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West Hartford Woman Among Honorees at Connie Wilson Collins Concert

Nzinga's Daughters will perform at the Connie Wilson Collins Concert honoring exceptional women. Courtesy photo

Lorna Little will be honored at the 6th Annual Connie Wilson Collins Exceptional Women Concert on March 21.

Nzinga's Daughters will perform at the Connie Wilson Collins Concert honoring exceptional women. Courtesy photo

Nzinga’s Daughters will perform at the Connie Wilson Collins Concert honoring exceptional women. Courtesy photo

Submitted by Theresa Sullivan Barger

The Queen Ann Nzinga Center, Inc. will host its 6th Annual Connie Wilson Collins Exceptional Women Concert honoring outstanding women from the West Harford, Greater Bristol, Plainville and New Britain community on March 21. The celebration includes live musical performances, poetry, dance and tributes to the honorees. Crown Imperials, Nzinga’s Daughters, Mr. J. Bill Beverly & David Mayes will perform.

The event was renamed in 2014 in honor of Constance “Connie” Renee Wilson Collins (1928-2013), an African-American woman who made a tremendous contribution to the Greater New Britain community. Collins worked to help people reach their full potential through her work in political, spiritual, fraternal and nonprofit organizations.

Collins is an exemplary role model for the children and teens who participate in the Queen Ann Nzinga Center (QANC) programs, says Executive Director Dayna Snell, and she   continues to inspire youth to use their talents for the good of the community.

The celebration will honor: Pamela Bianca, Shirley Black and Evelyn Newman Phillips of New Britain; Betty Boukus and Gail Williams and of Plainville; Kimberley D. Finney Carmelich and Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, of Bristol; Lorna Little, of West Hartford; and Salome Raheim, Ph.D., of Bloomfield.

The event gives girls in the PRIDE program an opportunity to learn about successful local women and celebrate their accomplishments.

The public is invited to attend the concert and celebration, scheduled for March 21 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Raymond Hill School, 370 Linwood St., New Britain. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, visit http://qanc.org  or call860-229-8389. All proceeds help fund programming for the QANC, a nonprofit which emphasizes artistic expression and teamwork to build program participants’ skills and self-esteem.


Author and West Hartford resident Lorna Little, LCSW, executive director of St. Agnes Home, a group home for pregnant and parenting young mothers and their babies, speaks on teen parenting, adolescent development, women’s empowerment, foster care and adoption issues. A former teen mother herself, her memoir, “Mum’s the Word!,” was just released. A volunteer advocate and community mediator, Little is an adjunct professor at Springfield College and also a certified Social Work Field Instructor for UCONN, the University of St. Joseph and Springfield College. She has served on the board of the National Association of Social Workers’ Connecticut chapter and Catholic Charities’ Southside Family Center.

Salome Raheim, Ph.D., ACSW, of Bloomfield, is dean of the UCONN School of Social Work. Her scholarship and teaching focuses on improving the quality and effectiveness of social work education, health care and human services. She also studies the integrative mind-body-spirit approaches to health and healing. She has served nationally and internationally as a trainer and consultant to educational institutions, health and human service organizations and businesses to increase their ability to work effectively in a diverse environment.

Central Connecticut State University Anthropology Professor Evelyn Newman Phillips, Ph.D., of New Britain, a former Peace Corps volunteer, served in Keneba, The Gambia as a maternal and health care worker. She conducted the first African American social history in St. Petersburg and was selected to attend a seminar on Arab women in Jordan. She worked as a medical social worker before becoming an anthropologist. She’s the first person in her family to earn a doctorate degree and the first black woman anthropologist hired to teach at Central.

Pamela Roy Bianca is sessional clerk at the Legislative Management Building and works on the “Amendment Desk” for the state House of Representatives while the legislature is in session. Prior to that, the New Britain resident worked in banking for 20 years, rising from part-time teller to branch manager. Active in politics, she has run campaigns and served as vice chairman of her party’s town committee.

Shirley Black is a member of the New Britain Common Council. An alderwoman for 10 years, she is the president of the Black Democrats of New Britain and vice chair of the Democratic Town Committee.

Plainville native, State Rep. Elizabeth “Betty” Boukus, D-22nd, is deputy majority caucus chair and chair of the legislature’s Bonding Subcommittee of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. She is a past chair and vice-chair of the Plainville Town Council and has served as director of the boards of the Wheeler Clinic, Family Services Inc. and the Plainville YMCA. The first person in her family to graduate from college, Boukus earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Hartford.

Gail Williams is a professional musician, retired medical records supervisor with the Chief State Medical Examiner’s office and a former fashion designer and dress maker. When she joined Sam Kimble’s R&B band in 1960, she was the only female electric bass player in a working band in New England. Curator of the permanent exhibit on Plainville’s African Americans at the Plainville Historic Center, she’s the producer and director of “Here and There with Nzinga’s Daughters,” which airs weekly on Nutmeg TV. She’s a member of Nzinga’s Daughters, the Connecticut Freedom Trail Committee, New Britain African American Oral History project and director of the senior choir at Redeemer’s AME Zion Church.

Kimberley D. Finney Carmelich is director, Parent & Child Center of Bristol Hospital, a nonprofit focusing on parental education and child abuse prevention. Until recently, she served as chair of the Bristol Early Childhood Alliance.  She also serves as the vice-chair of the Bristol Youth Commission, Forestville Little League Board of Directors’ secretary and served as a coach and mentor to a team of elementary school students competing in the state “Odyssey of the Mind” contest.

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, a Bristol City Council member, has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration.  She is director of communications and marketing for the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, part-time director of development & grants for the Bristol Historical Society and serves on several town and school boards, including the high school booster club, Friends of the Library, Bristol Federal Hill Association, the Boys & Girls Club Keystone Auxiliary and as an advisory board member to “For Goodness Sake,” a nonprofit that collects home goods to distribute to people needing new starts.

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