In the wake of student activism for racial and gender equity on Yale’s campus, several New Haven business owners and employees have declared that they stand with Next Yale, a coalition of students calling for greater attention to racial issues on campus. But some remain unaware of the recent student action.
Employees interviewed — many of whom work on Broadway, Chapel and York streets — said they witnessed student demonstrations like the early-November March of Resilience, an event organized after complaints of institutional racism on Yale’s campus. Employees interviewed voiced support for the demonstrations happening outside their doors, though some said they felt disengaged from the movement because the student action does not have an effect on their daily operations. Although some workers said they possess little knowledge about recent campus tensions and challenges, they still said they support student action, which they said has a significant impact on the broader community.
“The protests have meaning,” said B-Natural Cafe employee Teila Chappel, who said she was aware of recent campus advocacy efforts. “A lot of people feel strongly about race, particularly how the police treat people.”
Managers at Junzi Kitchen — whose team is primarily comprised of people of color residing in New Haven — said many staff members have not been preoccupied with campus discussions because they have not yet experienced life on a college campus. But several older employees have dug deeper by educating themselves about the issues, chef Lucas Sin ’15 said.
Six employees from establishments including Ashley’s Ice Cream, The Green Teahouse and Sushi on Chapel said they were not aware that the student activism has garnered national attention. Many said they had not heard that publications like The New York Times, The Atlantic or The Economist reported on recent campus controversies.
Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison — whose ward contains both Yale students and community residents — said she has seen a similar mix of both solidarity and disconnect from the happenings on campus. Morrison said her non-student constituents have not contacted her about the campus happenings, though she said she believes that they are still concerned.
“What is going on in the campus you would think that it would have a huge ripple effect in our ward, because we’re one city and in Ward 22 we are one ward,” Morrison said. “To be honest, I have not gotten any questions to me about what is going on in the campus.”
Morrison said several of her students in a course at Gateway Community College took the time to read about the issues on Yale’s campus. Others, she added, had only heard about the controversies through word-of-mouth.
Morrison added that recent events on campus should be relevant to her ward because many of her constituents are Yale students. If resources for students of color are so neglected at Yale, disparities likely also exist at institutions with fewer resources, she said.
Gene Dostie, manager of the jewelry store Derek Simpson Goldsmith, expressed solidarity with the movement though she only learned about the specific complaints and demands of the protesters last week.
“I love people fighting the good fight,” Dostie said. “If people protest, you have to give them space to do it.