Doo-wop, a cappella and hip-hop filled the normally silent Stetson Library on Wednesday night in a fall-themed event arranged by Yale and Dixwell community groups.
The event, named the Stetson Harvest Festival, included performances from Yale and high school groups, arts-and-crafts stations and kid-friendly games for the Dixwell community. While the event was hosted by the library — which is a part of the city-wide New Haven Free and Public Library — the festival partnered with a multitude of other organizations including the Dixwell Management Team, the Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus, the New Haven Police Department, the Yale Police Department, the Yale Black Men’s Union and Yale College Council, among others.
“It’s a nice way to get everyone in New Haven together with Yale students,” said YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21.
According to Jaelen King ’22, BMU’s community outreach chair, the event has been a tradition in New Haven for years, and it is the first time Yale student groups have helped organize it. In need of more volunteers and supplies, New Haveners first reached out to BMU, which then partnered with YCC and YPD to help.
King said that the partnership between YCC, BMU and YPD was a “good step in the right direction,” as opposed to doing things individually.
According to both Greene and King, YCC and BMU helped through providing financial support, designing activities and arranging performances by Yale student groups.
“For us it’s a no-brainer to be able to go over [to the Stetson Branch Library] tonight to hang out and pass out candy and take part in what our community is doing,” said YPD Community Engagement Officer Martin Parker.
Originally, the festival was going to take the form of a “trunk-or-treat” — trick-or-treating out of cars — but organizers were forced to move it inside the library due to rain. So, participating organizations simply moved their tables, candy and activities inside. The roughly 50 children in attendance played games like pumpkin bowling and enjoyed activities like face painting and spooky craft making. Manning the face painting station was Greene along with BMU President Cameron Luther ’21. Also in attendance were New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Stetson Branch Manager Diane Brown and Dixwell Management Team Co-Chair Nina Silva. Overall, about 100 community members enjoyed the night’s festivities.
The Festival kicked off with a dance performance from the local youth group Ice the Beef — a gun violence prevention group focused on giving youth a safe space — to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The group consisted of New Haven high school students, many from James Hillhouse High School, which is located in Dixwell. Two members of the dance group also represented two-thirds of Elm City doo-wop crew Kompozure — Aveion Downs and Shawn Sufra. At the request of Brown, the two gave an impromptu performance right after showing off their moves.
“We met freshman year in the weight room, we’re seniors now,” Downs said, speaking about Kompozure’s founding. “Ever since then we’ve been dancing together and formed a group and it escalated from there.”
A number of Yale groups also performed, including Dzana — the Yale Gospel Choir — and Shades of Yale. King acted as the master of ceremonies for the night and planned the performances in advance.
“It’s definitely not targeted towards Yale students … we are supporting them, but it’s for New Haveners and by New Haveners,” Greene said. “It’s unique because we are providing assistance for something that is not around us… New Haven programming that Yale students take a part of is usually for Yale students, and we are trying to break that.”
The Stetson Library is located at 200 Dixwell Avenue.