BRISTOL – It was a ribbon cutting like no other.
There was not just one pair of scissors, but about seven as each member of the executive board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the mayor opened the group’s new office.
The president of the Bristol NAACP, Lexie Mangum, said he wanted everyone to be a part of the office’s grand opening at the Human Resource Agency at 55 South St. Each person who cut the ribbon got to take a piece home.
“This is a great day for the NAACP of Bristol,” said Mangum. “Today we’re making it official… You come here and walk right in if there’s a problem.”
The NAACP formed in 1909 in New York in response to lynchings and crimes against African Americans throughout the south. Their mission statement is “to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”
“Anytime we open a door in Bristol to a new business or organization is a great day, especially one that’s been around since 1909,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. “I think we can all appreciate that 110 years later there is still a need.”
Zoppo-Sassu mentioned that there is now people of many different ethnicities in Bristol and that it is important to have dialogues about diversity.
“I’m hoping that the NAACP will continue to play a critical role as we continue to have these community conversations,” she said. “I think this office is a great first step.”
City councilors, state representatives and local leaders echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“It’s always great to have a central location that people can recognize… It helps with the overall structure of the organization,” said State Sen. Henri Martin.
“What I like about this is that it brings it down to the heart of Bristol,” said City Councilor Gregory Hahn. There’s more room and it is great for the community, he added.
“It’s great because of the visibility, accessibility. It’s in the heart of the community,” said Rev. Patricia Washington-Rice of Beulah AME Zion Church in Bristol. It’s a great opportunity for people to come together and unify, she said. She later led a prayer for all in attendance.
Martin also presented a citation on behalf of Bristol’s state representatives and on behalf of the state itself.
“We thank you for your unwavering public service to our community and wish you many more years of continued success in your new office location,” Martin read off the citation as he presented it to Mangum.
The new office will be sharing the space with HRA, Bristol and New Britain’s community action agency. HRA provides a variety of social services programs. Energy assistance programs, early childhood education and services for the elderly are what they are most known for, said Marlo Grepponne, director of planning and programs for HRA.
“We’re very thrilled and excited to have the NAACP co-located with us because it’s very close to our mission, which is to help people… particularly people who are disadvantaged and people who are in poverty,” Grepponne said.
“Our missions are very well aligned so we’re looking forward to partnering with the NAACP on initiatives and help build the community’s strength here in the Bristol area,” she added.
“This has been the best opportunity for an office location in our 40 years,” said Tim Camrel, vice president of the Bristol NAACP.
Camrel thanked HRA and Mangum, who has been a member of the NAACP since 1985 and has been elected to be president of Bristol’s chapter five times.
“He lives what he actually believes… So I’d just like to say to him, how much I appreciate what he does,” Camrel said, adding that Mangum motivates him to be better.
“We must step up to this opportunity to make Bristol a better place. Bristol is a great community but we all have to put ourselves together and push for the betterment of the community,” Camrel said “We want to make Bristol the best that it can be for all people.”
The new office will hold office hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday. The Bristol NAACP covers Bristol, Southington, Plainville, Terryville, Plymouth, Burlington and Harwinton.
The group is on FaceBook as Bristol CT NAACP.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.