Torrington’s diversity is subject of multicultural celebration Friday
TORRINGTON — Residents Angaza and Effie Mwando have watched the face of the city change over the last decade, with more cultural groupsliving and working here. In response, they founded Our Culture is Beautiful, an organization focused on celebrating the city’s growing diversity.
Our Culture is Beautiful is holding a multicultural festival from 5:30-8 p.m. Oct. 18 in the auditorium at City Hall.
“I moved here in 2003, and the city has changed so much since then,” said Effie Mwando, who works for Community Solutions, an agency that works with probation clients on Field Street. “We want to bring people together to celebrate those changes.”
Her husband, Angaza, who moved to Torrington five years ago and has worked with the state Department of Correction for many years, also has noticed the uptick in new residents and new businesses, many of whom hail from Central and South America as well as West Indian and African nations.
“It’s an old town, but a new town at the same time,” he said. “So many new cultures are coming in, and that’s why we want to do this — to bring them together. I’ve met people from Puerto Rico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic ... and they all have something to offer.”
The Mwandos also believe that helping these new cultural groups feel they belong must involve many people. As members of Workman Memorial AME Zion Church on Brightwood Avenue, they have enlisted support from Torrington Police Chief William Baldwin, Mayor Elinor Carbone, the Fire Department and school administration. Helping families and individuals who are new residents in town should be a group effort, they said, including police, fire and municipal officials and employees.
“Chief Baldwin has been great,” Angaza Mwando said. “He’s very willing and wants to help, especially with families and young people, to find ways to communicate with them.”
The couple started meeting at Workman Memorial several years ago, and quickly developed a committee that focuses on the work of Our Culture is Beautiful. “It’s a diverse group of community members,” Effie Mwando said. “We have about 15 members.”
One result of the committee’s work, she said, is that Carbone is establishing a Cultural Affairs Committee. “That is something that the city can do to be involved in addressing the changing population here in Torrington,” she said. “It’s a way to celebrate it.”
What inspired the Mwandos most, however, was their realization that many children and young people come from mixed-race families, with two or more cultures in the home.
“Sometimes the children need to know what their diversity is all about,” Effie Mwando said. “We want young people to embrace their differences, but sometimes they wonder, ‘Where do I fit in?’ The new generation, coming from blended families, shouldn’t be embarassed by their differences, or feel isolated. They should be celebrated. They need to know they’re all part of one big group.”
“That’s true,” said Angaza Mwando. “Sometimes, in an interracial family, kids are kind of caught in a trap. They don’t know where they belong ... but they can learn to embrace both of their cultures. This is a way to do that.”
The intent of the celebration is two-fold. Along with various groups providing dance, music and food, Our Culture Is Beautiful hopes to find a way to save a mural on the Libby’s Furniture Building behind East Main Street and have it moved to a new location. The building was sold earlier this year, and unless a plan is put in place to save it, the mural will be destroyed.
On Friday, guests will have the opportunity to meet and to acknowledge the young artists and those who designed and implemented the mural project. “Some of those artists are grown with families of their own now,” Angaza Mwando said.
The group hopes to enlist artists from the community to create a Portraits of Purpose exhibit in City Hall, highlighting the many different types of people who make up Torrington.
Visitors to the multicultural celebration will find food, music, dancing and storytelling. The group plans to present awards to four African-American residents for their contributions to the community. Speakers also are expected to participate.
For more information, call Kevin Johnson at 860-375-5842.