To get to know this woman, first take a drive on Interstate 84 through Connecticut, and you’ll find West Hartford nestled halfway between Boston and The Bronx. The New York Times recently described this picturesque New England town as “a bustling suburb abutting Connecticut’s capital city,” and in the words of one home shopper, “a liberal enclave.”
The statistics tell one part of this story: Of its 63,000 residents, 73% are white, fewer than 8% identify their ethnicity as Asian or Hispanic, almost 6% are Black or African-American, and the median income is just under $100K. More than 70 languages are spoken in West Hartford’s schools, attended by 9,200 children. About 57% of students are white, 18.5% are Hispanic, 11% are Asian and 9% are Black. In 2020, an overwhelming 76% of West Hartford’s registered voters chose Joe Biden for president, and a far smaller but not insignificant number of voters, 24%, cast their ballots to re-elect Donald Trump.
According to movato.com’s guide to the best Connecticut communities for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and families with transgender individuals, 4.6% of West Hartford, Hartford and East Hartford identify as LGBTQ, a smidgen smaller than the general U.S. population.
Those are the numbers. But what West Hartford is really counting on this weekend is one Black lesbian who has made an indelible mark on her adopted hometown.
Pride flag flies over West Hartford's Town Center
West Hartford, Conn. DAWN ENNIS
Adrienne Billings-Smith stood in the center of town on a bright, sunny morning in June 2020, as local leaders and neighbors held their very first LGBTQ Pride flag raising at Goodman Green. The flag was unfortunately puny in comparison to the proudly waving Stars and Stripes, but the significance of the moment was not diminished. Yet as the rainbow flag went up, Billings-Smith’s jaw dropped, as she listened to Mayor Shari Cantor speak.