Tag Archive | "Hartford Civil Rights Movement"

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Hartford Public Library to Hold Forum that Explores Past and Present Civil Rights Movements


Updated Dec. 2, 2012, 6:32 a.m.

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Hartford Public Library’s annual literary feast, One Book, One Hartford, will culminate with what’s anticipated to be an electrifying forum about the murder of Emmett Till, which helped spark the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement in the American South.

Organizers say the discussion will explore the past and present civil rights movements, more specifically how much progress America has made since the terrible tragedy occurred in 1955.

Entitled “Where Are We Now?: The Past and Present of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement,” the two-hour discussion will be on Monday, Dec. 3. with an hour of questions and answers. It will be held in the Center for Contemporary Culture auditorium on the first floor of the Downtown Hartford Public Library at 500 Main St. Light refreshments will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The discussion will begin at 6 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Confirmed panelists represents a cross section of the Greater Hartford community: Hartford NAACP Executive Director Mohammed Ansari; Senior Pastor of Faith Congregational Church, Rev. Stephen W. Camp, University of Connecticut Professor Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar; Hartford Youth Activist Yusef Kardulis; American Civil Liberties Union, Hartford Chapter Executive Director Sandra Staub. See flyer here.

The five-member panelists will be moderated by The Hartford Guardian Founder, Ann-Marie Adams.

The discussion will center on this year’s book, A Wreath for Emmett Till, written by University of Connecticut Professor, award-winning Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson.

The book, which garnered a Robert Frost Award, is actually comprised of interlinked sonnets.  A sonnet is a fourteen-line rhyming poem in iambic pentameter ( meaning it’s sing songy). Critics said A Wreath for Emmett Till gives us this martyr’s wreath, woven from a little known but sophisticated form of poetry, and challenges us to speak out against modern-day injustices, to “speak what we see.”

This book is also intricately laced with lines that lingers in one’s memory, such as:

Trillium, apple blossoms, Queen Anne’s lace,

Indian pipe, bloodroot, white as moonbeams,

Like the full moon, which smiled calmly on his death,

Like his gouged eye, which watched boots kick his face.

Organizers said they selected Nelson’s book not just because of its literary merit or because it’s accessible to young readers, but because of its social relevance today in light of the Trayvon Martin case, in which a 17-year old boy was shot and killed in February as he made his way home with iced-tea and skittles. Since the Martin case earlier this year, other cases have emerged.

According to a recent Washington-ABC poll, there’s a stark racial divide on the Trayvon Martin case, which riveted the nation. People across America, including Hartford, protested, marched and discussed the delayed justice for Martin.

This year’s book speaks to that theme of the long walk to justice in the black community, organizers said.

” We are doing this program because it’s been 57 years since the tragedy [of Emmett Till], and we want to explore how things have changed or have not changed,” said Hartford Public Librarian Julie Carroll. “On one hand, there is the terrible Trayvon Martin case. On the other hand there is the re-election of Barack Obama. So where are we now in terms of human rights? That’s our question.”

Adams, a recent Frank C. Munson Institute Paul Cuffe Fellow, said she is excited about that the Library chose Nelson’s award-winning book and was having this difficult but necessary discussion about race in America.

“Race is always on the table in our daily lives in New England and across the nation,” Adams said. “But many Americans tend to silence or sanction those who speak out about it, hence the fear that has paralyzed leaders in our community. Frankly, I was a bit surprised when I learned about this forum. Nevertheless,  I’m so looking forward to what seems like an intellectually robust and satiating discussion.”

The anticipated discussion, originally scheduled for Nov. 30, was rescheduled for Dec. 3 because of Tropical Storm Sandy.

A discussion guide for this year’s One Book One Hartford theme is at http://onebookonehartford.org/Discussion_Guides.shtml. Or click here.

For more information, call Julie Carroll at 860-695-6300.

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Hartford Politico Abe Giles’ Death Marks Watershed Moment


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Former Hartford State Representative and North End political boss Abraham “Abe” Giles was buried shortly before noon on Tuesday. His passing marked a watershed moment in Hartford and the nation.

Giles, 84, died of pneumonia on Saturday, March 26 after several days in St. Francis Hospital. And up until his death, the Georgia-native was the staunch political boss every potential politician in the city sought out before a bid for office.

