Beaver Hills Block Party Brings Out The Community

m. imani west | August 10th, 2021

Beaver Hills Block Party Brings Out The Community

Beaver Hills  |  Community Management Teams  |  Culture & Community  |  Arts & Culture  |  COVID-19


Alder Brian Wingate with family members. Wingate lives nearby on Ella Grasso Boulevard. Maal West Photos.

Mingling neighbors replaced the traffic that would have filled Glen Road. The songs of Frankie Beverly and shrieks of children learning to fly in a bouncy castle coasted over the street. A grill sizzled to life as Alder Brian Wingate flipped burgers.

As drivers took new left and right turns to get home, author Anissa Ramirez invited them to stay a while, and promised them the best turkey burgers in town.

Saturday, Beaver Hills residents gathered for their first annual summer block party, held at Glen Road and Ella T. Grasso Boulevard in the heart of the neighborhood. Vendors from Long Wharf Theatre to Make Haven to Griffin Health lined the street offering books, button making, bike tune-ups, Covid-19 vaccines, and free food and games. Over six hours, 100 neighbors came out for the people-powered event.


It all started with a phone call several months ago. Hoping to bring the community together, Beaver Hills’ resident, people’s scientist and author Ramirez called Wingate with an idea. Wingate was boarding a train “to go down South,” where much of his family lives. He told her that they’d touch base when he returned. Then James Dormon, a fellow neighbor who lives nearby on Roydon Road, reached out to Wingate too.

“‘Brian we gotta have a block party,’” Wingate remembered Dormon saying. Soon there was support from neighbors and from the Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills Community Management Team. “So today we having a block party!”

Grills sizzled and smoke rose as Wingate and fellow neighbors laid out different types of burgers and got to work. More than once, the alder politely broke away from a conversation with this reporter to greet residents, point out a giant game of Connect Four for mothers with restless kids, and remind attendees that free vaccinations were available a few tents over.


Top: Candice and James Dorman (at right) with their neighbors. Bottom: A giant game of Connect Four was one of Saturday's many activities.

Under a nearby tent, a pop-up clinic from Griffin Health vaccinated a total of six people at the event. Over several months, the healthcare outfit has organized up to 30 pop-up vaccination sites per day throughout Connecticut in hopes of raising vaccination numbers in New Haven and across the state. According to staff on site, Griffin has vaccinated 36,000 Connecticut residents, and are hoping for more as the fall draws closer.

Saturday, high schoolers from the neighborhood even hopped on the mic to encourage block party attendees to get vaccinated. Nearby, 30-year Beaver Hills Resident Ron Copeland watched the scene unfold as Major Ruth kept the tunes spinning.

As burgers browned and kids ditched their shoes for a colorful bounce house, the street rang with laughter. Some neighbors met each other for the first time; others caught up after months of pandemic isolation. Ramirez’ brother and fellow block party organizer Chef Mark Ramirez offered seasoning to those struggling with loss of taste.



His seasoning mixes, called Chef Mark’s Taste Budeez, are meant to engage the taste receptors that exist on the tongue, rather than those that are in a person’s nose. Specifically, the seasoning targets each of the five zones of the tongue.

As neighbors tried tasting with their noses pinched, he painted the mixes as perfect for those who have lost their taste and smell due to sickness, aging, and lasting Covid-19 symptoms. One of the virus’ most common side effects is temporary loss of taste and smell.

“A lot of what you taste is in your nose,” he said. “There’s over 1,000 receptors in your nose that help you taste.”

When she was organizing the event, Ainissa Ramirez also reached out to People Get Ready, the Whalley Avenue bookstore where she gave a virtual talk on her recently published book The Alchemy of Us earlier this year. Co-owner Delores Williams, who lives nearby in the city’s Westville neighborhood, was all in.

“I grew up around here, my best friend’s family home is a couple doors down,” Williams said. “I have a memory on every corner.”



Top: Aleta Staton, director of learning at Long Wharf Theatre, shares information about an upcoming performance of Passing Strange in New Haven's neighborhoods. Bottom: It's not a block party without cake.

Young boys gravitated towards the People Get Ready table at the far end of Glen Road, their curious fingers delicately poking around the table. They seemed mesmerized by the smiling brown faces gleaming up at them from the books. As Williams told the story of the store’s latest partnership with Café Rebelde, ethical coffee makers who are based in Woodbridge, a young boy returned to the table. He held a book with an illustration of a young Black boy in one hand and a handful of folded bills in the other.

Down the street, the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop co-owner Johnny Brehon and Elm City Cycling’s Laura ​​Burrone taught the neighborhood kids the A-B-Cs of bike safety. As ​​Burrone laid out the safety checks, Brehon, with a truck full of gear nearby, performed routine maintenance and tune ups of all kinds on the dozens of bikes huddled at the starting line.

Lined up by the cones, young bikers looked at each other, at Brehon, at the neighbors filling the street. After a thorough safety check the kids were off one by one, learning the do's and don’ts of having a bike on the road.



“The best thing about cycling, you can ride through these communities.” Brehon (pictured above) said. He spoke of the Whalley Kids, a group of young boys who often ride through New Haven together. It gives them a sense of ownership over the city, he said. Similarly, he sees his and Matt Feiner's downtown shop as a place where cyclists can gather, congregate, and create their own vision of New Haven. 

“This store is open to everyone!” he said. As he spoke, Beaver Hills neighbors from seven to 70, Black, Brown, and white, shuffled past the table. They smiled, listened to each other. 

“What’s special now is the younger generation,” Brehon said. “They’re saying, ‘You know what? I’m gonna do it anyway!’ They see the segregation throughout the city, they see it, and they say, ‘Yeah, we’re still here!’”

Brehon nodded with pride reflecting on the young cyclists that ride in and out of his shop, over the invisible lines that claim to separate neighborhoods.

In Beaver Hills, said neighbor Candice Dormon, those borders aren’t real. Even as large wooden barriers blocked off just Glen Road, neighbors came from as far as six streets over to enjoy the inaugural block party. Later in the celebration, attendees cut a celebratory sheet cake that busted those borders as neighbors connected over their first bites.



“There’s no reason why the line is drawn [when] it doesn’t really exist” said Dormon, who moved to Beaver Hills eight years ago. In hopes of erasing those invisible borders, she worked with her neighbors to create the “Beaver Hills Story Archive,” a series of video interviews that chronicle the lives and stories of neighborhood residents.

She hopes that the videos, like the block party, will reach far past the residents of Glen Road to the 97 acres that make up Beaver Hills. That an idea born on Glen Road will reach Bellevue Road and be whispered about on Norton Parkway, and heard of in a house on Diamond Street.

After all, this was a community that turned a “what if” into a “remember when we,” and maybe even an annual tradition. All it took was a little neighborhood imagination.