Día De Muertos Parade Lights Up Fair Haven

Lindsay Skedgell, New Haven Independent, Nov 7, 2022


Photo: Lindsay Skedgell


Mill Street danced to life with jewel-painted faces, neon-colored skulls, and at least one hairless dog and its golden-spike-crowned owner, as over 100 people gathered for Fair Haven’s annual Día de Muertos parade.  

That was the scene Saturday at a warehouse at 26 Mill River St. for a ​“Day of the Dead” event organized by Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA). That was just one of at least two such events to take place in Fair Haven on Saturday, with the Semilla Collective also hosting a Día de Muertos celebration at Bregamos Theater off of Peck Street and Blatchley Avenue. 

The back parking lot of 26 Mill St. Saturday evening was full of people in traditional dresses, faces painted with jewels framing their eyes and cheeks, getting ready for the parade. Behind them, a float was being set up, the flatbed of the truck that carried it lined with painted skulls in neon pink, green, orange, and blue. Around the float, a hairless dog whose leash was colorfully woven walked enthusiastically with its owner, whose head was adorned with a golden spiked headband. 

Inside the white warehouse space, an altar was laid out and collectively built at the entrance, a deer skull in the middle of the floor surrounded by lit candles, bread, tables bordered by apples, marigold flowers, and photographs of loved ones who had passed. Faces were being painted in bright paint and puppets lined the walls of the room. 

Saturday’s parade and festival in Fair Haven marked the 12th annual event organized by ULA, held to celebrate Mexican and indigenous cultures in New Haven and to honor the deceased. The Day of the Dead is a holiday to remember those who have passed, often involving puppets, altars, offerings and gifts, and vibrant storytelling to pay respect to the deceased. 

 “This is my husband who passed,” said Joelle Fishman, gesturing toward a tall puppet built in honor of her deceased husband, Art Perlo. He wore a black ​“People & Planet Before Profits” shirt, his hat, glasses, and mustache placed beautifully to mirror him. ​“I’m carrying on for the both of us,” Fishman stated. Perlo, who was a lifelong activist, passed away last year. 

[The article can be read in its entirety at newhavenindependent.org/article/dia_de_muertos_2022] 

Fair Haven Community Rises Up Against COVID

by Charla Nich, Vaccinate Fair Haven!

COVID struck people of color differently, devastating entire families and communities. COVID hospitalizations and deaths in Connecticut have disproportionately affected people of color – and the vaccination rollout is the same.

During the worst months of the pandemic, hospitalization rates were 3 times as high for people of color and death rates were 2 times as high compared to whites.  Currently. while 45% of white residents in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated, only 24% of Black and Latino residents have.

The state’s response to the crisis in communities of color has been horribly inadequate, highlighting the structural inequities that continue to exist. Since the outset of the pandemic, the state’s response to the hardest-hit communities of color has been neglectful and woefully inadequate. People of color continue to face structural barriers that the state has largely ignored – lack of access to vaccines, language barriers (a state website that continues to be largely in English), access to wifi, access to computers, and transportation challenges. This has led to the existing disparities that currently exist and that the state has failed to address.

Fair Haven fought back! Vaccinate Fair Haven! is a community-led effort and a response to the state’s neglect. It targeted a low-income zip code – a New Haven section rich with culture and largely populated by Latines and African Americans. This is the only such canvassing project in the country with the objective of knocking on every door in an entire zip code to bring trained bilingual health promoters to talk with residents about the importance of vaccination and schedule eligible residents on the spot – offering free transportation to those who needed it and in-home shots to the homebound.

Over 400 volunteers and 16 community groups tackled the disparity together. Volunteers were trained, “turfs” were assigned, and people walked and knocked on doors. From the March 13th launch and many days since, volunteers walked, knocked, called, and staffed the vaccination site. They left informational flyers behind at every single house. On May 5, VFH accomplished its mission – knocking on every single one of the 5,648 doors in Fair Haven.

Did Vaccinate Fair Haven! impact the COVID vaccination rates? Early results are promising. In January, 30% of the vaccinations the Fair Haven Community Health Center provided were for people of color, and in April 79% of those vaccinated were people of color. Across the state, 17% of first-time vaccinations were administered to people of color. In Fair Haven, 52% of first dose vaccinations were administered to people of color.

The Vaccinate Fair Haven! efforts to address the racial/ ethnic disparities by reducing the systemic barriers – language, transportation, information access, internet access – have resulted in greatly improved vaccination rates for our neighbors.