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TODAY Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

DREAM TEAMWORK MLK’s Vision Still Beckons

INSIDE FEBRUARY 2021 — WWW.TODAYPUBLISHING.NET

BLACK SOLDIER + LINCOLN’S INVITE WHITE COATS FOR BLACK LIVES UNIQUE MEMORIAL HONORS MLK


SNOW ALERT An alert doe with ears raised traverses snowy terrain. Estimates about the number of white-tailed deer in Connecticut range from 50,000 to 100,000. There are over 60 different species of deer worldwide.

Meanwhile — a barred owl (see below) perches on a tree branch. Also known as a hoot owl, the barred owl doesn’t migrate.

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LEADING OFF

CONTENTS

A Human Dream

COVER STORY

4 — Taking Stock of MLK’s Dream

Local leaders and lawmakers consider how far we’ve come, and the work that still needs to be done to realize MLK’s dream of racial equity HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

10 — Black Soldier Accepted Lincoln’s Invite

After serving in the Civil War with Connecticut’s 29th Regiment, Leverett Holden returned home to Avon MEDICAL MUSINGS

12 — White Coats For Black Lives

Medical students at UConn Health are standing in solidarity with communities of color VALLEY INTEL

14 — Memorial Honors MLK’s Valley Legacy

A unique memorial notes the impact Martin Luther King’s Simsbury sojourn had on his worldview QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“I hope we’ll really see each other’s humanity, understanding that each person is intrinsically valuable” — State Rep. Tammy Exum BY THE NUMBERS

LETTERS

MLK’s summers in Valley – 2

THIS FIRST BLACK HISTORY MONTH since the shell-shocking death of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020 is an opportunity to consider how far we’ve come as a nation in pursuit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s racial-equity dream. Today Magazine asked local town leaders and legislators for their take on the most essential issue related to racial equity in 2021. Their thoughtful responses (see page 4) are illuminating — and I hope that these officials and all citizens in the Farmington Valley will work together to bring MLK’s dream to fuller fruition. The sages say that caring about another person’s pain benefits both the receiver and giver of such care. While these issues stretch us to our limits, the sages also say it’s worth the effort. We can take simple steps to care for each other across our ethnic and ideological differences. I hope and pray we’ll move toward the true fruition of our shared human dream, one step at a time. — BWD Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley Bruce William Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Bruce.Deckert@TodayPublishing.net www.TodayPublishing.net > Digital Editions • Award-Winning Today Magazine Online — www.TodayPublishing.net/blog Follow Today Magazine CT on social media: Advertising — Contact the Publisher Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg Five Towns, One Aim — Exceptional Community Journalism Farmington • Avon • Canton • Simsbury • Granby – CT, USA • Two other Valley magazines: print circulation — less than 20,000 • Today Magazine: print circulation — 42,000+ • Ad Rates — about the same

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THANKS for your beautiful publication. We love the news you share. Leesa Lawson • Collinsville www.cheaperthanpsychotherapy.com YOUR MAGAZINE continues to impress! Most interesting always. Margot Saadeh • Simsbury CONGRATS — I really enjoy the magazine. You’re doing great work. Paul D. Grant • Avon COOKING FIRE SAFETY TIPS Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires — here are some safety tips: • Never leave cooking food unattended while you are frying, grilling or broiling — if you have to leave, even briefly, turn off the stove. • If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling, check it often, stay in the home while cooking, and use a timer. • Be alert — you won’t be alert if you are tired, taking medication or drugs, or drinking alcohol. • If you have a cooking fire and are in doubt, get out and call the fire department. • Keep an oven mitt and pan lid near the stove — if a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until completely cool. More info — National Fire Protection Association • www.nfpa.org/cooking Patrick Tourville Fire Marshal • Simsbury Fire District

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EQUITY AND RACE IN THE VALLEY

DREAM TEAMWORK

As Valley Leaders Seek Better Racial Equity, MLK’s Vision Still Beckons Special to Today Magazine

IN THE WAKE of the horrific killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020, many citizens across America have embarked on a renewed journey toward greater racial equity. Since February is Black History Month, this is an appropriate juncture to take stock of our efforts here in the Farmington Valley to realize more fully the dream Martin Luther King Jr. voiced nearly 50 years ago. Today Magazine has reached out to the town leaders. legislators and police chiefs of the five core Farmington Valley towns — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury — for comment about this edition’s coverage of our recurring series, Equity and Race in the Valley. • These five Valley towns are represented in the U.S. House by two congressional representatives, in the Connecticut House by five state representatives, and in the Connecticut Senate by four state senators, though not strictly along town lines — italicized below underneath the legislators’ names are the Valley towns they represent. D = Democrat • R = Republican • Town leaders are listed in alphabetical order by town. Comments by state senators and state and U.S. representatives are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Today Magazine asked these Valley officials these three questions: • Maximum word count for answers — 210

1 — As our nation continues to deal with the fallout of George Floyd’s tragic death on Memorial Day 2020, what do you see as the most essential issue related to racial equity in 2021? 

