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Several locals on NAACP list of '100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut'

The state NAACP has released its "100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut" list, which included some local names.

Among the locals recognized by the NAACP are: Anthony Nolan, a Democratic state representative and police officer from New London; Derell Wilson, Norwich city councilman; Curtis K. Goodwin, a community activist and city councilor in New London; Tracy Espy, Mitchell College president; Nicholas Fortson, president and CEO of CorePlus Credit Union; Patrick L. Green, president and CEO of L+M Hospital; playwright Michael Bradford; Brian Wright, New London's police chief; Michael Fredie, director of admissions at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; Esan O. Simon, medical director at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; and Ayanti Grant, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's 2nd Congressional District director. 

The awards reception will be held Oct. 23 at Foxwoods Resort Casino. It will feature a keynote address from Reform Alliance CEO Rob Rooks and a special performance from hip-hop artist Nas.

Nolan is a strong supporter of the city's youth and has been an active organizer of the annual talent show.

Wilson also is chairman of the Democratic Town Committee and a paraeducator at the Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich.

Goodwin is a co-founder of the New London Youth Talent Show and recently spearheaded the creation of the city's Black Heritage Trail.

Espy is in her second year as president of Mitchell College and has made community collaboration a priority.

Fortson has been the president and CEO of CorePlus Credit Union in Norwich since 2014, a member-owned, not for profit cooperative founded in 1936, and has led efforts aimed at community partnerships.

Green has guided L+M through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping in touch with the public about the danger of the virus.

Bradford, an esteemed playwright and New London resident since 1995, has had his works produced off-Broadway and at theaters around New York City and abroad, from London to Cuba. In September, he staged his first play in New London in more than a decade.

Wright is the highest-ranking Black police officer in New London's history and has said he would be focusing on creating and maintaining relationships and building trust. Many were in shock, and came to his defense, when the city announced last week that he had been placed on administrative leave with pay during an internal investigation.

Fredie, a Coast Guard captain, became director of admissions in 2018. He graduated from the Academy in 1996 and has served in a variety of roles for the Coast Guard since.

Simon presides over the provision of health care for military employees, cadets and officer candidates. The Harvard University graduate also has extensive experience in both the Navy and the Coast Guard.

Grant is deeply involved with constituents in the 2nd District, working out of Courtney's office on Main Street in Norwich.

Courtney congratulated Grant in a news release. "Everyone on our team, and everyone who works with our office knows what an outstanding leader Ayanti is — she treats every constituent with respect, intelligence, and kindness, and she is one-hundred percent focused on getting results," he said. "Ayanti has made a difference in the lives of countless citizens, young and old, from every corner of the Second District's massive area."

Shiela Hayes, president of the Norwich branch of the NAACP, said the list was proof of historical progress for Black people in Connecticut.

"The people on the list represent the work that has been done across the state to ensure that we have African Americans in appointed or elected positions of influence," Hayes said Thursday. "These are the people who are really making the decisions for the direction that their particular organization, corporation or institution go. We want to congratulate and honor them for the work they have done and will continue to do."

Editor's Note: This version includes the names of several local people whose names were omitted in an earlier version.

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