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Painting Hartford's History While Honoring Black, Latinx And Indigenous Changemakers

Courtesy: Hartford Public Library

By way of mural design, performance, storytelling and photo documentation, a group of Hartford artists is embarking on a new project that celebrates the stories of Black, Latinx and Indigenous changemakers in Hartford. 

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“So we all know about Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, those kinds of historical members,” said Liz Castle, programming and events manager at the Hartford Public Library. “Part of this project was to really try to rewrite that history, rewrite that historical narrative and say that we know that there are Black, Indigenous and Latinx incredible leaders in Hartford’s history.”  

They include changemakers like community organizer Maria Sanchez, who became the first Latina elected to the Connecticut General Assembly, and Olga Mele, co-founder of the San Juan Center. But along with historical figures people ought to know, this program also hopes to inspire elders and youth leaders to share their own stories. 

Nygel White, program coordinator for the YOUmedia Center, said growing up in Hartford there were always elders in his neighborhood who created a sense of community for him. 

“I’d like to make sure that we point that out, that it is everyday people that are changemakers in our communities, and we want to make sure that we highlight that,” said White. 

Castle added that the project’s workshops are intergenerational, and participants will be documenting oral histories. The goal is to inspire a new generation of changemakers during times of racial and political upheaval -- as well as foster talents that will change the narrative in Hartford.

“Workshop participants can choose ... depending on their own interests and who they’re inspired by, and bring some of their own stories if they have a grandmother or family member or a neighbor who’s really inspired them,” she said. 

Participants will unveil two murals, in the North End and South End of Hartford, by September during a family-friendly virtual celebration. 

Brenda Leon is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. 

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.
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