initiatives can highlight opportunities for disparities reduction/health equity, including additional requirements and payments
  • —Monitor standards specific to health equity for compliance and improvement
  • Develop and disseminate technical assistance to medical home practices  on achieving health equity

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Larson to Host Forum on SS and Medicare

HARTFORD — Congressman John B. Larson will host a community forum on Social Security and Medicare on April 28 at the Glastonbury Riverfront Community Center.

These programs are a lifeline for millions of Americans, providing both income and health services that otherwise would be unavailable or unaffordable. Congressman Larson will discuss how we pay into Social Security and Medicare, and how Congressional action could impact these crucial programs.

Judith Stein of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, recently named to the Long-Term Care Commission for her knowledge and experience with beneficiaries, will also join the discussion. Those who attend will have an opportunity to ask questions throughout the forum. The event is free and open to the public.

Who:     Congressman John B. Larson

Judith Stein, Center for Medicare Advocacy

What:   Social Security and Medicare Community Forum
Where: Glastonbury Riverfront Community Center (Community Room) 300 Welles Street, Glastonbury CT 06033

When:  Sunday, April 28th, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.



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Easter Seals’s Annual Crystal Ball Raises Over $300,000 to Benefit Autism Initiative

HARTFORD — Over 300 guests at the recent Easter Seals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut’s 26th Annual Crystal Ball helped raise more than $300,000 for the organization specializing in medical and vocational rehabilitation.

Funds will directly benefit Easter Seals’ unique life changing services, most notably its comprehensive autism initiative, which is a program designed to carefully assess, diagnose, and treat children and adults who show symptoms of autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorders. The Crystal Ball was held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown on April 12.

The evening program featured a live and silent auction boasting sports fantasy packages, artwork, getaways, designer wine baskets and more. Funds raised through these efforts enable Easter Seals to offer services to individuals who, because of financial or insurance constraints, are unable to receive treatment.

Funds also support Easter Seals’ vocational facility in East Hartford that has dedicated trained professionals who provide valuable skills – therapy, education, and job training – to clients with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Easter Seals’ Youth Ambassador, 4 year old – Riley Holleran, welcomed guests while her father, Dan Holleran, spoke on behalf of the family, whose only child has received treatment in the Windsor rehabilitation facility. “Easter Seals has taught us to understand how we must embrace the challenges that Riley and autism bring,” Holleran said. “With the help of Easter Seals we have been able to move past the guilt, move beyond the comparisons to non-disabled children, and move into now recognizing Riley as simply, Riley.”

I. Bradley and Kathy Hoffman(in featured photo) received the Circle of Hope Award for their roles as Honorary Corporate Co-Chairs of the event which was presented by longtime friends and Vice Co-Chairs Alan and Marcia Lazowski. Senator Richard Blumenthal joined guests during the evening’s cocktail hour.

Photo by Mike Musto (L to R): I. Bradley and Kathy Hoffman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Vice Co-Chairs Alan and Marcia Lazowski.

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Walk Worthy Luncheon Set for June 1

HARTFORD — Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson, Prince of Pan-Africanism, will be the keynote speaker at the Walk Worthy Brands Luncheon on June 1 at Central Connecticut State University.

Walk Worthy was founded by Daemond Benjamin to promote positivity and empowerment among men of color in the Greater Hartford community. The premise for Walk Worthy Brands derives from Ephesians 4:1 “I, therefore, prisoner of the Lord, beseech thee to walk worthy of the vocation of which you were called.” Walk Worthy Brands encourages individuals to live a life of purpose, determination and upliftment.

Organizers said that the luncheon is an effort to encourage young people to be the best they can be, by celebrating exemplary models of the best of our tradition. Men and women from Hartford and Springfield, who  have dedicated their lives to educating, inspiring and empowering young people will be honored at this annual event.

For information on how to be a sponsor for the program booklet to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of young people, please  send an email to  by May 28.  Messages for graduation, new employment, learning a new skill, starting a business, accomplishing a goal, learning a new language, writing poetry, designing art, following their dreams, etc, will be printed  at no cost.  Please include name, short bio and recent accomplishment.

Our guest speaker is Dr. Umar Johnson, a Black Psychologist and National Certified School Psychologist out of Philadelphia, Pa. Dr. Johnson is a respected author, activist and direct descendent of Frederick Douglas. His work, covers topics such as culture, politics and education, has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and video productions. Dr. Johnson is especially passionate about educating and empowering Black boys and men and believes strongly in the Pan-Africanist movement. Lunch is being provided by Sunsplash Restaurant of Hartford, CT.

For tickets contact:

Daemond Benjamin at and/or 860.881.8594. Tickets are also available at:

Tickets are $20/in advance,  $25/at the door, $10/children 10 and under. For ads and community relations contact: Bahati Benjamin and/or 614.832.7138

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New England Music Award Winner, “Rustic Overtones”, Returns to Sully’s Pub

HARTFORD — Rustic Overtones returns to Sully’s Pub in Hartford on May 4 following their recent 2013 New England Music Awards “Best Live Act” win.

Rustic’s definitive sound combines elements of radio rock and funk, Rustic Overtones are one of the most powerful live bands that you will see, ever. From the start of their career twenty years ago playing basement parties in Portland, Maine, Rustic Overtones has wooed audiences of all kinds with music exploding with character and imagination. Combining elements of rock, ska, jazz and funk, they quickly rose to prominence as one of New England’s most eminent rock bands.

