The Freddy Fixes Up A New Leadership Team

Lucy Gellman | June 17th, 2019

The Freddy Fixes Up A New Leadership Team

Arts & Culture  |  Freddy Fixer


ArtIdea - 24
Malicia Hopes, Chaz Carmon and Edmund B*Wak Comfort. Lucy Gellman Photo. 

Chaz Carmon grew up marching in the Elm City Freddy Fixer Parade. Decades later, he’s returning as its president to make sure more New Haven youth get the same chance he did.

Carmon, who leads the youth anti-violence group Ice The Beef and helps coordinate the neighborhood festivals for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, made that announcement Saturday night at the city’s Elks Lodge on Webster Street in Dixwell, as he and new parade leadership held a meet-and-greet and celebration. The group was elected last week, following two years of service from a 2017-2019 executive board.

In addition to Carmon, the team includes Public Relations Officer Tracey Massey, Treasurer Krima Byrd, Secretary Malicia Hopes, Vice President Edmund “B*Wak” Comfort, and Vice-Treasurer Leonard Jahad. Departing leaders Petisia Adger and Diane Brown will remain on the Board of Directors. The 56th annual Freddy Fixer Parade is set for June 7, 2020.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” said Comfort Saturday at the Elks Lodge. “It hasn’t hit me yet. Like, I wake up and I’m like ‘woah, we have to plan a parade.’”

That realization marks the beginning of a year of planning, outreach, and change that the team hopes to undertake. While Comfort and Carmon both said they plan to stay true to the parade’s community-focused roots—as in, expect a lot of love for neighborhood clean-up—they also want to see more youth involvement, and will be working closely with the city’s public schools and a new Freddy Fixer youth advisory board. Carmon said he’s considering also running field trips and a summer camp related to the parade to keep its theme going all summer long.

“We can expect a millennial twist that incorporates youth,” said Carmon. “We are going to have kids make some of the decisions as to what they would like to see going on, we’re going to be incorporating kids into the parade, maybe as marshals, and things that they want to do.”

“So we’re not gonna forget the children in this process,” he added. “Because the parade represents family. It represents community. It also represents the kids.”

For Carmon, the new leadership team works because of members’ professional foci and long-term work in the community. While he focuses largely on gun violence and conflict resolution, Comfort has become known for his artistic collaborations with city youth. Hopes works on autism awareness; Jahad is a street outreach worker. He said he sees the group as having a particularly synergy, where each leader brings something different to the table.

It’s also in his blood. As a kid, he watched his grandmother Ethel Carmon, a longtime community organizer in the city, march with different community groups down Shelton Avenue and onto downtown. By the late 1980s, his cousin Chris had joined too, as a member of a drum squad for Wilbur Cross High School.

The parade was ritual: the whole family would fill Ethel’s porch, and watch the parade snake down Shelton Avenue and onto downtown. He and neighborhood kids would play at the empty lot referred to as The Mudhole, now part of the Newhallville Learning Corridor. If he stuck around after the parade, friends of his grandmother’s would arrive to celebrate and slip him a dollar for being a well-behaved kid.

“She was my star,” he recalled. “It was like ‘grandma! There goes grandma!’”

When Carmon entered middle school, he started learning the drums so he could march in the parade by the time he entered his studies at James Hillhouse High School. That became a reality in the early 1990s, when he jumped from spectator to a member of the “best band in the land.” Two decades later, he returned to march in 2017 with Ice The Beef.

He’s not the only one. Growing up in Fair Haven, Comfort used to snag a seat closer to the Green and wait for the parade to come downtown. Twenty years ago, he switched from onlooker to vendor, setting up photo booths with his art studio. He’s excited to change roles again this year, he said.

“Now it’s amazing, because I’m actually a part of it,” Comfort said. “It’s been on my mind for the last week or so. We’re going into the schools, working with the schools, going to get them actually participating in art projects. Getting all the schools to participate at some level.”

Comfort added that he hopes next year’s parade will expand on the Freddy’s sense of neighborhood pride. After watching the route change from Shelton Avenue and downtown to a much smaller section of Dixwell, he said he’d love to bring the celebration back downtown, and even expand it further into Fair Haven. This early on, he added, he hasn’t ruled anything out.

“I mean, I’d like to see a giraffe walking down Dixwell Avenue,” he said. “I can see stilts and clowns walking down, African floats and just awesomeness. It’s the vision.”