April 10, 2005
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer
Forget your blue states
and your red states.
On Saturday, the color of
politics in Hartford was all black as the city's African American
community celebrated the first Black Governor "Lection" in
In a ceremony befitting the historic occasion, dozens of people
- many in period dress with flowing ball gowns, powdered wigs,
top hats and tails - turned out at the Old State House Saturday
evening as the ballots were counted and the winner announced.
The little-known tradition hearkens to the mid-1700s, when slaves
and freedmen in Connecticut - who couldn't vote in regular elections
- began electing members of their community to represent them.
The black governors were considered moral leaders who advocated
for new churches and schools, the right to vote and the abolition
"I'm proud to be an African American and to be able to
relive a time in history that is not being told," said Kyle
Anderson, who wore a top hat, knickers and tails as part of his
portrayal of former Black Governor Wilson Weston, who represented
Seymour in 1855.
More than 500 ballots were counted Saturday following several
weeks of voting around Hartford. The election was organized by
Hartford's John E. Rogers African American Cultural Center Inc.
Six candidates were in the running: Roland Cockfield, 64, of
Meriden, president of the Meriden-Wallingford branch of the NAACP;
Eric Crawford, 43, a district intervention specialist for Hartford
schools; Joshua M. Hall, 32, a Weaver High School social studies
teacher; Andre Keitt, 45, a master storyteller and public speaker
on African American culture; John Lobon, 54, a senior vice president
and loan officer for the Connecticut Development Authority's
urban lending program; and R. Michael Winters, 43, a community
relations director for Community Health Services and pastor of
Hartford's New Covenant Christian Center.
Crawford won the election, which was announced from the second-floor
balcony of the Old State House by Webster Brooks, a John Rogers
historian. Crawford and his wife, Maribel, were then whisked
away in a horse-drawn carriage in a procession led by Hartford
police and the Governor's Foot Guard.
A reception at the second annual Black Governor's Ball followed
at the Bond Hotel on Asylum Street. Last year's ball, not preceded
by an election, was sold out. Crawford will serve a two-year
term. He said he intends to work to help bring communities and
families together, both black and white.
Many in Saturday's crowd, delighted by the turnout, soaked up
the moment. After nearly 150 years, the African American community,
indeed the entire state, was paying homage to a tradition that
has gone largely ignored yet was a vital part of the African
American experience here.
"This brings history alive," said Barbara Alleyne,
the Rogers Center current president, as she stood on the steps
of the Old State House looking graceful and resplendent in an
aquamarine and black gown. "People are learning about their
State Rep. Ken Green, D-Hartford, donned an ascot and tails
to help count ballots as former Black Governor Eben Tobias. As
proud as he was to be paying tribute to the past, Green's focus
Saturday was partly on the future.
"I'm looking forward to the day when Connecticut has its
first real black governor," Green said, with a wink and
smile before disappearing into the crowd.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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