Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being Black in Rhode Island

"Rhode Island is the third worst state for Black Americans to reside in." -The Worst States for Black Americans, 24/7 Wall St

Being a Brown Girl From Boston, I experienced my fair share of experiencing the pros and cons of being a Black American living in Boston, Massachusetts. I am a proud Mattapanian who was born and bred in a two-parent household in which home ownership, savings, investment, and the community was the top priority within the culture of people and within the community which was predominantly Black.

Currently, I am a brown girl who resides in Providence, Rhode Island. Let that sink in for a moment. I relocated to Rhode Island in 2011 for love. My husband relocated to Providence, RI from Boston a few years before I decided to relocate for my husband and marriage. I also asked my husband why did he move to Providence, RI of all places? You just don't wake up one day and say hey, I think I am going to move to Providence today? No, no, no!!

Rhode Island is a state, not an island, nor Long Island in New York. Many people are confused between Rhode Island and Long Island. Rhode Island is very tiny! Many people are related here, never left this state and have any plans on leaving the state. My husband and I are definitely leaving here very, very soon. Rhode Island is located in between Massachusetts and Connecticut. You can travel in and out of Rhode Island less than 45 minutes, so don't blink or you'll miss the entire state. It is cold, very cold during the winter time. I am currently rocking my pj's and long socks as I type this post. Rhode Island offers less than 1% of what I want and need.

On the flip side, little Rhody is where I birth Brown Girl From Boston, uncovered my FLYness and where I get to live with the love of my life (temporarily). Besides all the romantic stuff, Rhode Island is not a place for Black people to live. The state of Rhode Island entire name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Don't worry, I'll let you reread the name of the state over and over until it registers in your brain. I feel like a runaway slave because I am always finding an exit strategy to get off the plantation before I get caught up.

Rhode Island is the third worst state for Black Americans to live. Let me repeat this statement, Rhode Island is the third worst state for Black Americans to live. Here are some facts that will have you clutching your invisible pearls. According to RIFuture.org:

There are only 6.4% Blacks who reside in Rhode Island
29.4% of Blacks in Rhode Island own homes (10th lowest in the United States)
Black incarceration rate: 1,884 per 100,00 people (11th lowest in the United States)
The black unemployment rate: 16.0% (6th highest in the United States) compared to 9.2% of all people (2nd highest)
Black households earned just 62.2% of the white median household income across the nation, black Rhode Island households made just 52.5% of white households in the state.
More than 23% of Black Rhode Islanders lived in poverty last year while less than 11% of White residents live in poverty

Every day I wake up in Providence, Rhode Island, I pray and meditate on the day in which I can wave goodbye for good to Rhode Island. Being Black in Rhode Island can exhaust your energy, finances, and hope for humanity. I have had my fair of personal and professional struggles while living in Rhode Island but slowly overcoming them.

I have taken so many losses such as being rejected for over 150 jobs despite being a Licensed Master Social Worker, and having a diverse professional background experience, and doing well on job interviews. It takes a toll on your mind, body and soul when you get rejected from jobs that you know you are overqualified for. Majority of the jobs, I had in Rhode Island I have been overqualified for and worked for incompetent superiors who barely had an associates degree but questioned my education status on a day to day basis because "I am too young to have a master's degree and a diverse background of professional experience" and "How did you get your master's degree because I don't have one"  My master's degree didn't come easy especially being a graduate student with at The University of Southern Mississippi where I was one of two black in my master's program.

I have dealt with my fair share of racist supervisors in which I had to make complaints to the EEOC/Civil Right department due to discriminatory treatment on the job. Living and working in Rhode Island, I have been the only Black person in the entire organization. Do you understand how lonely, awkward and uncomfortable it is to be the only Black person in your entire organization? Most of the non-profit agencies, I've worked for are serving communities that are diverse, low-income and marginalized while the workers talked over their heads, down on them in a superior and authoritative tone  I have witnessed great and hard working Black people get terminated from a job due to "downsizing" but a few weeks later the supervisor brings in an incompetent and lazy individual who doesn't have a strong work ethic or can't operate a copier.  Mind you, this person is usually someone's cousin or a friend of the friend that need a job. When nepotism is keeping it real.

