Middlesex United Way: Stakeholders to share stories for 'Elevating Black Voices'

MIDDLETOWN — The Young Leaders Society provides a unique way to get involved with Middlesex United Way, give back through volunteer service, network with peers and community leaders, all while developing leadership skills.
The group is run by a steering committee comprised of about a dozen young professional volunteers from various local sectors, including businesses, nonprofits and government.
This year has looked much different than most for the Young Leaders, but to support the Middlesex County community, they invite you to participate in a conversation with a panel of black community leaders.
“Elevating Black Voices: A Virtual Conversation on Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunities for Collaborative Change in Middlesex County” will provide attendees the opportunity to listen to local Black leaders as they share their perspectives on and help identify issues of racial inequity, systemic racism, racial injustice and racial exclusion in Middlesex County, along with discussing how each panelist is helping to address these needs in our community.
The event will further explore opportunities for change and collaboration, which will be followed by a brief question-and-answer discussion between attendees and panelists in relation to the conversation topics. This event aims to motivate and engage the community to connect and provide a launching ground for collaborative, lasting change.
The event will feature six panelists: Iyanna Crockett, Ed Ford Jr., Shanay N. Fulton, Erica Lynn Hunter, Kelvin Young and Shardae Nicholson.
Crockett is a senior at UConn and a member of several student organizations, such as the Defund UConn PD Steering Committee, BIPOC in UConn School of Fine Arts and EveryVoiceCT Coalition.
Hunter is a vocal and passionate leader in our community. She organized and led her first march, and subsequent marches locally, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and is actively speaking out for justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor. Erica is also a member of Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown.
Fulton is Middletown’s Alternate Commissioner of Planning & Zoning. Her connection to Middletown started when she first moved to the North End of town, and began attending community action meetings with the North End Action Team.
Ford Jr. sits on the Middletown Common Council. Prior to that, he was a member of the Board of Education from 2017-19, and nationally recognized as one of the youngest Black Republicans elected in Connecticut.
Nicholson has been a resident of Middletown all her life and serves on the Middletown WORKS Core Team, where she is chairwoman of parent engagement.
Young is a Middletown resident, community health worker at InterCommunity HealthCare in Hartford and certified sound healer.
Each panelist brings a unique perspective and background, and we are so fortunate to have them volunteer to discuss their experiences and opinions.
Crockett is excited to be talking with other community organizers and hopes to learn something from them. “I am passionate about student activism and getting as many people, specifically students, involved in activism. Anyone can make change with time and commitment. I think making people realize their potential to make change through activism can lead to creating a stronger community.”
Since March, the Young Leaders have adapted by continuing to meet monthly via Zoom, as well as plan other virtual events to support the community. If you are interested in participating in this virtual discussion or to learn more about the society, email Amanda at Amanda.furlong@Middlesexunitedway.org or register at yls.eventbrite.com.
The Young Leaders hold various events throughout the county, and are an integral part of the Middlesex United Way efforts to strengthen and improve our county. They have successfully held Learn with Leaders, speed mentoring with local professionals, school supply drives, and various fundraising events over the years.
Each holiday season, they volunteer with the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project by hosting a weekend of Fill-a-Bus events that collects more than 2,000 food items. They also host their annual Stuff-a-Cruiser event in December, collecting gifts for underserved teenagers who would otherwise go without during the holiday season.
For information on how to get involved with the Young Leaders, email Amanda Furlong at amanda.furlong@Middlseunitedway.org.
Kevin Wilhelm is CEO and president of Middlesex United Way in Middletown.