Sharing America | Connecticut Public Radio
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Sharing America

Connecticut Public Radio is part of the public radio collaborative “Sharing America,” covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. The initiative is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and includes reporters in Hartford, Conn., Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., and Portland, Ore.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Off a highway in central Connecticut is the mosque with a 400-student Muslim Sunday school.

More guards are on patrol these days. And for the older students in the transition class, talking about Islamophobia is not only welcomed, but encouraged. The teenagers are in their final years of high school and will be heading off to college soon.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Leticia Colón de Mejias thinks no problem is insurmountable if Americans come together.

“Sometimes we take these subjects and we make them so big and scary that people feel we can’t take action,” said Colón, 42, a Connecticut entrepreneur, environmentalist and mother of seven. “Climate change seems terrifying. And everyone’s like, it’s too big.”

Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

The Obama Foundation is recruiting 100 young people in Hartford to be part of a six-month training program to develop the next wave of community leaders in Connecticut’s capital city.

Police patrol Hartford's Main Street on September 19, 1967. Photograph by Ellery G. Kingston from the Hartford Times Collection.
Courtesy of Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Steve Harris climbed the steps to the upper lobby of Hartford Stage. This was a night off for the cast and crew of Detroit ‘67, a theater production set during the civil unrest of late 1960s Detroit.

But Harris, a 71-year-old retired fire captain in Hartford, came to see the photo exhibit inspired by the play. It brought him back to those turbulent times.

Dealer Cai Qilin, center, works on Mini Baccarat at an Asian gambling section in Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., in 2006. Foxwoods estimated at the time that at least one-third of its 40,000 customers per day were Asian.
Chitose Suzuki / Associated Press

Quyen Truong still gets a cozy feeling when she sees a hand of cards.

It reminds her of family and traditions as a refugee from Vietnam who arrived in the U.S. in late 1990. Aunts, uncles and cousins in Connecticut — among the Southeast Asian refugees who resettled here in waves after the Vietnam War — would get together on weekends with rolls of quarters, nickels, pennies and dimes.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

On one side of the room was a scrolling slideshow of maps. Connecticut cities looked like they were stained with red blots — the red being an indicator of how hard it was to get a response from households during the last Census.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Democrat Jahana Hayes, an educator who rose from poverty and teen motherhood to become a National Teacher of the Year, made her own history Tuesday night as the first black woman elected to Congress from the state of Connecticut.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

The nerves are kicking in, said Constanza Segovia, talking politics outside her house in Hartford before Election Day. The stakes are high -- nationally and in the Connecticut gubernatorial race.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Team Hayes brought out the bullhorn. A League of Women Voters debate was starting in an hour in Danbury, Conn., so a crew of volunteers set up on the side of the road, waving campaign signs at passing cars and chanting about change.

Members of the Greater Hartford Youth Leadership Academy take a photo with Nelba Marquez-Greene, kneeling at right, before boarding a bus headed to a rally in Newtown, Conn. Marquez-Greene's daughter Ana died in the Newtown school shooting.
Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Gunfire brought chaos to the West Indian Day Parade in Hartford a decade ago. Some parade goers assumed fireworks — until they saw a kid on the ground.

His head was soaked with blood.

Amar Batra / Connecticut Public Radio

Instead of honoring explorer Christopher Columbus, the second Monday of October will soon be called Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the school calendar in West Hartford.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

A white Hartford police sergeant who was caught on a citizen’s video saying he was “trigger happy” has been demoted and is fighting for his job, city officials said Thursday. 

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Julissa Mota can recall the exact moment when squash — the preppy racquet sport — entered her consciousness.

Visitors had stopped by Julissa's fifth-grade class at M.D. Fox School, a neighborhood school in Hartford's South End. Capitol Squash, an urban squash program, was new and recruiting kids in 2014, so the executive director brought along a coach and a big blue box with racquets inside for the children to pass around.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Zack and Gillian Petrarca aren’t old enough to vote. But the teenage siblings say they are Team Hayes all the way.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Tatiana Melendez waited in the shade during a New England heat wave, ready to make a move.

“I got all the information for you, all right,” Melendez, 46, said as she handed a baggie of info to a passerby. “This is very good for you. For everybody doing sex.”

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

A sign taped to the door told customers that Story and Soil Coffee was closing early for a staff training.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Commencement was two days away and Karina Lasalle Arroyo had hauled out nearly seven months’ worth of luggage from her time in Connecticut.

She stood in a dormitory parking lot and confirmed she was ready to go home.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Minutes into touring the Mark Twain House in Hartford, the visitors came across a black-and-white photo of a young Clara Clemens, a daughter of Mark Twain. Soon, it dawned on everyone that Clara looks a lot like Milianis Rivera, a Puerto Rican evacuee.

Bulkeley High School senior Yeicy Alejandro, smiling at left, talks to her new mentors from Central Connecticut State University. They're in the new "Ambassadors" program - Puerto Rican evacuees helping other students displaced by Hurricane Maria.
Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Communications major Marivelisse Acosta attends Central Connecticut State University. But on Wednesday night, she stood in the cafeteria of Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, contemplating what to say as a mentor to the school’s displaced students from Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

A sprightly “Good morning!” awaited students and parents who approached Sanchez Elementary School on the Friday before spring break.

Maybe the school staff was in an extra good mood? But Merelys Torres, secretary of Sanchez’s parent-teacher organization, said it’s like this every morning. She noticed it right away when her family came to Hartford from Puerto Rico last fall — a sensitive time for her two kids.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

They came from countries like Haiti, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and Ghana. And on Thursday, inside the downtown Hartford Public Library, 50 immigrants took the Oath of Allegiance from U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Like many of his neighbors, Bernie Michel came to Hartford from somewhere else.

In Michel’s case, Ohio.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s lunchtime at Central Connecticut State University and 10 students converge on their usual spot in the dining hall. They start talking about the food — and it becomes clear that they don’t love the rice. They explain that it’s not as seasoned as the homemade arroz in Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s mid-March and Hartford Public High School teacher Bridget Allison goes over essay-writing tips for her fourth-period class. After a while, she checks in on a group of students who are seated together — a few of the evacuees from Puerto Rico.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Show me the money.

That’s the message from Hartford Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The disaster last fall uprooted many Puerto Ricans who fled the island, including children who ended up enrolling in Connecticut schools.

Before a screening of "Black Panther," artist Martha Walker-Dawkins paints the face of Zaniah Welsh, a fourth-grader at West Hartford's Smith STEM School. Engineer David Johnson sponsored the event to inspire students.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

As a child in the Midwest, David Johnson said he dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Katie Hanley, head of Oak Hill's Center for Relationship & Sexuality Education, teaches students about the different types of relationships.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The title for today’s lesson is written on the whiteboard of this Hartford classroom: #Relationships.

Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The State’s Attorney in Waterbury has cleared a Bridgeport police officer in the fatal shooting last year of a 15-year-old boy.

Spectactors at Tuesday's Hartford school board meeting in the Naylor School auditorium.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The Hartford school board voted Tuesday night to close two neighborhood schools this year, endorsing the first wave of a plan to downsize a school system with high needs and declining enrollment.

Marchers head down Main Street in Middletown during an annual celebration Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
VANESSA DE LA TORRE / WNPR

Evan Davis was still on the school bus Friday morning, rolling up to Middletown High School at 7:00 am, when he saw a fellow student in the campus parking lot holding a Confederate flag.

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