"Stetson Stories" Weave Memory Into Magic

From Newhavenarts.org: Beaver Hills resident and Mayoral Candidate Shafiq Abdussabur, who has been coming to the library alone since he was six or seven, remembered walking in through the back doors, and feeling instantly safe. Growing up in the Florence Virtue Homes, Stetson was the only place he and his friends were allowed to go by themselves. With a hitch in his voice, Abdussabur asked for a moment of silence for the young people in the city who were not afforded the chance to grow up. He added a moment for Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers earlier this month. 

The child of a postal worker and a teacher’s aide, Abdussabur described Stetson as his home away from home. It was where he fell in love with books, learned to play chess, and later returned to read and chat with friends after his daily routes as a paperboy. Beaming, he remembered becoming a student librarian during his youth, and thinking it was the coolest job in the world.  

“It gave me self-worth,” he said. As he became an adult, Abdussabur kept coming to Stetson—this time as a father of young children and a police officer early in his career. When the Q House closed across the street, Brown came to him with the news, ready to brainstorm. He remembered hearing her quiet, stern voice, and knowing that it was serious. 

“She said, ‘Shafiq, the Q House is closing. We gotta save our babies,’” he remembered. That conversion gave birth to years of collaborations, from the Urban Think Tank to book signings with artist Winfred Rembert to a Saturday chess academy that continues today across the street. His family now has three generations of Stetson patrons,including two who are under three years old. 

“We was just trying to save kids,” he said. “We wasn’t trying to be famous.”

Read the full story from the Arts Council Greater New Haven.