3 — As I reread Dr. King’s memorable message of hope, I too find hope that our country can move forward and learn from the experiences of the past year. I hope that racial tensions will subside and people can come together in a show of unity. The words of Dr. King are so powerful and the message so strong, but the line that truly moves me to tears is that “little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Dr. King’s words show the faith and hope that he had in humanity. Bob Bessel • Canton First Selectman 1 — George Floyd’s death is a call for each of us to see our own role in racial inequity and to take action that changes the social climate that allows these tragedies to happen. 2 — The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others have generated a broad sense of urgency in our society. Inaction is recognized for what it is: acceptance of future tragedies. 3 — I hope that we can judge each other by the strength of our character, not the color of our skin. With more citizens and local governments launching equity initiatives, we have the best chance yet to realize Dr. King’s dream. C.J. Thomas Farmington Town Council Chair 1 — Communication and education are the most essential issues. Only when we all understand and recognize that racial inequality exists, can we take action to address and improve our national situation.

2 — What do you see as the most constructive step toward addressing the issue you’ve identified in Question #1?

3 — In view of the dream Martin Luther King Jr. voiced nearly five decades ago, what is your hope for race relations in America in the next decade? 

TOWN LEADERS Heather Maguire Avon Town Council Chair 1 — In Avon we have strived to be an inclusive community. In the months since George Floyd’s tragic death, Avon has run programs and held forums that bring awareness to racial inequity. 2 — Keeping the lines of communication open, educating our community and honest discussion will lead to greater understanding. 4

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2 — In July, Farmington created our Racial Equality Task Force “to examine and create a plan to develop strategies and community partnerships to address racial inequality, to educate residents and to increase awareness about Black Lives by identifying areas of improvement in the community and to recommend an action plan to eliminate factors that lead to inequality.” Action items presented to the Town Council in January have already begun to be implemented. 3 — In MLK’s words, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy … to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood … to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity.” B. Scott Kuhnly • Granby First Selectman 1 — There are too many essential issues related to racial equity; we must do better to address racial inequalities that exist in healthcare, education, housing, community policy, etc. It must start by committing to antiracist practices, within our own selves and our own communities. 2 — We must continue to educate ourselves and provide access to resources in our communities that address racial inequality and promote anti-racist practices. 3 — I hope for the day when no American has to live in fear. When we can truly feel proud to be united, knowing our fellow Americans, especially Black Americans and


PEACEFUL PROTEST Simsbury residents Skip Kodak (right), his wife Nicole (center) and their daughter Josiane (left) march along Simsbury’s Hopmeadow Street with other supporters at a June 2020 rally for racial justice — less than two weeks after the horrific death of George Floyd on Memorial Day Photos by Meg Pascucci • www.megpascucciphotography.com ON THE COVER

Supporters rally for racial equity in June 2020 across from the Simsbury Post Office on Hopmeadow Street

people of color, are receiving equitable care and housing and living in communities with inclusive policies. Eric Wellman • Simsbury First Selectman 1 — It starts with acknowledging there is a problem and for every person to treat others with kindness and respect. Since the spring, I have had deep and personal conversations with our Black and AfricanAmerican neighbors and have developed a more nuanced understanding of the nature of racism. It is difficult for people who are in a majority group to fully appreciate how other people can have very different lived experiences.

2 — In Simsbury, we have an incredible group of volunteers who serve on our SPIRIT Council. I believe you can’t solve a problem that you can’t measure, so one of the Council’s first priorities is working on establishing a baseline of qualitative and quantitative data to drive factual conversations and inform policies. Another priority is holding events to encourage dialogue and understanding like the Simsbury Let’s Talk series. 3 — My vision for Simsbury is a place where all people are fully welcome and where people feel comfortable to be their whole selves. Meaningful work starts with understanding that racism is not a single

action, but an institutional and systemic inequity we need to address. My hope is that communities across the country, Simsbury included, develop the discipline to review policies, ordinances and decisions through an equity lens.

STATE SENATORS

State Sen. John Kissel • R-7th District Granby, East Granby + 5 more 1 — Education is most essential. Part of our national healing process must center around listening to each other, as opposed to talking past each other. We all have had different life experiences. We all can learn

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from each other’s shared experience. We all want to live in — and to watch our children and grandchildren grow up in — accepting and tolerant communities. We achieve that goal through talking, questioning and collaborating. 2 — As the proverb teaches us, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The most constructive step is the first one we take together. Education is a beautiful thing. Learning more about each other, and truly understanding each other, enriches all human beings of all ages. Those steps can be taken every day of our lives. Never stop learning and growing, both spiritually and emotionally. 3 — Dr. King refused to accept that mankind is bound to racism and war. He believed that peace and brotherhood could become reality. He once said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Amen to that sentiment. May it endure in each of us, and may we always strive — together — toward Dr. King’s goal. State Sen. Rick Lopes • D-6th District Farmington (about 25%), Berlin, New Britain 1 — The pandemic has shown that we still face large disparities in health care availability and outcomes depending on the color of a person’s skin. This is not acceptable considering we are a leader in the world in terms of development, wealth and democracy. Most of us understand that we still have a way to go to reach equality and parity, but we must work together to push for all types of equality and we can never be complacent and satisfied with the status quo when there are American citizens who are not receiving the same quality of care as many of us. 6

