Community Conversations

The Two Connecticuts: Conversations about Race and Place

Series Information

The event series has ended, but we encourage you to view the event recordings for each of the four sessions. 

Questions about the series? Contact Chris Grant. 

A four-part series presented by University of Hartford’s Presidents’ College and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, The Third Age Initiative™ a program of Leadership Greater Hartford, and The Connecticut Mirror

Series Overview

George Orwell reminded us that it is a constant struggle to see what is right in front of our noses. In Connecticut that is racial and economic segregation. This special series will examine how segregation hurts people of color—depriving them of personal dignity, economic opportunity, and access to healthcare and safety—yet also disadvantages the state as a whole.

Over four sessions, panels of informed experts will examine the racism that surrounds us, in housing, schools, and the structure of our government. Join us to learn more about the disparities that exist in our state, and what you can do about them. We will talk about initiatives enacted in other states and proposed here in Connecticut, so that all participants have the opportunity to join the effort to reduce these disparities where they live.

Session One: A House Divided

  • Date: Wednesday, Sept. 22 
  • Time: 7–8:15 p.m. 
  • Location: Virtual
About Session One

This session defines and examines racism–how it alienates, isolates, and otherwise keeps people of color from reaching their potential and being welcomed into the other Connecticut. It also will take a close look at how racism negatively affects our economy.

Missed the event? Watch the recording on YouTube, share it with others, and take a look at our recommended readings and resources below. 



Panelist/Moderator Biographies

William Tong is the 25th Attorney General to serve Connecticut since the office was established in 1897. He took office on January 9, 2019 as the first Asian American elected at the statewide level, in Connecticut.

Before his election as Attorney General, Tong served for 12 years in Connecticut’s General Assembly representing the 147th District, which includes North Stamford and Darien. Most recently, Tong served as House Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In this position Tong was responsible for all legislation related to constitutional law, criminal law, civil rights, consumer protection, probate, judicial nominations and the Judicial branch, and major areas of substantive law.

During his service in the legislature, Tong led passage of landmark legislation, including the Connecticut Second Chance Act, Domestic Violence Restraining Order Act, Lost and Stolen Firearms Act, the Act Protecting Homeowner Rights, and the Act Protecting School children.

A Connecticut native, Tong grew up in the Hartford area and attended schools in West Hartford. He graduated from Phillips Academy Andover, Brown University and the University of Chicago Law School. He has practiced law for the last 18 years as a litigator in both state and federal courts, first at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, in New York City and for the past 15 years at Finn Dixon & Herling LLP, in Stamford.

Tong is the oldest of five children, and grew up working side-by-side with his immigrant parents in their family’s Chinese restaurant. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Stamford with their three children and too many pets. Elizabeth is Vice President of Tax for North America for Diageo Corporation.

Since July 2017, Jay Williams has served as president of the Hartford Foundation. He is currently leading the Foundation’s commitment to dismantle structural racism, achieve equity and improve social and economic mobility in our region, in partnership with nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders. In his role, Jay serves on the boards of the MetroHartford Alliance, AdvanceCT, and the CHEFA Community Development Corporation. In addition, he is a member of the Governor’s Workforce Council and the Community Foundation Opportunity Network Governing Council.

Prior to coming to the Foundation, Jay served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development where he led the federal economic development agenda for the United States. He also served as Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House where he was the principal liaison between the President of the United States and local elected officials. Previously, Jay served as the executive director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. He arrived in Washington, DC after serving as Mayor of the City of Youngstown, Ohio where he helped lead regional economic development initiatives to improve the city’s global competitiveness. Prior to being elected Mayor, Williams led a Community Development Agency in Youngstown.

Dana Peterson is the Chief Economist & Center Leader of Economy, Strategy & Finance at The Conference Board. Peterson joins The Conference Board from Citi, where for many years she served as a North America Economist and later as a Global Economist. Her wealth of experience extends to the public sector, having also worked at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C.

Dana’s wide-ranging economics portfolio includes analyzing global economic themes having direct financial market implications, including monetary policy; fiscal and trade policy; debt; taxation; ESG; and demographics. Her work also examined myriad US themes leveraging granular data. In addition, Dana conducted multi-asset research and wrote publications with other Citi research teams – both US and global – including strategists covering rates, equities, credit, foreign exchange, commodities, political analysis, and asset allocation.

