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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Chaney honored with a slot on New London’s Black Heritage Trail on Juneteenth

    Kayden Clarke, 7, of New London, takes her turn jumping rope during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Artist Marvin Espy works on a live mural during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Artist Marvin Espy works on a live mural during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Members of NIA Arts perform during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Khadija Dubose sits with her son Aasim Dubose, 6, as they wait for the start of the Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The Professor Baldwin Drum Circle plays during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Attendees sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during a Juneteenth celebration at Parade Plaza in New London on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The event, organized by the New London Cultural District and New London Black Heritage Trail, celebrated a new marker on the trail for Sara Chaney. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London ― Parade Plaza rang out Wednesday afternoon with the sounds of drumming, laughter and song as dozens of guests celebrated Juneteenth and one of the city’s most respected matriarchs.

    The event, which recognizes the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, first learned they had been freed 2½ years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln, featured a series of speakers, many who recalled the impact of the late activist Sara Chaney.

    Chaney, who died last month at the age of 88, will be honored with a plaque on the city’s Black Heritage Trail set to be installed on State Street, where the former Hartford National Bank once stood. Chaney’s name has become synonymous with standing firm, even against systemic adversity.

    In 1961, Chaney became the first Black individual employed in the city’s banking industry. But she only garnered that title after forcing a fight with the bank after being passed over for the job, a rejection she believed was the result of discrimination. The subsequent legal battle brought in the New London branch of the NAACP and the state’s Civil Rights Commission and ended with her hiring.

    Chaney was recalled by speakers as an inspirational figure, but one who did not suffer fools gladly. State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, credited Chaney’s firm hand with helping push him and others into local politics.

    “As a Black man, she urged me to speak up more,” he said. “And when Sara told me to jump, I said ‘how high.’ ”

    Nolan, who was joined at the podium by City Councilors Reona M. Dyess, Akil Peck and President Efrain Dominguez Jr., said that while it’s laudable that the state two years ago acknowledged Juneteenth as a state holiday, the fight for Black equality continues, especially in the areas of health care and housing.

    Mayor Michael Passero said it was a right of passage for any local politician to seek out Chaney and get her advice. Passero, who presented two of Chaney’s grandsons, Cassius and Allen, with a proclamation honoring her life, called New London a fitting place to celebrate Juneteenth.

    “I don’t think there’s a more appropriate place than this city in the state of Connecticut,” he said, citing the “rich, rich Black history” running through New London.

    Curtis Goodwin, who helped spearhead the creation of Black Heritage Trail, praised the team of researchers that helped identify the 18 historical sites and individuals that populate the 2-mile-long historical path.

    “How proud our ancestors must be,” he said, noting the trail’s history reaches back 300 years, from the Pequot War and the Amistad slave ship uprising to the life of Chaney.

    Lonnie Braxton II, the former state prosecutor who spent weeks interviewing Chaney shortly before her death to gather information about her for the trail, said she was not averse to needling people with the goal of “getting it right.”

    “She would have loved a day like today; she liked hot things,” Braxton said, referring to the sweltering afternoon temperatures. “She understood what the fight was about.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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