New Britain Racial Justice Coalition uses mutual aid events to connect community

Published on Saturday, 30 July 2022 23:07
Written by Dean Wright


NEW BRITAIN – As debates about the economic situation and racial division in the U.S continue to be a concern for many, New Britain Racial Justice Coalition members look to reach out to make their corner of New England a more community-minded and welcoming place.

The group started meeting in Willow Park June 18, near the water attractions, to provide area residents with needed household supplies and goods. Coalition members also listen to resident concerns and plan to continue every Saturday visiting the same location and sharing supplies this summer.

“It started two years ago as kind of a breakfast to build community and to give back and make sure people had something to eat,” said Coalition Co-founder and Board Member Alicia Strong. “Then as we started talking to people and building relationships, we realized that a lot of folks were eligible for food stamps so they could access food, but a lot of things like diapers, formula and personal care items were things they could not get and were in high need.”

Coalition members refer to the Willow Park events as a mutual aid event series. The group is also planning Narcan distributions for the fall and Board Member Julio Nunez said coalition members are canvassing for New Britain’s unhoused populations to hear what their needs are and the challenges they are facing.

“We try to connect with family in New Britain of people who are incarcerated,” said Strong. “We try to support the family as best we can. We also try to support the person who is incarcerated.”

Because calls could become expensive for inmates over the holidays, the coalition in the past wanted to help support families in communicating with their loved ones. Strong noted the coalition had supported a bill in state legislature for free state corrections phone calls for inmates which was passed by the state legislature. This has made Connecticut a first in the country to enact such practices.

“Willow Park, and the North Oak area more broadly, is the most impoverished neighborhood in the entire city,” said Strong. “If you look back historically, it was the victim of a lot of redlining and racist practices against the Latin and Black populations here. We knew that this is where the need is.”

The coalition said it worked in Corbin Heights for a time and other areas but felt the Willow Park space was the best area to target its activities.

“I was getting contact info and asking if there were any needs that weren’t being addressed and things they might be short on that we didn’t have in supply,” said Nunez of speaking with community residents. “When we have these events, it’s not just about giving away free stuff. We’re also trying to connect the community together and help them have access to resources they might not have otherwise.”

He continued saying that services were often a challenge among residents the coalition encountered, but especially for those who are monolingual Spanish speakers. 

“We’re having a lot of people who have family members who are incarcerated, issues with police, issues with landlords and stuff like that,” said Nunez. “Lots of people have problems with getting supplies for very young children.”

Some residents coming to get supplies have also contributed items for others at mutual aid events.

On Aug. 27, the coalition is working to provide school supplies for children in the area as well as looking to take part in a uniform collection drive for local students.

For more information, visit the coalition’s Facebook page and website.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington Herald on Saturday, 30 July 2022 23:07. Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2022 23:10.