Amistad reconsidering skipping trip to New London after Malloy threatens to drop funding

Jul 10, 2014

The "Freedom Schooner Amistad" in New Haven
Credit Craig LeMoult

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is threatening to reconsider supporting additional state funding for the replica Amistad slave ship. That’s because the group managing the schooner said it’s planning to skip this weekend's Sailfest in New London.

Just last week, when she was asked what the schedule for the replica ship was, Hanifa Washington, the head of Amistad America Inc. said, “the ship will be in and out of New Haven from now until the end of October. We’re going to several schooner festivals. We’re going to Sailfest.”

Earlier this week, Washington changed her tune. She said the Amistad would skip Sailfest, and blamed preparations for an upcoming Coast Guard inspection and what she described as hostile coverage by The Day of New London newspaper.

The Amistad group has had a number of financial problems in recent years. The group stopped filing its annual tax forms, and wound up losing its non-profit status. The first part of a state-funded audit of their finances is expected to be released shortly.

The schooner was built in 1999 with $2.5 million dollars of state money, and is supported annually by nearly $400,000 in state support. So Governor Malloy was not happy with their decision to pull out of New London’s Sailfest. In a letter, Malloy said it was "wholly unacceptable for Amistad America to break its commitment to a festival that brings hundreds of thousands of people to southeastern Connecticut."  Malloy said the group’s failure to turn up in New London would force him to reconsider supporting more state funding when it comes time to negotiate the state’s next budget with the legislature.

Now, in a new written statement, Washington of Amistad America says they will "exhaust every resource in our effort to attend Sailfest."