2 — Statistics and science have been brought to the forefront of how to tackle this pandemic. They have also shown where we as a country and state have failed some residents. When statistics show we are failing certain communities, that is where we need to focus more resources. 3 — I am a realist. There is maybe no possibility of true racial equality in terms of economic prosperity, healthcare and education possible in my lifetime. But this does not mean we give up. This country prides itself in leading the world and always striving to get better. Even if it is incremental change, we must always work to aspire to it. State Sen. Derek Slap • D-5th District Farmington (about 75%), Burlington + 2 1 — Connecticut is one of the most segregated states in the nation. Many towns use restrictive zoning practices to prevent multifamily housing from being built. According to the nonprofit group Desegregate Connecticut, “Our land use laws erect walls of exclusion that diminish the housing choice of low-income residents and people of color.” One of the most effective ways to address racial inequity is to create more diverse housing in more communities. 2 — When towns have diverse housing stock, everyone benefits. The environment, property values and local businesses all do well. Reforms are needed. When we live, work and attend school with people of different ethnicities, we are more connected and we can counter systemic racism and build equity.

FEBRUARY 2021 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE

3 — I hope that we address the full scope of Dr. King’s message — which includes economic justice and the fight against poverty. Dr. King famously said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It’s time for all of us to work together and bend that arc. Disparities in health care, housing, employment and education must be addressed for us to truly turn Dr. King’s dream into a reality. State Sen. Kevin Witkos • R-8th District Avon, Canton, Granby, Simsbury + 7 more 1 — We need to do all we can to root out instances of institutional discrimination. Unfortunately, even in 2021, policies exist that either by design from a bygone era or inadvertently have a disparate impact on minorities. We also need to work to create opportunities that may not have previously existed for minorities, or were intentionally out of reach for some. 2 — We need to identify instances of discrimination and take appropriate action to address the issue. This should be a collaborative effort with input and feedback from those impacted by these issues. We also need a concerted effort to ensure that opportunities for advancement in education, employment and elsewhere are within reach for minorities. Success on these two issues won’t be achieved overnight, but as a society we must continue to make progress. 3 — My hope is that our country can come together and achieve a much greater sense of unity. We need to embrace and celebrate each other’s backgrounds and experiences and not be so quick to divide ourselves. This requires respect, understanding and a willingness to listen and learn from others.


Part of what makes our nation so great is our diversity, and I’m hopeful that we can always embrace and support our fellow Americans regardless of race.

STATE REPRESENTATIVES State Rep. Mike Demicco • D-21st District Farmington (partial %), including Unionville Today Magazine hasn’t seen answers after several requests for comment. State Rep. Tammy Exum • D-19th District Farmington (partial %), Avon (about 25%) + 1 1 — The essential issue that needs to be addressed is systemic racism. As we tackle the health pandemic brought on by the coronavirus, we are also battling the impact of racial inequity. We need to acknowledge our history of slavery and understand how its legacy connects to the disparities that manifest today in healthcare, education, housing, economic opportunities and the criminal justice system, to name a few. 2 — We must be honest about our history. We need to have difficult conversations, acknowledging our country was enriched by free labor of enslaved individuals, brought to this country against their will. Education can be an equalizer if we teach the history of all people so that we all appreciate our collective contributions, how they intersect, and how we can learn from our past to build policies to support all people.

3 — I hope we’ll really see each other’s humanity, understanding that each person is intrinsically valuable. When we see and value each other, we’ll want to take care of one another, help create opportunities and reduce barriers. As a child, part of Dr. King’s dream that resonated was his wish that his children not be judged by their skin color, but by their character. I hope this dream will be realized. State Rep. John Hampton • D-16th Simsbury Today Magazine hasn’t seen answers after several requests for comment. State Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw • R-17th Canton, Avon (about 75%) 1 — We must focus on destigmatization of mental health care in our black and brown communities. Many POC experience trauma and stress given disparate violence, rate of incarceration, and disparity of resources. This trauma was exacerbated throughout 2020 given the public display of police brutality and disproportional impact of COVID-19. We must destigmatize mental health and create a better, more inclusive system to provide care within these communities.  2 — A crucial first step is the development of a mental health awareness campaign created by the state via DPH or DMHAS which would specifically focus on

community outreach with our black and brown communities to demystify and address any concerns. Local municipalities can utilize the state’s awareness campaign for a local initiative and reach out to constituency groups to further engage. 3 — In coming years, we need to ensure that the government, and country, is asking black and brown communities what they need. We need to ensure that we are providing effective solutions by collaborating with these communities, rather than providing what we think is an effective solution. With the increase in dialogue surrounding racial justice this year, I hope to see white community members take their racial awareness education into their own hands, while ensuring the black community has control of action plans. State Rep. Mark W. Anderson • R-62nd Granby, Barkhamsted, Hartland, New Hartford Today Magazine hasn’t seen answers after several requests for comment.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVES U.S. Rep. John Larson • D-1st District Granby + more towns/cities 1 — We must work to address systemic racism. To do this, we must address a variety of issues, including housing discrimination and segregation, education, poverty, and more. I’m proud to work with

