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

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there places in New England you would recommend instead?

cremepuff said...

Hi Andrea: I came across your post and read it with amusement. I grew up in RI and I used to count the days until I was old enough to get out! I was nodding and chuckling at some of your comments (particularly about the clannish residents) because they took me back years. I remember, in my day they used to have this saying: Rhode Island born and bred -- said with pride because many never even crossed state lines to go visit MA. or NY. It was such a pretty little state full of such bad memories, so I just wanted to compliment you for speaking up about it. I see this blog was written in 2015 -- I hope you and your husband were able to move on. Me? I escaped to CA and never looked back. Best, Ev Gabai

Unknown said...

Hi Andrea,

I really enjoyed your article and my worst fears came true about the R.I. area. My family and I will be moving to R.I. due to the military. I must say, I cried when my husband said that we have orders to R.I. because never in a million years would I have thought, we would get stationed there. I know that as African Americans, we are doomed for many challenges moving to R.I. as I have already struggled with trying to find a home to rent with an A rated school for my 13 year old daughter to attend. I actually fear for my daughter being maybe 1 of 2 only blacks in the school with no activities for her to partake in with people who look like her. As a Black female who lived in R.I., what advice, recommendations or resources could you provide that would make life living in R.I. less daunting. Also, what area would you recommend as one of the best place to live in R.I.. Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.

Courtni

Unknown said...

Wow - this article is SO eye opening!! I am a white woman from Boston, moved to RI for love. I always joke about how it appears lifelong Rhode Islanders seem to believe the world is flat and the state line is the drop off point to the end of the world. I will admit I have enjoyed living in quirky little RI, but as a white woman I obviously am not biased against in any way other than that I am a transplant which carries its own, albeit minor, annoyances and difficulties. I will not insult you by claiming to understand the scope of the difficulties you've faced while living here in RI. I will say that I have noticed the lack of diversity. Although I've commented to others about how NON diverse Rhode Island is and that that is very ODD to me, I've never thought to question WHY. I've allowed the thought to flitter it's way in, and then right back out of my mind. I'm disappointed in myself for that. Your article has sparked in me a yearning to learn more about the culture of discrimination that is at the heart of Rhode Island. Your words have made me realize that my ignorance = my acceptance. I want to, I NEED to, learn more about this, recognize it when I see it happening, and step up to take action against it. I commend you for your courage in speaking up, I apologize to you for my ignorance (i.e. acceptance), and I thank you for writing this enlightening and DEEPLY MOVING article. Thank you

Unknown said...

Thank you for this sister.. I was researching Rhode Island as a possible "next" destination for me and my family.I traveled to Rhode Island in 2009 to visit a university and I was impressed with the open air and beauty of the trees in the fall. It really have the impression of relaxation and a feeling of calm. Thank you for shedding some light on the "real Rhody". I would not have wanted to make the mistake of putting myself and my family through the needless misery that you find in too many places in this country. I agree with you that we are enough.. this too shall pass! Thank you so much again for your story and insight sister we appreciate and salute you and your unapologetic blackness!

Proud Black Rhode Islander said...

As a professional black women who has only lived in Rhode Island although I appreciate your article I do wish blacks would come back to RI. Once upon a time our people owned businesses and held cultural events in Roget Williams park, parades down Broad St. but we allowed that to slip through our hands. Others saw the opportunity in Providence and there has been a Latin explosion due to us dropping the ball. There is still great opportunities here in Rhode Island especially Providence. Instead of fearing the state name come take back possession of the plantations here, come build up the black community here. There is strength in numbers, as the Latin community has demonstrated

Anonymous said...