Peterson's research has been featured by US and international news outlets, both in print and broadcast. Publications and networks include CNBC, FOX Business, Bloomberg, Thomson-Reuters, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal.  She is the1st Vice Chair of the New York Association for Business Economics (NYABE), and a member of NABE, and NBEIC. 

She received an undergraduate degree in Economics from Wesleyan University and a Master of Science degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of WNPR's popular talk show, Where We Live.

The show goes beyond news headlines and interviews with policy-makers. Where We Live features conversations about Connecticut and highlights the stories of its residents. In 2020, Lucy received a national Gracies Award from the Alliance for Women in Media for her conversation with a Connecticut mother and her trans-son.

In 2018, Where We Live received two national awards from Public Media Journalists Association, formerly known as Public Radio News Directors, Inc., or PRNDI. Lucy and her team were awarded second place in the categories of "Call In Program" and "Interview."

Lucy has been a public radio journalist for more than 20 years covering everything from education to immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues to veterans' affairs and the military. Her reporting has taken her to all sorts of places including a nausea inducing ride aboard a Coast Guard boat in Florida and to Tambacounda, Senegal to talk with women journalists and farmers.

She moved to Connecticut in 2006 to become WNPR's Assignment Editor.

She's also been local host for mid-day programming and for All Things Considered.

She contributes to National Public Radio and her stories have aired on several national NPR shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekend All Things Considered, Here and Now, and Latino USA.

During her time in Connecticut, Lucy has focused on immigration including New Haven's controversial ID card program, efforts for an in-state tuition law for undocumented students, and the Becoming American series: stories of immigrants and the citizenship process. In 2011, Lucy launched the Coming Home Project to tell the stories of returning Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans in transition. To learn more about the military, Lucy was chosen to take part in a week-long training for journalists hosted by the U.S Army at Fort Leavenworth, KS and Fort Leonard Woods, MO. Getting up at 3:30 am to participate in boot camp was most memorable!

In 2014, she was selected to join military reporters around the country for a conference hosted by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative in Washington D.C.

Lucy has worked in several states as a public radio reporter after beginning her career at WDUQ in Pittsburgh. She's received awards from Pennsylvania's Golden Quill, the New York State Associated Press, the Mayor's Asian American Advisory Board in Jacksonville, Florida, the Connecticut Associated Press and the state's Society for Professional Journalists chapter.

When she's not in the newsroom, Lucy enjoys traveling, hiking, and planning her next garden. She and her husband, Jason, live in Suffield with their two children and a small zoo.

Helpful Reading & Resources for Session One

Center for Leadership and Justice 

Desegregate CT 

Forge City Works 

Hands On Hartford 

Open Communities Alliance 

Poverty & Race Research Action Council 

Urban League of Greater Hartford 

Session One: A House Divided, the first in our series, The Two Connecticuts: Conversations About Race and Place.

The Two Connecticuts was brought to life through a collaboration between The Third Age Initiative, a program of Leadership Greater Hartford that inspires retirees to create projects to benefit the community; the Presidents' College and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Hartford; and The Connecticut Mirror.Our collective goal from the beginning has been to expand the conversation about race and place, and now we turn to you to keep the conversation going. We encourage you to share the recording of Session One, A House Divided, and to take a look at our suggested reading and resources.

Session Two: Housing

  • Date: Wednesday, Oct. 20
  • Time: 7–8:15 p.m. 
  • Location: Virtual
  • Additional Information: Resources Links

In Connecticut, exclusionary zoning is a major element of systemic racism. Many suburban towns perpetuate the Two Connecticuts by zoning out affordable housing. This year has seen a major pushback against exclusionary zoning in the General Assembly and the courts. This session looks at the battle for affordable housing in the suburbs and for improved housing in cities.

Missed the event? Watch the recording on YouTube and share it with others. 


Panelist/Moderator Biographies

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas is an investigative reporter with Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project.

During the nearly 12 years that she worked at The Connecticut Mirror, she uncovered a host of issues facing the state’s education, criminal justice, child welfare, and housing systems.

