Civic Ambassador Reflects Impact of Community Engagement to Advance Change – Connecticut by the Numbers

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by Valeriano Ramos

Antonia Edwards is a civic ambassador. Now retired, Antonia carries out daily outreach activities in communities as a family and community advocate. She encourages all voices in the community to be heard and makes a point of “meeting people where they are”. Although she is involved in a wide range of different organizations, she considers herself a non-partisan actor whose goal is to work for the people.

Connecticut Civic Ambassadors are nonpartisan change agents who can create a civic renewal movement by inspiring, motivating and empowering others to get involved. Any Connecticut resident who believes that engaging others in community and public life strengthens the civic health of our state and promotes community well-being can be a Civic Ambassador. They can be elementary, middle, high school, or college students, young adults, older adults, or seniors.

Originally from Boston, Antonia moved to Virginia with her autistic son 10 years ago. However, Virginia failed to provide the services necessary for her son to get the support he needed, so four years ago she decided to move to Connecticut where her other child lived. She connected with FAVOR CT who helped her navigate the transition process and provide her son with the appropriate support. Antonia found the experience so impactful that she pledged to give back and has been actively engaged in community advocacy in Connecticut ever since.

“Antonia found this experience so impactful that she is committed to giving back and has been actively engaged in community advocacy in Connecticut ever since.”

She now serves on the following councils/organizations: Greater Hartford African American Alliance, CT Council on Developmental Disabilities, Children’s Behavioral Advisory Council, Health Equity Solutions, Desegregate CT, DCF Regional Advisory Councils, FAVOR CT Disability Rights, North Alliance on Mental Illness, Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, & Opportunity, Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, Comité Amistad, Hartford African American Alliance, and Connecticut Alliance for Research and Engagement.

Involvement in the many aforementioned organizations was not enough to satisfy Edwards’ ambition and she co-founded her own grassroots organization, Solidarity and used its power to pursue legislative action. A year ago, Antonia worked with Senator Saud Anwar on SB-1, Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis, which was signed into law on June 14, 2021.

After looking at the disparities in health outcomes by race, Senator Anwar asked Antonia what she thinks explains these discrepancies. She highlighted the importance of understanding how the stereotypes and implicit biases born of chattel slavery influence the functioning of racism in the present. This historical context is necessary to explain why all black people in America, not just black people from slavery, experience disparate health outcomes. Antonia’s compelling explanation motivated Senator Anwar to add a study of the impact of historical racism on Black American descendants of chattel slavery to the bill.

“After moving to Connecticut, she was shocked by the intensity of residential segregation and found that state to be more segregated than southern states like Mississippi or Alabama.”

Antonia has continued to expand the scope of her work to include residential desegregation, federal reparations, and COVID relief funds. After moving to Connecticut, she was shocked by the intensity of residential segregation and found that state to be more segregated than southern states like Mississippi or Alabama. SolidDarity has partnered with Desegregate CT to work on SB-1024, a bill that would have required municipalities to provide more affordable housing or face penalties. Antonia has worked with civil rights attorney and former Hartford Councilwoman Cynthia Jennings, Wilbert “Reggie” Hales, and CT Parents’ Union President Gwen Samuels to inform local communities of a issue she is passionate about: federal reparations for black American descendants of slavery. /Freedmen. Antonia and her collaborators also seek to find out what disparities exist in the communities here and why they are not heard.

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