His charisma was unmatched in the community.

“He put all those black politicians in office,” said Thomas Armstrong, a business owner in the city’s Northeast section, Giles stronghold. “He made sure everyone who wanted to run come to him.”

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy agreed.

“Anyone who wanted to run had to go through Abe,” Kennedy said. In 1991 when Kennedy decided to run, he also had to pay a visit.  “You could not be elected without Abe. He was the political Bishop of the 5th District.”

Tall, cocoa-skinned Giles was an unassuming man who spoke with a soft southern lilt that belied his political ferocity. From campaign worker in former President Dwight Eisenhower’s election to ward boss during the Black Power Movement in Hartford, Giles outlasted most of his political foes. His rivals included the political icons in the city’s Civil Rights Movement, including former State Reps. Wilbur Smith,  Spike Jones and other black icons during the 1950s, 60s and 1970s.

Abe Giles Photo Credit: 40yearplan

Giles once said of his rivals, “I represent the average man in Hartford,” as he railed against educated Blacks who cornered the political landscape allotted to the black community during the post Civil Rights period. And while others earned a PhD in Southern colleges, Giles earned his Ph.D. in Jim Crow communities North and South.

Born in Jenkins County Georgia, Giles moved to Hartford in 1956 with his wife Juanita. He joined the Democratic Town Committee in 1966 and was appointed deputy sheriff in 1967. In 1973, Giles was elected to serve the 6th District. And he served for 16 years.

“I always felt he belong the people more than to the family,” said Radamas Vazquez, Giles adopted son.

Vazquez spoke of the day Giles visited his orphanage. Giles had showed up to adopt “just one child,” Vazquez said. A six-year old Vazquez began to cry and said he wouldn’t go without his sister and brother, Evelyn and Harry Figueroa. So Giles adopted all three.

Giles tender heart was reserved for family and friends, including his many nieces, nephews and grand children.

“My uncle was the only politician I liked,” said Gile’s niece, Mercredi Giles, 38.

To his political foes, however, he was a politician who “only cared about himself and his family.” And ambitious reporters were only interested in alleged malfeasances.

In December, Giles pleaded guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges in the city hall corruption case that led to former Mayor Eddie Perez resignation. A jury convicted Perez of five felony charges and sentenced to three years in prison. Perez appealed.

Giles plea-bargained to avoid prison and a felony conviction. He was instead sentenced to a six-month suspended term in prison and a one-year conditional discharge.

In the past when confronted with charges of political patronage and self-serving enterprises, Giles said, “I’m not a taker, I’m a giver.”

His friends agreed.

“He lived with us, he cared for us, he provided for us,” said Trude Mero, a long-time community activist, who sometimes finished Giles’ sentences.

Former gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry concurred.

“People came to communities because they love politics,” Curry said. “Abe came to politics because he loved his community.”

His community was in the northeast corner of Hartford, bound by Stowe Village and the Unity Plaza on Barber Street. It is also the poorest section in one of the poorest city in the state.

For some who live on Cleveland Avenue, a tight-nit enclave surrounding Giles home, he was the kind of guy who would give you a ride to the grocery store, or paid someone’s light bills.

He was also among a generation who fought a nation that stubbornly refused them civil rights and equal justice. He was among the spirited who changed not just a nation but also the world.

And he was a committed and lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said former Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry on Monday at St. Michael’s Church.

She concluded: “I will never speak of him in the past tense because his spirit is with us always.”

Featured Photo Credit: Inquirer News.

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Hartford Oral History Project Kicks Off in April


HARTFORD — The Hartford Oral History Project focusing on the essence of the Civil Rights Movement in Hartford kicked off on Friday and will run for the next three months at the University of Connecticut Greater Hartford campus.

Project Director Ann-Marie Adams and a group of students and volunteers will conduct interviews with Hartford residents who witnessed the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the 1980s.

“Hartford was very much a part of the national Civil Rights Movement,” said Adams, a journalist and adjunct history professor.  “The city during the Civil Rights Movement was fascinating, and this history must be explored to find meaning in the present.”

Besides building a research library for the public, these interviews will serve scholars of the civil rights movement in the North. Selected transcripts will also be deposited in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. The project is also sponsored by the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities.

For more information about volunteer opportunity for students, teachers and residents, call 860-997-8299.

 

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