With less than one week before the 52nd annual Freddie Fixer Parade, I thought it would be a great idea to inform readers about both the progress and the impediments that are still prevalent within the African-American community, as they relate to this historic event.
Five years ago this week, I accepted the challenge and responsibility of restoring the image and the original mission of the Freddie Fixer Parade. As a volunteer who remained behind the scenes for more than 13 years before having the privilege of taking on that task, I must admit, I have learned multiple lessons about leadership and the lack thereof within the New Haven community that will truly remain with me forever.
Those lessons are limited only to the imagination of anyone who has been a lifelong resident of the city of New Haven, just as I have. Rumors of violence and the fear of violence at the Freddie Fixer Parade had paralyzed the city for so long that I was called crazy for trying to resuscitate this event. Yet, I saw something all along that not everyone else has been willing to admit to seeing for years, and that is of those who have created and have allowed this dreadful fear to linger, the New Haven community itself.
But they are not alone. Let's talk Truth.
Seventeen years ago, I was fortunate to become a homeowner as a young black man and I chose to live in a neighborhood that no other prospective homeowner would have ever considered at that time, Blake Street.
Just like most members of the city's government, I had lived in a suburban section of the city of New Haven prior to moving to the Blake Street area and I could have remained there if I had chosen to. However, I saw the potential of that residential area and had always believed that it wasn't the area itself that was bad, but the circumstances suffered by the people who were living in that area, and that the area was in trouble and sinking fast.
Just as the founding members of the Freddie Fixer Parade saw that the Dixwell-Newhallville area of the city was in just as much trouble and decided to act in order to change it.
I immediately attempted to restart a block watch in that area, just as the late Dr. Fred Smith attempted to create affordable housing and drug and alcoholic clinics, to treat those who were in fact products of their own environment.
I, too, was motivated by attempting to create all of the entities that would surely eradicate the causes of poverty and violence involved with the behavior that has cut short too many lives, devastated families, and have them suffer from unbearable pain to date.
However, with this effort, never did I imagine that I would receive as much resistance and criticism from the residents in that area who did not want an overseer to combat the underlying graft that was holding their neighborhood hostage.
The same goes with my efforts to revive the Freddie Fixer Parade and the lack of support from the so-called leaders within the black community. Whatever their reason may be for not supporting the parade, there are several things that remain clear.
First, violence is still prevalent in the black community and most of it that is related to guns is preventable. As for the thousands of negative statements that I have heard each time I attempt to hand out a flier to promote the parade, I'm reminded again how blinded we are to the fact that we must work harder to remove the negative stigma and elements associated with the parade that we ourselves have indeed created.
Register Community Engagement Editor Shahid Abdul-Karim has been a wonderful and powerful advocate for the New Haven community and has helped the Freddie Fixer Parade tremendously with all of the positive exposure and reminders of how and why the parade was established, so that people can be made aware of its true history and purpose.
There are hundreds of brochures circulating in Greater New Haven that contain facts about the parade contrary to the belief and knowledge of many residents who reluctantly admit that they had no clue.
The parade's theme this year is "Moving Forward," as we cannot allow anyone to continue to hold on to past incidents or experiences that have occurred at the Freddie Fixer Parade no more than we should hold on to why a past relationship may have failed. Do we linger on and continue to grasp this dead weight or do we allow the community to continue to use the Freddie Fixer Parade as the ultimate scapegoat for all of the violence that has taken place within the city of New Haven? You, the reader, already know the answer.
With leadership comes criticism and I've had more than my fair share in the five years as the lead organizer of the Freddie Fixer Parade. My goal was simple: To remind the residents of the city of New Haven about an invaluable asset that was created right here by hundreds of dedicated and concerned citizens to prevent many of the issues we complain about today.
The past is something no man or woman can ever change regardless of the level of tragedy. I only ask that before anyone criticizes the efforts of any entity that aims to improve the quality of life for its neighbors that you take a drop of that same energy used to criticize, and put it toward joining with those who are trying to make a difference.
The Freddie Fixer Parade is the perfect opportunity for an entire community to come together in peace and without fear of anyone disrupting the true mission and purpose of this historic event. Let's place our faith over fear, because our children's lives deserve better!
Maurice W. Smith is president of the Freddie Fixer Parade, which steps off at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, beginning at Dixwell Avenue and Morse Street in Hamden.