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the Congressional Black Caucus on many of these issues and I support HR40, which would establish a commission to study the consequences of slavery and segregation that still impact Black Americans today, and examine appropriate remedies to address these disparities. 2 — We need to pass bill HR40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. We need bold action to address systemic racism in America and this legislation is a strong starting point. I also voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bold effort to prevent police brutality and make systemic reforms to empower our communities. This is a first step to end racial profiling and systemic racial injustice. 3 — One of the greatest honors of my career has been working beside the late Rep. John Lewis. To hear him speak about his experiences during his youth working with Dr. Martin Luther King and to see how far we’ve come as a nation, but also how far we still have to go, motivates me and gives me hope for the future. I hope we address reform of our justice system, desegregate our communities, and have more equality for all. U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes • D-5th District Avon, Canton, Farmington, Simsbury + more towns/cities Today Magazine hasn’t seen answers after several requests for comment.

POLICE CHIEFS

Christopher Arciero • Canton Police Chief 1 — While our unequivocal words after the George Floyd incident unconditionally condemned such police misconduct, complacency is far from a sufficient response today. We should ensure that salutary aspects of public messaging, whether signs or slogans, while appropriately principled and aspirational, need to be more than notional evanescent fixtures. We need an enduring commitment and sentiment that solidifies a universal empathy, passion and compassion to attain a united state. 2 — Heeding the transgenerational words of Abraham Lincoln, “We are not enemies, but friends … though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection” — and Dr. Martin Luther King, “People fail to get along because they fear each other … they don’t know each other … they have not communicated with each other” — and poet Amanda Gorman at the president’s inauguration, “We lift our gazes, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us ... to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside” — we can forever relegate, to the dustbin of history, the caustic underpinnings of words such as racism and discrimination. 3 — Collaboration and success in identifying and prioritizing the lower-level issues (i.e., balanced legislation, educational accessibility and personal accountability) will govern the future framework of more perplexing issues. Over the next decade, we will have succeeded if we don’t have to discuss divisive issues related to an eminent societal problem, long overdue for resolution. After several requests for comment, Today Magazine hasn’t seen a reply from the police chiefs of Avon, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury. +

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character — I have a dream today” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 8

FEBRUARY 2021 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE


UNEARTHING HISTORY

HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

Webinars to explore Paleo-Indian dig: oldest human site in southern N.E. Special to Today Magazine chalcedony end scraper rhyolite end scraper

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All events in this online series are free. The first presentation is Thursday, March 4 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. — Digging into Deep History: Archaeology, Artifacts and Avocation The final presentation will focus on another Paleo-Indian occupation site in Connecticut, along with an update from Dr. Leslie on the ongoing analysis of the Brian D. Jones artifacts. The series schedule is available on the historical society and library websites — to receive the Zoom links, register at the library website. + www.avonhistoricalsociety.org www.avonctlibrary.info

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Courtesy Photo

ABOUT A YEAR AGO, over 350 people attended a detailed inperson presentation by Dr. David Leslie of Storrs-based Archaeological and Historical Services on the discovery of PaleoIndian artifacts during construction of a new bridge over the Farmington River in Avon — see the April 2020 edition of Today Magazine for details: www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions. The Brian D. Jones Paleo-Indian site is 12,500 years old (10,000 B.C.). The historic dig is the oldest human occupation site that has been found in southern New England, and is named in honor of the state archaeologist who died of cancer in 2019. Over 15,000 items were found at the location. Analysis shows that the artifacts were made of local materials as well as resources from current-day Pennsylvania, New York and New Hampshire. The layers of objects found 6 feet below ground level indicate there were several occupations over many years, providing data points on what life was like during this early period. While this is a human occupation site, bones of animals hunted were also found, such as large turtle and caribou, along with food such as cattails and large strawberry seeds. Since last year’s presentation, many have asked questions about the site: Why was this site chosen by these early people? How did the Farmington River play a role? How and why did they travel here? Capitalizing on the virtual-access capabilities that have become familiar during the pandemic, the sponsors of the event have organized five virtual presentations to explore the archaeology, geology and anthropology of this site. The overall title of the series — Unearthing History: The discovery of a 12,500-year-old Paleo-Indian site along the Farmington River in Avon The series is organized by the Avon Historical Society, Avon Free Public Library and Avon Senior Center, and is sponsored by the Farmington Bank Community Foundation. From March to November on Zoom, topics will include the basics of archaeology, the geology of the rift that made up the Valley, the archaeology of the Farmington River, and an overview of Connecticut Native American communities past and present.


HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

COLOR GUARD

AVON TODAY

Black soldier answered Lincoln’s Civil War invite By Terri Wilson President • Avon Historical Society

IN HONOR OF Black History Month, allow me to introduce you to an Avon resident who, as a common man, took an uncommon role in our American Civil War. Pvt. Leverett Holden was one of over 900 African-American men in Connecticut who answered the call of President Abraham Lincoln and joined the Connecticut 29th Regiment Volunteer Infantry (Colored). He was a resident of Avon at the time of his enlistment and returned to live out his life here. The Civil War ran from April 1861 to April 1865. Fresh Union troops were always needed, but most in Congress were reluctant to enlist African-American soldiers. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Congress finally approved it in 1864. By then, Connecticut had about 40,000 white men serving in 28 regiments. The Connecticut 29th and a smaller 30th Black regiment formed in December 1863 and departed from New Haven in January 1864 after hearing a rousing speech by famed abolitionist (and escaped slave) Frederick Douglass, who encouraged them by saying, “You are the pioneers of the liberty of your race.” The 29th took an active role in many Civil War battles, mostly in the South. They mustered out in October 1865 from Brownsville, Texas, and were honorably discharged in New continued on page 16

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Union headstone of Pvt. Leverett Holden East Avon Cemetery, Avon


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Pike given to Lincoln’s assassin has Collinsville-Unionville connection

WHILE HISTORY tells us the well-known story of infamous actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, who Company in Canton (500 pikes) plus an Washington, B.B. was initially captured assassinated President Abraham Lincoln additional 500 pikes from the C. Hart & during Brown’s raid. on April 14, 1865, it does not tell us of Sons Company in the Unionville section of Booth’s historical presence in Hartford lesser-known events without the benefit of Farmington. Brown was sentenced to hang was documented on Oct. 22, 1863 by historical research. for his crime, and in December 1859 Booth the Hartford Courant, which reviewed a This is the case with John Wilkes was at the execution as a sergeant of the production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Booth having a historical connection with Virginia Militia’s Richmond Grays. Allyn Hall on Asylum Street. The star of Collinsville, Unionville and Hartford. There is verified evidence in the the show: John Wilkes Booth. Booth was born on May 10, 1838 in a Virginia Archives of Booth’s pay voucher “Booth … does everything so log-cabin home on his family’s farm in Bel for his militia service, in the amount of naturally,” the Courant reported. “There is Air, Maryland, the ninth of 10 children $64.58 — the voucher’s date is April 14, no claptrap or wordy waste of sentiment. responsible for grammatical errors) 1860, exactly five years before he killed of Junius Brutus Booth and Mary Ann … The voice and attitude and gesture of Holmes Booth. John’s parents were from Lincoln. the artist invested the stage.” England and immigrated to the United Terry Alford’s book Fortune’s Fool After assassinating Lincoln at Ford’s States in 1821. Junius was a famous actor notes that, after Brown’s execution, Booth Theater in Washington, D.C., Booth 374 Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury, CT 06089 before coming here, and he performed in “also had one of Brown’s impressive jumped from the balcony and landed 860-651-8236 the U.S. in the 1820s and 1830s. spears” made in Connecticut, a pike with awkwardly on the stage below, breaking www.Insuranceagentswhocare.com From 1858-60, John Wilkes Booth was an iron blade about 2 inches wide and 8 his out lefthow leg.you Hecan wasget shot and killed after Find improved value and peace of Callmanhunt. or visit our office a stock actor at the Marshall Theater in inches long. On the handle in large ink a mind. 12-day + today! Richmond, Va. letters was written: “Major Washington to Avon resident Lisa Samia was In October 1859 abolitionist John J. Wilkes Booth.” a 2020 National Parks Arts Foundation Brown led the raid of a federal armory in B.B. “Bird” Washington,Preview a major Only Artist-in-Residence at Gettysburg, and Harpers Ferry, Va. (now West Virginia). in the Virginia Militia’s Continental has lectured on John Wilkes Booth (Layout includes a margin clear of text andshe graphics A native of Torrington, Conn., Brown Morgan Guard, had given the weapon to for the Civilinstallation) War Round Table Congress as this information may be covered by frame and/or clips during purchased his weaponry from the Collins Booth. A great-great-nephew of George

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HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

Weapon of John Wilkes Booth traces to Valley


FARMINGTON TODAY

MEDICAL MUSINGS

WHITE COATS FOR BLACK LIVES Med Students Take Stand By Bruce Deckert Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief

REMEMBER the classic story about a coat of many colors and a bunch of brothers? Across the country, medical students who wear a coat of one particular color are rallying to support people of another color — based on the foundational premise that persons of all races are brothers and sisters. White Coats For Black Lives, a national medical-student organization, seeks to advance the cause of racial equity, guided by these defining statements: • Mission — “To dismantle racism in medicine and promote the health, well-being and self-determination of people of color” • Vision — “To safeguard the lives and well-being of our patients through the elimination of racism” In Farmington, the UConn Health chapter of White Coats For Black Lives wants to build on the movement’s momentum of the past year. In June 2020 — less than two weeks after the horrifying and shell-shocking death of George Floyd on

Medical students protest at UConn Health’s first White Coats For Black Lives rally on June 1, 2020 — five days later, 30-plus WC4BL supporters marched to the State Capitol

Courtesy Photo

Memorial Day — a group of more than 30 UConn medical and dental students, alumni and faculty staged a protest demonstration in Hartford. They marched from Pope Park to the State Capitol, carrying signs that communicated support for racial justice. Annie Abbate and Kodi Baldino, fourth-year students at UConn’s School of Medicine, are the chapter’s main organizers.