I live in Providence, I can confirm there is a lot of Italian nepotism going on here. You cant blame whites for all your issues though, as you said you applied for 150 jobs you were overqualified for, most companies don't want extremely over qualified people because they get bored with their job and demand more money. Also its the smallest state with the most overpopulated cities, so job hunting is hard for everyone with all the applicants, that is why you see alot of Rhode Island license plates on cars driving in South East Massachusetts.
On white racism, there is an issue with white racsim in Rhode Island, its not like southern racism, you wont get called names in public, but the so called multicultural democrats don care about blacks they use them as instruments. Providence County, Providence, Cranston, Central Falls, Pawtucket is almost all apartments. Their original intention were European immigrant cities, the thing is though, those Europeans started their own companies and what not, got educated and moved out, now its mostly black and Hispanic and poor white trash that don't want to move out, but stay in, be lazy smoke pot all day and collect EBT. Most if not all these triple/quad stacked apartments are Section 8 subsidized and ran by slumlords. Hispanic and Black gangs plague providence and sell crack like it was the 80s and have no empathy and sell Fetnyl like hotcakes. The "Brown" community is also super obsessed with toxic hiphop culture, they are always emulating NYC Harlem/Brooklyn project housing culture like its cool. They all use slang and speak like retards.

Anonymous said...

Also to add to the Italian-American nepotism is stated is rampant, if you are not from Rhode Island reading this, go to google maps look at the Federal Hill Atwells ave area on google maps. Nice paved roads, Italian flag on the street instead of yellow lines, nice buildings etc. Once that road turns into Manton Ave its yellow street lines to let you know its not Italian anymore, graffiti everywhere, potholes, bad roads, gang signs on stores, drug addicts walking around, typical ghetto neighborhood. All the states money goes into Atwells. It is the fault of the Italian mafiaized government, just like the corruption at Twin River casino (you never win). It is also a brown problem because they never unlike the European immigrants who inhibited the apartments before them, took it upon themselves to improve their community. They dont want to pick up trash, dont want to paint over gang signs, THEY FEEL LIKE IF THEY LIVE BY THE "STOP SNITCHIN" CODE, THEY ARE COOL. Blacks and Hispanics almost NEVER CALL THE COPS because they are obsessed with hiphop culture. The first step to improve your crappy cities is to START SNITCHING and to collectively shame all the drug dealers in your cities and to most importantly SHUN RAP MUSIC. RAP MUSIC IS THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR OWN SELF INDUCED GENOCIDE! Black people are musically talented and can make better music than rap. Black parents need to ban rap from their households.

Anonymous said...

To conclude my comments. Its overpopulated, more and more NYC Dominicans because of NYC rent prices and Puerto Ricans because of the hurricane are moving to an already overpopulated place ever day. Your unlucky job hunt is not to blame on white people. ITS THE MOST OVERPOPULATED STATE almost a QUARTER OF RI RESIDENTS WORK IN MASS because of this issue. BLACKS MAKE EVERY CITY IN THE CANADA, UNITED STATES AND EUROPE THEY ARE IN WORSE BECAUSE THEY ARE OBSESSED WITH HIPHOP/PRISON CULTURE. White trash/Hispanics/South East Asians (Cambodian wanksters)/Blacks in Pawtucket/Central Falls, South Providence, West Providence are the cause MOST NOT ALL of their own problem.THEY POST EVERY THING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, OPIATE CULTURE, PILL POPPING CULTURE, GANG CULTURE, and the only recreation around is CLUBBING and HOOKAH BARS is all fueled by SHITTY TOXIC RAP CULTURE.
to conclude....
Rhode Island fucking sucks. If you not Italian, you will not thrive in this shithole.

Beverly Rivers-Tenneson said...

You may be surprised my this but my family and I voluntarily moved from California to New England and landed in Rhode Island. We arrived in January then the Covid 19 shelter in place began weeks later. We actually love it here. We left California because our family was scattered all over the US and we had endured so many hurtful things while there some from leaders in the churches. We believe that God led us here. We have encountered blessing after blessing after arriving. We live in Central Falls, the poorest city I hear, in a quiet building that used to be a factory now renovated in to residential suites. Everyday we are visited by turtles, ground hogs, Canadian geese and their babies, and there is a dock with a jaccuzzi that overlooks the river in our backyard! We dropped into a beautiful situation. I am an outreach minister and I can see the poverty all around. This is my new mission field and I hope to reach out to hurting families who are affected by the senseless killings, protests, and major changes as the whole world watches and protests from a distance. I believe that something wonderful is about to happen and those who are willing to stand will reap the benefit as the oppressor has to finally pay what they owe to opressed people. Just yesterday I heard the the Govenor of Rhode Island is removing the word "Plantations" from the state logo. That may seem small but I believe that all Mighty God has shaken the tree and those of us who have been unfairly treated especially the descendants of African slaves will rise like never before in this nation. I truly believe that God led me to the smallest, poorest, maybe one of the most racist states to be blessed and be a blessing. If you'd like to follow my journey here visit. bcpainc.org or breakfreewriter.com
Be strong family. Change is coming.... Now!