She has won two national awards for investigative reporting from the Education Writers Association; first in 2012 for uncovering hefty pay raises and extended vacations for top officials at the state’s public college system, and then in 2020 for exposing the obstacles that prevent poor people from finding decent housing. Her ongoing coverage of housing inequality – co-published with ProPublica -- also won the investigative award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association in 2019 and 2020. She was part of the team that won the NENPA Publick Occurrences Award in 2020 for coverage of the COVID crisis in CT nursing homes.

In 2012, she was named the nation’s top education beat reporter and in 2016 was the runner up for the national award for single topic news coverage for a series on school funding disparities (and certain legislators landing earmarks for their districts). In 2018, she won the Theodore Driscoll Award for Investigative Reporting from the Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists for a deep dive into the substandard health care being provided to prisoners.

Jacqueline’s reporting has appeared in ProPublica, Mother Jones, Long Reads, and daily newspapers across Connecticut.

Jacqueline also has been a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. She has worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press.

Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

When she's not in the newsroom, Jacqueline enjoys traveling and biking. She and her husband, live in Hartford with their two children and two dogs.

Sara Bronin is founder/lead organizer of Desegregate CT, a coalition that believes in creating abundant, diverse housing in service of equity, inclusive prosperity, and a cleaner environment. She is a professor in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University and an associated faculty member of the Cornell Law School. Bronin was recently nominated by the Biden administration to chair the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Full Bio: Sara Bronin | Cornell AAP 

Karen DuBois-Walton currently serves as the President of the Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven and President of The Glendower Group, LLC (the development affiliate of HANH) and 360 Management Group, Inc. (the property management affiliate) responsible for administrative, programmatic and policy direction of the public housing, housing choice voucher program, finance and planning and development activities.  In this role she is responsible for an annual operating budget of over $120 million and a capital improvement plan valued at $700 million. 

Previously, she served as Chief of Staff and Chief Administrative Officer for Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. in the City of New Haven, CT. 

Dr. DuBois-Walton earned her B.A. from Yale University and M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston University. 

Dr. DuBois-Walton resides in New Haven.  She is actively involved on a number of non-profit boards dedicating time to creating greater equity for those who are marginalized.  She leads efforts within New Haven and the region to remove barriers to fair housing, reverse housing segregation patterns and to invest in under-resourced communities.

She writes, "I am trained as a clinical psychologist and began my career working with children and families exposed to violence.  I shifted into public policy work because it wasn't enough to treat families after trauma, I wanted to create communities that positioned families to thrive not just survive.  For 14 years, I have done that work through Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven where we have transformed what public housing is in this community.  A stable home offers a platform from which families can begin their journey to all other things.  Unfortunately, U.S. housing policy has a history of discriminatory and racist actions and we live today within the structures built by that system.  Addressing housing policy- segregation, discrimination and more --are foundational to creating equity in our community and to truly creating thriving communities."

Jim Perras has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut since May of 2018. In addition to overseeing the business operations of the Association, Jim also represents the HBRACT before our state government as a registered lobbyist. During his decades long career in and around state government, Jim work worked in the Office of the Senate Democrats as a Senior Advisor to the President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate, as a lobbyist for the law firm of Wilson Elser and as a government relations liaison for two state agencies. Jim earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut and his Juris Doctor from Western New England College (Now Western New England University). Jim is a lifelong resident of Connecticut and currently resides in South Windsor with his wife and daughter.

Helpful Reading & Resources for Session Two

Session Two: Housing, the second in our series, The Two Connecticuts: Conversations About Race and Place.

The Two Connecticuts was brought to life through a collaboration between The Third Age Initiative, a program of Leadership Greater Hartford that inspires retirees to create projects to benefit the community; the Presidents' College and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Hartford; and The Connecticut Mirror. Our collective goal from the beginning has been to expand the conversation about race and place, and now we turn to you to keep the conversation going. We encourage you to share the recording of Session Two, Housing, and to take a look at our suggested reading and resources.

Session Three: Education

  • Date: Wednesday, Nov. 10
  • Time: 7–8:15 p.m. 
  • Location: Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford (also offered virtually)

Once points of pride, the public schools in Connecticut’s largest cities deteriorated in the latter part of the 20th century, as middle-class people, mostly whites, fled to the suburbs. Yet schools in the state’s population centers must provide equitable education and prepare workers for our 21st century economy. This session looks at efforts to improve funding, teaching, and parental involvement, and at models that are working.


