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Community Conversations

The Two Connecticuts: Conversations about Race and Place

Series Information

Dates:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 22
  • Wednesday, Oct. 20
  • Wednesday, Nov. 10
  • Wednesday, Dec. 8

Admission: Admission is free but registration is required. (this event will also be available virtually)

Location: Sessions I held virtually only; Sessions II–IV held in person at Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford (and offered virtually)

Program: 7–8:15 p.m.

Resource Tables for Sessions II-IV: 6:30 p.m. 

Register Online

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.

Panelists

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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 amember 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.

Session Two: Housing

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

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

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.

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.

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?

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 disproportionally 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?

Sponsors

This four-part series is presented by: 

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