MLK Conference Turns 50, With Fire(women)

06 Feb 2019 11:01 PM | Anonymous

New Haven Independent

by MARKESHIA RICKS | Jan 21, 2019 4:59 pm

Markeshia Ricks Photo


Veteran firefighter Erika Bogan loves telling children, especially girls, about what it’s like to be a firefighter. And she’s passing that passion on to new firefighters like Shy Floyd (pictured).

Both women were holding court with a group of 7-year-olds Monday during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr conference at Wexler-Grant Community School.

People braved extreme cold and ice for the 50th year of the conference that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life with a day on rather than a day off. The first conference was held Jan. 15, 1969, on the same block at the former (and future) Dixwell Community “Q” House.

African-American professionals like Bogan and Floyd come each year to share their expertise on topics ranging from fire safety to public speaking skills. The female firefighters are two of 14 women in the department.

Bogan and Floyd helped youngsters learn about what to do if they’re ever in a fire. The women, who are based at the Lighthouse Road and East Grand firehouses, respectively, also did a little show and tell, and a little dress up. After having Floyd show the students how firefighters get in gear, Bogan also showed them her hat and explained the many stickers she has on it.

In addition to Sponge Bob, there’s a Wonder Woman sticker and a “No Whining” sticker, she said “because sometimes there’s a lot of whining.” Yandel, 7, (pictured above with Bogan) was the first to step up and try on Bogan’s gear. He learned pretty quickly that it’s heavy.

Firefighter Darnell Tucker, who has been with the city fire department for five years, is based at the Dixwell firehouse. He invited the children and their parents to drop by the station for a tour any time.

The annual MLK celebration draws in children from all over the city with opportunities to get fit with yoga and Zumba and to brush up on their tie-tying and public speaking skills. Adults also often stick around for tips on topics like funeral planning and financial literacy.

This year they had the opportunity to create art with Wexler-Grant art teacher Rebecca LeQuire, trying their hands at creating black and white paintings of King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama.

They also met some of the people representing them at the state and federal levels. Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal dropped in on Monday to meet event organizers like Sondi Jackson, who chairs the event, and other volunteers who help make it happen.

The Theta Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha spearheads the event each year with the support of the Elm City Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Epsilon Iota Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., the Eureka Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Delta Phi Chapter, Pi Lambda Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, and the New Haven Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. 

Workshops weren’t the only items on the menu. There was time for shopping with artist Jo-Ann Thompson-Claybourne…

...time for games ...

... picking up a few books from New Haven Reads ...

... taking pictures…

...learning how to have better interactions between the police and the community with schools security chief Thaddeus Reddish ...

... dancing ...

... getting a haircut ...

... and taking a pretend nap.

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