The Nicest Place in Connecticut: Bloomfield

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2020 FINALIST
"Justice for All"

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A hate crime galvanizes the town to fight for justice at home and across America.

One day, Sophia Shepard’s freezer broke. In normal times, an inconvenience, but in life under quarantine, it was daunting. But when she took to Nextdoor with the problem, neighbors responded with a fix. The Phillips family, Jamaican like Shepard, gave her their spare refrigerator. Soon after, another neighbor gave her a new freezer.

Bloomfield is like a lot of places across America in 2020: Times are tough, but people are standing with their neighbors to make sure life is better. They’re also standing with millions of others across America, demanding justice.

The town of 21,000 is a sleepy suburb of Hartford. It’s also Connecticut’s most diverse at 57 percent Black. As in other places, however, the racial groups are far more separated than they could be; the public schools in town are 95 percent Black.

Yet residents of all racial groups joined together to protest George Floyd’s death. Gathering all day on the town lawn, they spoke and listened, sang Amazing Grace, and, by candlelight, hundreds held an eight minute and 46 second moment of silence, representing the length of time a Minneapolis policeman knelt on Floyd’s neck.

“We are here as a community to show solidarity and stand up for equality,” Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown said from the stage.

Then, things got very personal for the community. On June 9, local landscaper Chazre Douglas, 28, was driving home after picking up his pay when he pulled over to take a phone call. Suddenly, 56-year-old Michael Fannon was outside his car window, questioning why he was in the neighborhood. Fannon, a White man, then pulled a gun on Douglas, a Black man.

Douglas walked away from the encounter unharmed but traumatized, so when Fannon was only charged with disorderly conduct and released on a $1,500 bond, Bloomfield demanded justice. Shouldn’t you be able to pull over in your community without having your life threatened? This time, over 100 protestors gathered and marched and a few days later, the charge was upped to intimidation due to bias, which is a hate crime.

“Bloomfield is active because we’re all at the point where enough is enough,” says Alisha Lucy Meggett, a mother with a teenage son in the local schools who has helped inspire residents to keep marching due to the threat to its young people. “It’s time to stand for something.”

And as protests for racial justice have continued in Bloomfield, Meggett notices that at each event, there are new faces in the crowd.

“We want people to know that we will always be behind them and this is what we’re going to do every time,” says Meggett, adding, “I treat it as if that’s my child and I can’t let it go.”

The Nomination

My meat freezer in the garage died suddenly. I had quite a lot of meat in it that I didn’t want to spoil. I went to Home Depot and Lowe’s and they were both out and was on back order. I came home perplexed because I didn’t know what to do. I ask my mom to text our neighbor to see if she had extra space in her freezer to keep our meat. She responded s and said she didn’t. A few moments later she called back to say she had an extra refrigerator that we could use until we were able to get one. I couldn’t believe it.

My step dad and I went to her house along with my husband and they were able to bring it to our house. It was a regular freezer but it was able to keep our meat frozen. I will forever be indebted to our neighbor for the kindness they showed us in our time of need without even charging us a dime!

My kids are home with grandma along with my 5 year old niece who has been quarantining with us since her mom works at a nursing home. My husband and I still work while trying to homeschool which is not going so great with my almost 6 year old. My 8 year old is doing well though. I’m the afternoons when there is finally a warm day the kids ride their bikes but mostly stay inside since it has been really chilly.

I finally took them out last Sunday to a park down the street since they’ve been home since the lockdown! They were so excited!

We live on a culdesac where all the neighborhood kids play together. It’s a little bit hard now that they are all out of school and trying to maintain social distancing, but my neighbors are great.

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