This year, they hope to propel those principles further in the medical realm. “We believe that the most essential issue related to racial equity in 2021 is the racial disparity in COVID outcomes,” says Abbate. Baldino notes that COVID-related racial disparities stem from “underlying sources of inequity, and it will take a collaborative continued on page 17

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GRANBY TODAY

Grateful for inclusion, hoping for growth in tolerance By Naviah Barrow Special to Today Magazine

Black GMHS grad finds voice to call for change

A 2020 graduate of Granby Memorial High School, Naviah Barrow is a freshman at UMass majoring in legal studies.

This means that we work together to finally put an end

WITH RELEVANCE to the racially-driven stigma of 2020, it’s an appropriate theme to discuss what we see in our own small towns. Further, we can draw from the good and learn from the bad in an attempt to create a desirable environment with peak inclusivity and diversity. Here is my story: From attending Kearns School at 4 years old to graduating in the midst of a pandemic, Granby has always been my home, and I know so many caring people here in town. However, that didn’t make me exempt from prejudice or racism on campus and off. I’ve been made fun of and stereotyped all for the color of my skin. One of my earliest experiences with this was back in 8th grade. As the only Black student in my history class, my teacher directly singled me out to explain why my household and I are

to the hateful acts and speech that still linger locally different than my classmates. It didn’t just hurt, but it broke down my self-esteem at the time. You expect teachers to be conscious of making everyone feel equal. Instead, that day, the divide only grew larger at my expense. Moreover, there have been countless incidents of peers using slurs to address people of color, including myself. When you want to fit in, you laugh it off and let it go. When you want to speak up for yourself, you receive backlash from just about every angle. There is no winning for young minorities trying to protect their racial identity. Not only are we left speechless by what we face, but it’s hard to find an outlet for our voices to be taken seriously.

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For me, it took a classmate’s series of ignorant, disgusting posts mocking George Floyd’s death to find the voice I’m using right now. Despite my aforementioned experiences, I have met some of the most supportive, loving and kind adults and teens in Granby. I know that I have a family here. It’s up to everyone to make the young children growing up in the Farmington Valley feel just as included as I did. This means that we work together to finally put an end to the hateful acts and speech that still linger locally. It doesn’t take one person to set change into motion, but it does take one bad apple to spoil the barrel. Be mindful. Be the change. Be the future. +

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SIMSBURY TODAY

VALLEY INTEL

Unique memorial celebrates MLK’s work in Valley By Katherine Napier Special to Today Magazine

EACH YEAR, the third Monday in January is dedicated to a man who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized the March on Washington, and contributed much more to the cause of the civil rights movement and equality. In schools across the nation students learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments, but what many don’t know is that King spent time in Simsbury, a fact that some once thought to be a suburban myth. In 2010, 16 Simsbury students set out to determine the truth. Through their project — sponsored by the Simsbury Free Library and led by Simsbury High social studies supervisor Richard Curtiss — they discovered that as a teen King lived and worked in town at a tobacco farm the summers of 1944 and ’47, with more than 100 other Morehouse College students, as a way to pay for tuition. The students created an awardwinning documentary that revealed that during King’s time in Simsbury, he witnessed a desegregated world for the first time. The small town held a promise for a

Ceremony honors legacy of civil rights icon

Panel #3 of the MLK in CT Memorial, just before installation at the Simsbury Free Library different kind of society where everyone is treated equally. The documentary became nationally acclaimed when it was reported by the CBS Evening News. In 2011, students came up with the idea to commemorate King’s time here in the Farmington Valley and erect a memorial, and a decade later that idea has come to fruition. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year — Monday, Jan. 18 — Simsbury unveiled the five-glass-panel MLK in CT Memorial, with each panel representing

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a stage of King’s life. The educational memorial, located on the lawn of the Simsbury Free Library, celebrates and recognizes this great civil rights leader and the role Simsbury played in his life. Due to COVID-related issues, the public wasn’t able to attend the memorial’s unveiling ceremony on-site at the Free Library, but the event was aired live on FM radio station 87.9 and live-streamed at the library’s dedicated MLK in CT website, www.MLKinCT.com — video of the ceremony is available on the website.

