Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

During the annual Black and Hispanic Caucus State of the City address, Newhallville Ward 20 Alder Delphine Clyburn spoke about New Haven’s resilience in the face of adversity and the role the board hopes to play in dismantling systemic racism.

The speech, delivered via teleconference from City Hall’s Aldermanic Chambers, began by emphasizing how “tough” the year 2020 was on the city. Throughout the speech, Clyburn — who is also chair of the Black and Hispanic Caucus — enthusiastically reminded the Board of New Haven’s former status as a “model city” and its potential to be one again.

“In the 1960s and 70s, New Haven was called a model city for redevelopment,” Clyburn said. “I’m calling on New Haven to be called this model city again by abolishing systemic racism in our city.”

During her speech, Clyburn highlighted the collaborative and determined nature of New Haveners, saying they “stepped up like never before” in face of all the problems that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that stepping up was “out of necessity … but more importantly, out of love.”

She noted in her address the impact of “hundreds of years of systemic racism” on communities in the city — inequalities which were exacerbated by the pandemic. Clyburn also reiterated the importance of effective changes in the city to address this legacy.

“For there to be sustained change, it must be institutionalized in policy,” Clyburn told the board.

She acknowledged the city’s work this year to do just that, noting the recognition of racism as a public health issue and efforts to develop affordable housing and inclusive zoning policy as just some of these changes. Earlier this year, the Racism as a Public Health Issue Working Group, created by Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. along with Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers, developed a series of recommendations for the board’s consideration that it hopes will begin to dismantle the structures of systemic racism.

“I must stress that the recommendations [are] laying the groundwork for further work and deliberate changes to how our government seeks to eliminate systematic racism, from the roots,” Brackeen Jr. wrote in a February email to the News.

Walker-Myers spoke at the end of the board meeting on the ongoing trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the killing of George Floyd, and her request that people “keep pressing for things that are really important.” New Haven, she said, must reassert its commitment to ending systemic racism in order to prevent the city from getting stuck in a loop of reactionary conversations rather than preventative ones.

“I want people to know they need to just hold on and keep pressing, because one day, we will get to where we need,” Walker-Myers urged the board. “We’ve got to hold each other up.”

The board meeting is available for viewing here.

Ángela Pérez | angela.perez@yale.edu

Ángela Pérez writes as a staff reporter for the City, WKND and Sports desks, where she primarily covers City Hall and the Board of Alders. Originally from Puerto Rico, she plans to double major in Architecture and History.