RusticOvertonesIn the late 90’s, the band was signed by the legendary Clive Davis to Arista Records, and in 1999 they went into the studio with guest appearances by David Bowie, Imogene Heap, and Funkmaster Flex, and the result was the groundbreaking “Viva Nueva”.

Soon after the album’s completion, Rustic Overtones found themselves in the midst of a massive quake in the music industry when Davis was asked to step down from his own label of over 25 years. Rustic Overtones managed to break from Arista while still retaining the rights to their master recordings which were released about a year later by classic indie label Tommy Boy.

In 2002 the band took a much needed break where many members pursued side projects of their own. They joined back together in 2006 rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the music industry. Rustic Overtones are a band of pure passion and love for what they do.  In a 2013 interview, when asked if music was his passion, frontman Dave Gutter replied “1000%…My plans for after my music career? None. I plan to play music till I’m dead.”

2012 found the band with a new CD, “Let’s Start A Cult”, a renewed energy and two new members. This new CD and the continuation of their tour in Northeastern US pave their way through the future as they approach their 20th anniversary this year.


May 4th, at 8 p.m.
Sully’s Pub
2071 Park Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Cost: $10, Ages: 21+



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Hartford Unemployment Rate Remains Steady

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Since the beginning of 2013, Hartford’s unemployment rate has remained steady at 15.1 percent, according the Connecticut Labor Department’s monthly report for March.

The city’s unemployment rate is almost twice the state and national unemployment rate of 8.1 and remains the same as it was in December 2012. State officials said there was no break down of unemployment by race, gender and age.

Hartford_UnemploymentRateThose details are in the yearly report, which had the overall unemployment rate for the city at 15.1 percent in December 2012. Since 2005, unemployment in the city has ranged from 8.1 percent in April 2006 to 17.9 percent in August 2012.

According to the report, the state gained 2,600 full-time and part-time jobs in March. And job loss continues. Preliminary February 2013 employment estimates for Connecticut show a payroll job loss of 5,700, however, they also show a continued decline in Connecticut’s unemployment rate of one-tenth of a percentage point to 8 percent in February. The state loss some of its job from companies such as MetLife consolidating.

State officials define the unemployed as people who did not work, but were available for work during the survey week.

The data, however, does not veer into those people who are not receiving unemployment and who have bowed out of the job search after long term unemployment of a more than two years. In addition, those who were laid off from jobs and do not need to be looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

Experts say a quarterly report will covey a more realistic picture of the job market.



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Jazz Base Player and Vocalist Esperanza Spalding to Perform at Jorgensen

HARTFORD — Esperanza Spalding, the first jazz musician ever to win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, just picked up two more in 2013 – Best Jazz Vocal Album (topping a class that included the work of Kurt Elling, Denise Donatelli, Luciana Souza and Al Jarreau) and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists (with mentor Thara Memory) for the song “City of Roses.”

The Grammy-winning jazz phenom  Spalding will stop at Jorgensen’s Cabaret on her popular Radio Music Society tour  on April 25. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for food and drink (cash only) before the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Radio Music Society (2012) is the second in a one-two punch originally envisioned as a two-disc set that kicked off with her 2010 chart topper, Chamber Music Society. Her recording career began withJunjo in 2006, followed by Esperanza, her 2008 international debut recording, which quickly topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and became the year’s best selling album worldwide by a new jazz artist.

Attention followed, including an invitation by President Barack Obama to appear at both the White House and the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, and an appearance on the Late Show with David Lettermanthat found Letterman and bandleader Paul Shaffer proclaiming the young musician the “coolest” guest in their 30 years on the air.

The young lioness, now 28, first felt her creative heartstrings plucked at age 4 when she saw cellist Yo-Yo Ma play on TV in an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit,” the bassist/vocalist/composer says.

Spalding basically taught herself the violin and was admitted at age 5 to The Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a Portland community orchestra of children and adults. In 10 years she was at the concertmaster level. By then she had discovered the bass and before long was playing blues, funk, hip-hop and such on the local club circuit.

Changing coasts, she went to Berklee College of Music for three years of accelerated study, earning her bachelor of music and signing on as an instructor in 2005 at the age of 20, one of the youngest faculty members in the college’s history. That year she won the prestigious Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.

Besides her own touring, Spalding has toured with Joe Lovano’s US 5, performed at Rock In Rio with Milton Nascimento, played at Prince’s “Welcome 2 America” tour and joined Wayne Shorter in celebrating Herbie Hancock’s 70th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Jorgensen’s Cabaret was designated “Best Cabaret” in Connecticut Magazine’s 2011 and 2012 “Best of Connecticut” issues. Jorgensen was also named Best College/University Performing Arts Center in the Hartford Advocate Best of Hartford Readers’ Poll for 2012.

Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2132 Hillside Road on the UConn campus in Storrs. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Sandwiches, dessert, alcohol and other beverages can be purchased before the show (cash only). Or pre-orders can be placed at Ticket prices are $32, $30 and $27, with some discounts available. For tickets and information, call the Box Office at 860.486.4226, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., or order online at Convenient, free parking is available across the street in the North Garage.


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