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During King’s time in Simsbury, he witnessed a desegregated world for the first time their cars with balloons, streamers and other birthday fanfare and joined in the procession down Hopmeadow to mark this remarkable achievement in our community.” She says the ongoing goal is for “visitors to be educated, engaged in selfdiscovery, and inspired to live a life of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance.” King was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968. For 10 years, Simsbury students have worked hard to meet fundraising goals and design the memorial, with the help of architect Jay Willerup, Tara’s husband, who donated his time and expertise. Funds for the $150,000 project were raised through the sale of personalized bricks on the pathway, along with contributions from individuals and businesses. Donations covered construction costs and created a fund for educational and enrichment programming as well as future maintenance. Simsburybased Simscroft-Echo Farms Inc. has served as the contractor. After so many students have worked on the memorial, Simsbury High senior Joao Galafassi says they are all excited to see it finally completed. He notes that when King visited town and sensed a “call to justice,” he was about Galafassi’s age. Similarly, the Simsbury students are at a point in their lives where they are eager to see change, Galafassi says. The MLK memorial will become an official stop on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. + www.MLKinCT.com www.SimsburyFreeLibrary.org

ShopBlackCT listing grows sevenfold nearly 1300 businesses, a sevenfold increase, including many in the Farmington Valley. Visitors may search by Avon resident Sarah Thompson is the city/town or by category, for everything founder of ShopBlackCT.com from restaurants and salons WITH Black History Month upon us, it is to accountants, event planners, dentists, fine artists and everything in between. important to recognize how vital BlackThe volunteer team of 35 behind owned businesses are to the American the site provides free support to the economy and celebrate the many businesses, helping them focus on contributions Black entrepreneurs have what they do best and alleviating their made throughout history. marketing costs. Supporting Black entrepreneurship By choosing to support Black-owned generates growth and opportunity in multiple ways through our communities. businesses, consumers also contribute to shrinking the racial wealth gap, fosterMore than 2 million Black-owned businesses in the United States generate ing local job creation and tackling systemic racism. billions of dollars in gross revenue and But it takes more than just a few employ about 920,000 people, according people — it takes all of us to create this to Fundera.com. shift. It’s time to move from empathy to Yet Black-owned businesses receive action, and make intentional choices with less business financing, less often and how we’re choosing to allocate our dollars. at higher rates, with just 1% obtaining To search for Black-owned businesses a business loan in their first year. by town or category, to view featured Compounded by the affects of the businesses or submit a business for COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to listing, visit ShopBlackCT.com + face disproportionate challenges to succeeding and expanding. www.facebook.com/goshopblack One way to help? Support local Blackwww.instagram.com/shopblackct owned businesses. ShopBlackCT.com has been featured ShopBlackCT.com — a volunteeron NBC CT, WFSB-3, FOX61 News, driven, not-for-profit website — is making WTNH News 8 (New Haven ABC it easy to find Black-owned businesses affiliate), News 12 CT (cable news TV throughout Connecticut. station), Hot 93.7 FM and other media Launched in July 2020 with 175 outlets besides Today Magazine businesses listed, the site now features By Sarah Thompson Special to Today Magazine

TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – FEBRUARY 2021

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BUSINESS BEAT

Simsbury resident Tara Willerup, vice chair of the Free Library board, says a bigger in-person dedication is planned when COVID restrictions are past. The unveiling featured a brief outdoor ceremony at the Free Library with the Simsbury students, Curtiss, Willerup and Art Miller, director of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Hartford. The Simsbury High gospel choir presented a moving online musical performance of “I Need You To Survive” — a song that has been recorded and popularized by gospel music artist Hezekiah Walker. After the ceremony, a car procession on Hopmeadow Street celebrated King’s birthday and the new memorial. Willerup explains that people “decorated


CIVIL WAR HERO

Photos courtesy of Avon Historical Society

Descendants of the Connecticut 29th Regiment Volunteer Infantry (Colored) rededicate Pvt. Leverett Holden’s grave in East Avon Cemetery in February 2014. Holden has no recorded descendants.

SOLDIER — continued from page 10 Haven in November 1865. Holden was paid $78.40 for his clothing allowance and $6 for his arms, and his signing bounty was $100. Who was Avon’s Leverett Holden? His enlistment papers of December 1864 state that he was born in Vernon, Conn., in 1825, but mention no definitive birthdate. Along with many of his comrades, he was illiterate, so he gave his personal details verbally. The U.S. census of 1850 lists Holden as living in the Wadsworth household on Prospect Hill in Hartford. Built in 1828 on the corner of Albany Avenue, it is the oldest house in the West End today. It operated as an inn until 1862. At some point, Holden left the Wadsworth employ and traveled west over Talcott Mountain, settling in Avon. He does not appear in the census of 1860. While in the Connecticut 29th, he was injured at the Battle of Petersburg (Virginia) in 1864 and treated at an X Corp Flying Hospital, which treated only African-American troops. The census of 1870 lists Holden as living with Martha Williams in Avon in a small house on West Avon Road. In November 1869, the ledger of the Avon Congregational Church states he was paid $1.75 for cleaning the church chimney. Rev. Henry G. Marshall, the church’s pastor from 1869-71, served with Holden in the Connecticut 29th — Marshall as 16

a captain, Holden as a private. We also know he cut wood for a woman (listed only as Mrs. Hadsell) who owned a home and store on East Main Street (Route 44). Holden died on Oct. 10, 1877 at age 56. He is buried in the East Avon Cemetery in a grave segregated from the others. The Avon Historical Society rededicated his grave in February 2014, using the Grand Army of the Republic