Panelist/Moderator Biographies

Bilal Sekou is an Associate Professor of Political Science in Hillyer College at the University of Hartford.

His research interests are race and politics, urban politics, and campaigns, elections, and voting behavior. Writing and teaching about the harms of segregated schools and working with groups and individuals that try to remove the barriers that block access to a quality and integrated education for every student has long been a priority of his.

Full Bio: Bilal Sekou | University of Hartford

A teacher for more than 15 years, Claudia has taught in both public and private schools in three different countries. Claudia holds a B.A. from New York University and completed her M.A. in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University as a Peace Corps Fellow. She credits her two years of service in the U.S. Peace Corps working with youth in Ukraine as her inspiration for becoming a teacher.

Claudia firmly believes that student learning and potential are best realized in an inclusive and personalized classroom environment where every child feels a sense of belonging. She has done advocacy work with the organization Educators for Excellence, which included drafting policy recommendations to the state legislature around the inequities the pandemic has magnified in our education system.

Her op-ed “Promoting Equity in Schools a Critical Goal” was published in the May 31st edition of the Hartford Courant. Claudia currently teaches middle school social studies at Dwight Bellizzi Dual Language Academy, a Title I school in Hartford.

Ruth-Terry Walden is a literature teacher at Westhill High School in Stamford. She serves on the Steering Committee of the Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Collective. Bio and Interview: Ruth Terry Walden — Anti Racist Teaching & Learning Collective

Jack Dougherty is Professor of Educational Studies at Trinity College, where he and contributors are writing an open-access historical book, titled “On The Line: How Schooling, Housing, and Civil Rights Shaped Hartford and its Suburbs.” For more than two decades, he has worked with Hartford community partners and Trinity student researchers to better understand and improve education for all. His work focuses on past and present relationships between schools, housing, and reform movements in metropolitan Hartford.

Full bio: Jack Dougherty Faculty Profile (

Helpful Reading & Resources for Session Three

Session Three: Education, the third in our series, The Two Connecticuts: Conversations About Race and Place.

The Two Connecticuts was brought to life through a collaboration between The Third Age Initiative, a program of Leadership Greater Hartford that inspires retirees to create projects to benefit the community; the Presidents' College and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Hartford; and The Connecticut Mirror. Our collective goal from the beginning has been to expand the conversation about race and place, and now we turn to you to keep the conversation going. 

Session 4: Regionalism

  • Date: Wednesday, Dec. 8
  • Time: 7–8:15 p.m. 
  • Location: Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford (also offered virtually)

Connecticut’s urban poor are circumscribed by city lines drawn hundreds of years ago, boundaries that confer extraordinary privilege on the state’s more affluent residents. Critics say it is unfair and inefficient, and perpetuates the underlying racism of the Two Connecticuts. Do we have the courage and imagination to consider regional policy-making, tax-sharing, or even regional governance? If we did, what would it look like?


John Dankosky, Director of Events / Multi-Platform Consultant

Well-known and highly-regarded radio personality and moderator John Dankosky divides his time between the Connecticut Mirror where he heads up its events program and the National Public Radio/Public Radio International program Science Friday, where he serves as a multi-platform consultant.

Previously John was executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and the host of NEXT, a weekly program about New England.

He also appeared weekly on The Wheelhouse, WNPR’s news roundtable program.
His 25 years in public media also include serving as vice president of news for Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, host of WNPR’s Where We Live, and regular fill-in host for the PRI program Science Friday in New York.

He was twice recognized by PRNDI as America’s best public radio call-in show. As an instructor, he has held a chair in journalism and communications at Central Connecticut State University and been an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University.

He is also a regular moderator for political debates and moderated conversations at The Connecticut Forum, the Mark Twain House and Museum, The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, The World Affairs Council of Connecticut and The Litchfield Jazz Festival.

Jason Rojas serves as the president’s chief of staff and associate vice president for external affairs, with primary responsibilities of administering the Office of the President at Trinity College. Jason’s responsibilities include coordination of the president’s senior management team and meetings of the President’s Cabinet. Additional key duties include arranging/managing the president’s schedule and travel arrangements; supporting the president’s speaking engagements; assisting the president’s fundraising efforts; maintaining effective relationships with both internal and external constituencies; interacting on a regular basis with trustees of the College, alumni, faculty and staff, students, and others; and serving as a liaison between the College and the Hartford community while encouraging collaboration between Trinity College and many of its community partners.

