I came to Connecticut 20 years ago. I knew little about the state, only having lived in New York and seeing Connecticut as a place that many New Yorkers chose to live. I came to Hartford after being recruited for a post in higher education. I chose East Hartford, across the river, where I could see the water flowing and the city lights reflected at night.
The river has become my backyard, allowing me to walk along its banks at different times of the year. Coming from the Caribbean, seeing the river freeze over in the cold winter was a very foreign and unique experience. When the Lincoln-inspired sculptures were added, walking along the trail was even more special, almost spiritual.
Leadership Greater Hartford introduced me to many of the city’s gems, from the Mark Twain House to Real Art Ways. It also allowed me to meet city leaders and opinion makers, which helped me begin to understand the challenges and opportunities offered by the community as a whole.
I knew then that I wanted and had to connect with this community and be one of those who were trying to make it better. Even though working in education allowed me to have a certain impact, there was still a lot to contribute in other sectors.
Over the years, I saw more beauty in the city and its people and realized that it is a place where poetry occurs in many corners, where the library celebrates the poetry of many countries and Wallace Stevens’ rhymes had been immortalized for all to see in the blocks he walked to work each day. These stanzas remind us that art exists in the city and can be achieved amid daily routine and challenges.
In my 20 years living across the river, I have seen Adriaen’s Landing transform with the Science Center and its magic carpet roof, the Marriott hotel erected and Riverfront Recapture reinforce its hold on the landscape. of the river so that all can enjoy its beauty.
I have witnessed the impact of nonprofit organizations that day in and day out try to improve the lives of many people by providing them with health care, job training, education, housing options and the opportunity. of a better life. I have also witnessed the generosity of philanthropic organizations who came together to help Hurricane victims fleeing Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. During these years of this terrible pandemic, philanthropic efforts generously provided support to those with fewer resources.
I have seen the community mobilize to prevent discrimination, fight for opportunity, expect structural changes so that more people can benefit from access and equity policies.
It is clear that the community must be at the center of these efforts, otherwise the strategies lose their impact and their benefit; that Connecticut is much better when actions benefit communities that include everyone; that we are all enriched when our neighbors do better; that structures exist for the good of human beings and not the other way around.
As I bid farewell to the state, I realize how a place shapes our thinking. Additional layers of varied experiences are now enriching my soul. I saw the beauty, the poverty, the need, the investment, the hope, the commitment, the generosity. I made longtime friends who enriched my life and soul with joy and new perspectives.
In the words of Wallace Stevens: “The river moves. The black bird must be flying. “I need to fly and leave with gratitude for those who have taught me and shown me the generosity of their actions and their minds. I need to fly by taking with me the love of the land, its inhabitants, its challenges, its poetry.
Estela Lopez, formerly of East Hartford, is the former provost of CT State Colleges and Universities. She has served on the boards of many organizations including Mark Twain House, Fund for Greater Hartford, The Shelter for Women, United Way of CT, Aurora Foundation, Leadership Greater Hartford, CT State Board of Education, Connecticut Health and Education Financial Authority, Open Communities. Alliance, Malta House of Care and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
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