The Connecticut 29th and Massachusetts 54th are the only AfricanAmerican regiments that retained their identity upon returning from the war. All others were incorporated into other federal military units. The story of the Massachusetts 54th is told in the award-winning movie Glory. The descendants of the 29th actively participate in parades and give talks in

“You are pioneers of the liberty of your race” — Frederick Douglass ceremony of 1919 — a veterans group, the GAR was the precursor of the American Legion. Descendants of the Connecticut 29th brought their replica regimental flag and participated in the rededication. In honor of Holden’s service in the 29th regiment, I place a U.S. flag and GAR medallion on his grave each May. A dramatic monument at New Haven’s Criscuolo Park is dedicated to the 29th, on the corner of James and Chapel Streets, near where the men left to go to war. Erected in 2008, it is Connecticut’s newest Civil War monument and includes a center stone with a list of the regiment’s battles. The memorial contains the engraved names of all 900-plus Black soldiers, by their town of enlistment, on dark granite stones. Two others enlisted in Avon, but were not residents.

FEBRUARY 2021 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE

schools and public gatherings about their ancestors’ service. The remnants of the original Connecticut 29th regimental flag have been removed from storage in the State Capitol’s cellar and hold a place of honor encased in the underground walkway to the adjacent Legislative Office Building. + www.conn29th.org This story is an abridged version of an article that first appeared in Today Magazine’s February 2020 edition www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions Sources: Avon Free Public Library’s Local History Room • “Avon, Connecticut: An Historical Story” by M. Francis MacKie • Hartford Preservation Alliance Magazine, 2/2009 • CT State Library • U.S. census data online • National Archives Other Farmington Valley residents were in the 29th — the research beckons for anyone who wants to learn more


WC4BL — continued from page 12 effort from multiple sources in the hospital and in the community to begin to address this.” At UConn Health, she says, “Changes are occurring in the form of the integration of anti-racism training and education for medical students — on an individual level, we encourage providers to be intentional in providing equitable care during encounters with patients of color.” UConn Health is hosting a series of Black History Month events to foster greater understanding and promote the constructive concepts of White Coats For Black Lives. The organization is alternately styled on its website as White Coats For Black Lives, White Coats 4 Black Lives and WC4BL — but whatever the nomenclature, the interracial movement aims to make a difference and move the racial-equity conversation forward in 2021. “Physicians ... are in a unique position to leverage their privilege and voices to bring awareness to this issue,” says Baldino. WC4BL was birthed from the National White Coat Die-In demonstrations that took place in December 2014 after grand juries refused to prosecute two white police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed Black men, in separate instances earlier that year. In the case of George Floyd last year, he was both unarmed and handcuffed — with his hands behind his back — when a white police officer pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, according to prosecutors ... resulting in yet another senseless minority death at the

UConn’s WC4BL chapter protests at the State Capitol in June 2020

Courtesy Photos by Sarita Arteaga

hands of law enforcement. For that entire time, Floyd was prone — in other words, he was face-down on a city street, with both hands securely handcuffed behind his back. Abbate identifies several key factors that led to her involvement with UConn’s WC4BL movement. “As a white person [and] a future physician, I wanted the Black members of our local community to know that we see you and we stand with you,” she told UConn Today. “We as healthcare providers see what is happening to people of color, what is being done to people of color, and we are outraged. ... I needed to do something. I didn’t want to be home, inactive, with my thoughts and feelings, compulsively checking the news.” Baldino understands these issues from an experiential perspective. “As a person of color who has witnessed firsthand the deep-rooted distrust many in the Black community have for the healthcare system, I recognize the importance of having healthcare providers present and advocating for equality and justice for Black lives,” she told UConn Today. “White Coats For Black Lives helps harness the privilege we have as healthcare providers to advocate and stand with communities of color during a time where there are obvious injustices that have yet to be reconciled.” Regarding the movement’s undergirding philosophy, here’s an apt summary statement from a WC4BL webpage titled “Our Origins”: “Medicine is not immune to the racism that pervades our education, housing, employment and criminal justice systems. Moreover, racism and police brutality damage the health and lives of people of color, particularly Black people, and must

be addressed as a public health crisis.” Astute observers have noted that two pandemics are impacting the Black community — COVID-19 and racism. To stare down this dual crisis, the medical professionals of WC4BL are donning their white coats and striving to show that persons of all colors, wearing coats of diverse colors, share a common humanity that can unite rather than divide — to demonstrate in a primal way that people of all races are indeed brothers and sisters. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his iconic speech almost 50 years ago: “I have a dream that one day ... the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” + Editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is an award-winning journalist

TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – FEBRUARY 2021

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DRAGONFLY DELIGHT About 7,000 species of dragonflies exist today, according to National Geographic. The dragonfly’s name is derived from its serrated teeth — and in certain places, people eat them as a snack.

Speaking of snacks — squirrels (see below) can smell and find food buried beneath a foot of snow.

Photos by Wendy Rosenberg

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