WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – You can call her a mom on a mission or a leading lady looking for others to feel just as empowered.
That’s what Adrienne Billings-Smith has been doing in Connecticut after moving from Florida to West Hartford just 8 years ago. A community she loves, but quickly began to notice may not feel as welcoming to everyone.
“I saw that and recognized for however many years since the 1600s, the name of someone who was an enslaver is sitting in the middle of our town. A town that I thought was diverse and open,” Billings-Smith said.
That’s when it all changed. It became her mission, leading the charge to rename the town’s “Goodman Green” to “Unity Green.” She also realized she was just scratching the surface of what one person is capable of. She launched her organization “Concerned Parents of Colored West Hartford,” which works to make all families feel welcome.
“Once I recognized how much work could be done in this town just in terms of inclusivity, diversity, I wanted to be a part of that,” Billings-Smith said.
She joined a team of leaders to make inclusivity more visible, designing an equity mural that now spans the Noah Webster Library. It was unveiled during the first Juneteenth observation in town, which Billings-Smith helped organize.
“Each piece of the mural is a story that deals with Black history, not only nationwide, but on a local level, and that’s important I think,” Billings-Smith said.
Her organization reaches outside of town to help students with college prep, mental health resources and getting hundreds of school supplies into the young hands who need them each year.
“We don’t turn you away if you’re not from West Hartford. It’s for anyone who needs bookbags and supplies for school,” Billings-Smith said.
She’s become the first community leader-in-residence for the UConn History Department. Her genealogy project provided an opportunity for others to learn more about their ancestors, making a difference, empowering others.
“If people in Connecticut know that this can be done here in West Hartford, a large town with many opinions, then it can be done anywhere in the state. Giving people access to the resources, that’s my ultimate goal,” Billings-Smith said.
Paving the way for a brighter future for all is what makes her remarkable.