JOIN

Newhallville Pride Shines At A&I Neighborhood Fest

Abiba Biao | May 27th, 2022

Newhallville Pride Shines At A&I Neighborhood Fest

International Festival of Arts & Ideas  |  Arts & Culture  |  Newhallville  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative

NewhallvilleFest5Monk Flake Family performing on stage. 

Gospel and jazz music rang out across the field next to Lincoln Bassett Community School last Sunday, kicking off the International Festival of Arts & Ideas' Newhallville Neighborhood Festival. While children beat the heat in the splash pad, festival goers lined up at a table for free hot dogs and chips.

Spectators couldn't help but sway to the music, enjoying the neighborhood's rich history by dancing and buying from Black-owned businesses.

Inspired Communities, Inc. Founder Kim Harris, community coordinator for the Newhallville Neighborhood Festival and chair of the Newhallville Community Management Team, greeted attendees and introduced performers on stage.

“We fliered the whole neighborhood so that people could know that this is their event,” she said with a smile.

NewhallvilleFest4

Inspired Communities, Inc. Founder Kim Harris, chair of the Newhallville Community Management Team and community coordinator for Newhallville Neighborhood Festival. Abiba Biao Photos.

To Harris, the Arts and Ideas neighborhood  festival is a way to give back to her community and spread Black joy. 

“Most of these people are Newhallville people that have things that they want to share with our community,”  she said, gesturing to the festival goers and small businesses around her.

“I’m just really grateful to God for an opportunity to serve a neighborhood that has served me well,” she said. “I’m born and raised in Newhallville and I am who I am because of people like this who helped to raise me.”

“I hope I could only do the honors of doing that to the next generation that’s coming up,” she added.

NewhallvilleFest3

Nyzae James of BAMN Books. 

Nyzae James is the owner of  mobile bookstore BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) Books, which offers an exclusive selection of literacy works from Black authors ranging from fiction to theory. 

James created BAMN Books to encourage others to read,“analyze political thought,” and engage more with their community, she said. She hopes people “question what they do know” after reading books from BAMN and “feel comfortable to expand their horizons.”

“People are so comfortable with how society is now they don’t leave much room for creative transformation,” she said. “If we read, we can see different possibilities for our future.”

James said she has personally seen the impact of her books in the community. When someone in her neighborhood recently experienced a loss,  James recommended the title All About Love by bell hooks, which covered a section about grief.

“Next time she saw me she hugged me and thanked me,” she said, with a smile. “It touched my heart.”

NewhallvilleFest2

Designs my Melba.

Melba Crowley’s business, Designs my Melba, has been up and running for 12 years. Crowley’s handcrafted jewelry with semi-precious stones and mixed media are a fixture at many local events such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Conference, she said.

Crowley said the work she puts into each product is what distinguishes her business from others, with each piece being one of a kind.

“Each one is individual,” she said, motioning towards her display of necklaces and earrings.

Crowley doesn't have a favorite piece she's made, but has favorite gemstones, like lavender quartz and amethyst, that she loves working with.  To her, a good business day is any day she's fortunate to sell something.

Crowley stumbled into the world of beading by accident; she planned to be a painter. After watching one of her friends bead, she returned her painting supplies and opted to be a jewelry maker instead.

“People wanted to start buying the jewelry off my neck,” she said. “It's just a hobby that's gone wild.”

NewhallvilleFest1

Bethzabeth Castro and Jacque Brown. “Long Wharf is here for the community, so we’re not going anywhere," Brown said. 

Bethzabeth Castro and Jacque Brown sat at a booth repping Long Wharf Theatre, giving out information about upcoming shows and membership registration.

Long Wharf  is targeting youth engagement with the arts through a program called Stage Squad. Castro explained the program saying it accepts 10 New Haven high school students who spend the school year learning about theater and producing their own production. This year’s student production will debut  on June 25 at 2 p.m.

Brown said Long Wharf is making the effort to more intentionally be in New Haven's neighborhoods and communities and to improve accessibility to theater and the arts. The theater announced in February that it would leave its namesake and become an itinerant theater company between the fall of 2022 and spring 2023. Read more about that here and here

“Art has been my water as a plant,” Brown said. “It always waters me.”

Castro said that art not only empowers her to be herself but empowers her to “empathize with others.”

 This piece comes to the Arts Paper through the fifth annual Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI), a program of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Read more about the program here or by checking out the "YAJI" tag. Abiba Biao is a senior at Achievement First Amistad High School.