NEW BRITAIN - The Queen Ann Nzinga Center honored six women Saturday evening at its ninth annual Connie Wilson Collins Exceptional Women Concert.
The event, part of Women’s History Month, pays tribute to Constance “Connie” Collins, an African-American woman who was deeply involved in the New Britain area.
After dropping out of high school, Collins never forgot the importance of education and eventually graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree in education. She became the first female and first African American union president of United Electrical Workers of America Local 207 and was a co-founder of the city’s Opportunities Industrial Center.
“Over her lifetime, she was dedicated to helping people reach their full potential by creating vehicles for empowerment,” said Jiana Smith, a member of the QANC Watoto Youth Program.
The QANC named its annual concert for Collins in 2014, one year after she died.
Saturday evening’s event at Trinity-on-Main saw musical and dancing performances by Betty Harris, Kenny Hamber, Nzinga’s Daughters, members of the QANC Watoto Youth Program and more.
Oktober Jones, a local spoken-word artist, was the host.
“We are here to celebrate women’s power, women’s essence, what women have done for the community of New Britain,” Jones said.
The concert honored several women who have contributed to their communities, including Mayor Erin Stewart.
Stewart recently joined the race to become Connecticut’s next governor. At 30, she is the youngest female mayor in the country and was first elected when only 26.
Another New Britain resident, Tracy Nixon Moore, was also honored. Moore is president of the YWCA of New Britain’s Board of Directors and also serves on the board of the Queen Ann Nzinga Center.
Bristol’s Eileen McNulty was honored for her 37-year career in the mental health and human services. McNulty has been Bristol’s director of youth services for 29 years.
Pamela L. Kristoff of Plainville was celebrated for her resilience and success in the face of hardship. After dropping out of Plainville High School, she returned to school and earned her GED.
Kristoff later volunteered at the QANC as a chaperone and an artist.
Rocky Hill’s Valeriana DeBrito and Manchester’s Pamela Floyd-Cranford were also honored.
DeBrito came to the United States when she was 14 years old and ended up graduating from Central Connecticut State University. She earned her master’s degree at the University of Connecticut and now works for the Department of Children and Families after having worked for the Department of Social Services for 15 years.
Floyd-Cranford has worked for the Department of Children and Families for 29 years as a social worker and program manager.
A resident of Manchester for more than 30 years, Floyd-Cranford in active in her community and is a member of the city’s Democratic Ethics Commission and Democratic Town Committee.
“These women have done so much for their communities, and we just want to celebrate them,” QANC Founder and Executive Director Dayna Snell said before passing out awards.
The QANC is an organization committed to providing children with opportunities and connecting them with their peers and mentors, often through collaboration and performances. The organization is named for a 15th-century African queen who protected her people from being sold into slavery.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.