Living in Rhode Island as a Black person is depressing, oppressive and damn right unhealthy. They have sundown towns in which you hope and pray you are in and out of there by a certain timeframe unless you want to be harassed and profile by the police. You have to check people and their ignorance because some think you don't belong in certain areas due to your skin color. Now mind you this is New England in which people have been brainwashed to believe it is liberal, progressive and justice for all. Stop your F'n lying. New England operates on a covert, systemic, and institutional racism system.  Look at gentrification, workplace discrimination, high rental property where people of color reside and low pay for people of color in professional job positions. Gentrification isn't for the people of color, gentrification is set up for people who abandoned their homes in the 70s and 80s (White Flight) to come back to their original communities, drive the property taxes up to marginalize people out to the suburbs. Gentrification is not for the marginalized people, it is for people who jobs are in the city and they are tired of that long commute.

Being a Black person in Rhode Island is exhausting. The Black community in Rhode Island, especially in Providence, is very complex, complicated and not welcoming. Yeah, I said it. You want honesty and truth, right? I am not going to be politically correct and I am cool with that and losing Brownie points. The Black community in Providence has "designated leaders" who primary concern really isn't to uplift and organize the Black community. Many of these "leaders" are exploiting the people and many of these people are still sleeping. The same few "leaders" are always in the limelight, all up in the videos and talking the same ole same ole nonsense with no solutions nor results.

Some of the organizations here don't give the "outsiders/transplants" a chance to bring fresh and innovate ideas because "they don't know you" or "you haven't paid your dues".  How the hell am I going to pay my dues when you don't speak to me or get a chance to know me? Nope, I'll pass.  I will volunteer my time and services where it is  needed and wanted. Some of these "so-called" leaders are so damn power hungry that they aren't thinking about mentoring the younger generations for greatness. They don't know how to organize communities or events because everywhere is doing the same damn thing instead of coming together to better the community. It's all about getting all the shine and recognition as an individual instead of a group. If your community is struggling and you are trying to get all the shine and recognition, you failed as a leader because your community is still struggling. If one is struggling, we all struggle. If one shines, we all shine.

Many of these leaders, publicly throw major shade to an up and coming leader/activists instead of congratulating and mentoring this individual. I have seen many of my people get thrown underneath the bus and ran over by 'wannabe leaders" who don't have the passion or commitment to the community. Many of these leaders thrive off power, titles, picture taking, sitting on various boards and being in the limelight because they lack power and control within their own life. They don't want to know or understand the communities struggle or help the communities thrive because they are not asking the community input nor implementing them. When you organize the communities by listening and make actual change your community can grow and thrive. Stop placing your personal needs and agenda over the communities needs and agenda. It is not about you, Boo!

In conclusion, living in Rhode Island as a Black woman is exhausting and oppressive. If you are Black and looking to restart your life, don't think about living in Rhode Island unless you received a full scholarship from a College or University here. I have met some beautiful souls who have supported me, my husband and Brown Girl From Boston. I have built a tribe of Sistah friends, mentors, and friends who understand my frustration about living in Rhode Island. We know that our season is ending soon in Rhody and I am counting down the days until we can throw the peace sign and get the hell out of Rhody. Until that day, I am steadily building Brown Girl From Boston, providing a voice for those who may be voiceless and hopeless temporary, and making a difference within my community through my humanitarian work and encouraging my young people to be a leader and own their gifts, passion, and purpose.

I want to thank each of you for reading this post. I finally had the courage and insight to put my wounds on display. Whoever is reading this and if you are going through a similar struggle, remember you are not crazy, you are worthy and you are enough. You are not alone and this too shall pass. You don't have to deal with abuse, drama and dysfunction unless you choose. We have choices! Rhode Island isn't for everyone and nowhere is perfect as long as you have imperfect people, you will have imperfect places and systems designed to hold people down. No one can't hold you down but YOU. You can always work your way around systems that are designed for you.

Love and light!

P.S.: If you find yourself in an unfair and unjust situation or need support, please feel free to contact me. I am open to help anyone, whether it is resources to file an EEOC, look for another job or start your business. I have plenty of experience to help guide and support you. My direct email is drea@browngirlfromboston.com
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