In addition to his duties at Trinity, Jason is a member of the Connecticut General Assembly representing the Ninth Assembly District (East Hartford and Manchester) in the Connecticut House of Representatives. In 2021 he was elected by his colleagues to serve as Majority Leader after serving as House Chairperson of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and the Planning and Development Committee. Jason has also served as a deputy majority leader and co-chairperson of the House Screening Committee. He has also served on the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee and the Education Committee. A lifelong resident of East Hartford, Rojas attended East Hartford Public Schools and was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in history from the University of Connecticut and an M.A. in public policy from Trinity College.

Jason serves on the Board of Directors of the East Hartford Alumni Association and Education Foundation, the Manchester Community College Foundation and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut Historical Society. He is a former member of the East Hartford Town Council and Board of Education as well as the New England Association of Schools & Colleges Commission on Public Secondary Schools.

Rev. Y. Trevor Beauford, a product of the Florence, South Carolina county public schools, holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC and a Master’s of Divinity from the Howard University School of Divinity. Since Dec 25, 2016, Rev. Beauford has served as the Senior Pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Hartford, Connecticut. Prior to his appointment as Pastor, he served on the Pastoral Leadership Team of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina under the leadership of Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr.

Union Baptist Church, one of Hartford’s oldest and most prestigious churches, serves God and community through acts of Love. Under Rev. Beauford’s leadership,Union in addition to growing spiritually and in membership, Union continues its weekly breakfast ministry and Food Share programs, serving over 3000 families with food and support. Rev. Beauford inaugurated the Lean in Weekend, giving over 100 hours of service over a weekend and the Hashtag Lunch Bag event, providing over 250 boxed meals to the community.

Rev. Beauford is active in the American Baptist Churches USA, American Baptist Churches of Connecticut and served as the former National Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the American Baptist Home Mission Society. He is an international leader with the Lott Carey Baptist Convention, leading short-term foreign mission experiences as well as the former team leader for the International Youth Department. Rev. Beauford also serves in the community as a member of the Board of Directors of Compass Youth Collaborative, Capital Community College Foundation and serves on the Hartford Promise Zone Education Committee. A member of Leadership Greater Hartford, Rev. Beauford is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., currently active with the Beta Sigma Lambda chapter in Hartford. He remains committed to youth and education as a volunteer in Hartford Public Schools and the BSL Education Foundation. As a former school teacher, educational consultant, activist, and counselor, Rev. Beauford believes “the Gospel of Jesus Christ motivates us to not only be spiritually empowered but civically minded. We are called and commissioned to preach the liberation of Jesus Christ for the mind, body, and spirit. There can be no gospel without social justice; there can be no effective social justice without the Gospel.”

Tom Condon writes about urban and regional issues for the Connecticut Mirror, including planning, transportation, land use, development and historic preservation. These were among his areas of interest in a 45-year career as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for The Hartford Courant. Tom has won dozens of journalism and civic awards, and was elected to the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2016. He is a native of New London, a graduate of The University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut School of Law, and is a Vietnam veteran.

Helpful Reading & Resources for Session Four

Session 4: Regionalism

The Two Connecticuts was brought to life through a collaboration between The Third Age Initiative, a program of Leadership Greater Hartford that inspires retirees to create projects to benefit the community; the Presidents' College and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Hartford; and The Connecticut Mirror. Our collective goal from the beginning has been to expand the conversation about race and place, and now we turn to you to keep the conversation going. 

More about the Series

The Two Connecticuts can be measured statistically. Nearly 70 percent of Black residents live in just 12 municipalities.

Also, people of color suffered disproportional higher rates of Covid-19 illness and death over the past 15 months, Black-owned businesses took a much harder hit than white-owned businesses, Black and Latinx children suffered more severe educational setbacks, and Blacks had to endure police violence in many cities across the country, incidents that gave emphasis to the Black Lives Matter movement.

And yet, Black and Latinx communities provided countless front-line workers in health care, retail, shipping, and other fields essential to getting everyone through the pandemic. Are front-line workers not owed more than a sign on the lawn?


This four-part series is presented by: 



Banner Image Photo Credit: Connecticut Historical Society Collection (1988.142.3)