Amid ongoing political and racial polarization in New Haven and around the country, the Elm City put up a multicultural celebration this Sunday that drew hundreds to the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.
The city held the fourth edition of its Multicultural New Haven Block Party Sunday afternoon, partnering with Yale’s eight affinity groups — including the Asian Network at Yale, Yale LGBTQ Affinity Group and Yale Veterans Network — to provide free food, cultural performances and family activities for roughly 500 attendees. The event has expanded every year: This was the first year the event was held at the Divinity School, as previous iterations have been stationed in the Kline Biology Tower courtyard and the parking lot of the Office of International Students & Scholars — a venue the event outgrew quickly.
This was also the first year that featured DiversAbility at Yale —the University’s newest affinity group, which creates an inclusive environment for individuals impacted by disabilities. DAY was launched on June 23.
In a courtyard that seemed to include representatives from every nook of Yale’s and New Haven’s increasingly global nature, there were attractions like a climbing wall and playhouse for children, face painting, Chinese calligraphy and Henna tattoos. This year’s event also drew performers from all over Connecticut, with new groups like Hartford-based Phoenix Performing Arts joining an already diverse collection ranging from Hamden’s Mulan Art School to the Mariachi Academy of Connecticut. The Baila Peru and the Hamden Academy for Dance & Music also put up performances that were immediate crowd favorites.
Marinda Brown, diversity program coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a sponsor of the event, said she has personally seen the “exponential” increase in visitors the Block Party has experienced over the past few years.
“Last year, we had almost 500 people, with just around 400 the year before that,” she said.
Yale Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Stanley-McAulay said that more than bringing the Elm City together, the Block Party also serves as a reminder to all who reside in New Haven about the sort of community spirit that exists in this diverse environment. Stanley-McAulay said the event is specifically targeted toward graduate students, who are most likely to bring their families.
Diane Chandler, the customer service representative for the Yale Latino Networking Group and chair of this year’s Block Party, was an active presence at the event, even emceeing for the performers at one point in the afternoon. She highlighted how a good majority of Elm City inhabitants came together to make this event possible, with many donating food, time or money. Vendors handed out free souvenirs like wristbands and stationary.
Chandler emphasized how the event serves as a chance for families to “go out and do something they otherwise wouldn’t do,” either for financial or logistical reasons.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids to enjoy, the parents to enjoy and it’s all free!” Chandler beamed, holding several clipboards and lanyards she needed to ensure that everything ran smoothly.
The event, which coincided with the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also recognized veterans and first responders.