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing; I am really sorry that you had to feel that way ; that is a terrible feeling to live with day in day out trying to fit in such a racist world. i watched your videos and really appreciate your courage in stepping forward.

Anonymous said...

It saddens me you were treated in these ways in RI. As a white male In RI I can’t say I ever fully understood the systemic racism here. Sadly it took the events in 2020 to get me to do so, but I am educating myself on these issues. I appreciate your courage in sharing this.

DDecesare said...

It makes me sad that you didn’t get to experience some of the amazing parts of the state of Rhode Island. The plantation name was not so much about slavery as it was just another name for a colony. Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams who was determined to have religious freedom for everyone. He also was befriended by and very respectful of the local native populations. In fact he actually learned the language and was given property by them. Rhode Island also was a major stop on the underground railroad with secret locations all over the state. Newport was the site of the first Jewish synagogue in the US, which is still open today. You also may not have explored the history of the Rhode Island famous First Regiment, an all black regiment in the Civil War which operated heroically throughout the war and fought in many Important battles. You also failed to mention that Brown University is here ,As well as The Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island College, Providence college, University of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, Roger Williams Univ. & Law School and Hasbro Children’s Hospital; all top-notch institutions with opportunities and scholarships for all. Johnson and Wales is world renowned for its culinary education, University of Rhode Island has one of the best oceanography programs in the world. Hasbro Corp is also here in RI. I’m sad that you didn’t take advantage of the many beautiful natural surroundings in and around Narragansett Bay, including our many beaches, farms and magical Block Island. Rhode Island also has a very active and exciting art community which you may or may not have experienced. In my opinion you bailed too soon. RI is a short drive from beaches, mountains & major cities: It ain’t perfect, but it is much better than you’ve suggested. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

I was born here, grew up in Providence, had friends (still have) of every persuasion. I am white, and from 4th grade on, my best friend was black. My husband is from Egypt. My kids are obviously biracial. I often tell people I wish they grew up like I did. They wouldn't feel the racial tension. I'm sorry for your experience. We are cultured, we travel a lot, we're well-educated and well-read. And Brown and RISD attract amazing people from all over the world. Sounds like you just didn't make the right friends in the right place. I love my home and thank God every day I was able to grow up in such a diverse, accepting place. I do hope you found your place in the world.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I just said the same thing.

rosalyn beatty said...

Hi I was born in New Haven, CT. I've lived in CT. all my life. I've resided in southern Hamden (next to New Haven where since the 60's became mostly black). Also, in mosly white Wallingford and now Portland, CT. above Middletown. RI sounds alot like East Haven. Since, forever - E.H.s' 97% Italian populace has made life 'hell' for every black person who has moved in. It's mayors, police chiefs, and most of it's cops are either whole or half Italian. One Italian-American woman who moved in from another area says E.H.s' 'Italian' population acted 'cliquish' towards her! E.H. has a long sordid, dirty reputation among African-Americans, and now towards Hispanics. Since the millenium, the E.H. police have hounded and racially profiled the Hispanics to the point where many of them have moved right back out of that town. I have read on the internet about biracial women who were born & raised in R.I. of one Italian and one black parent. And they both were labeled the 'n' word both in and out of school. West Haven, CT. has had power/racial struggles between black and Italians in politics and schools (mainly from the 70's - 90's). With N.Y.C.s' Italian mayor including his black wife and mixed kids -- it puts their whole family under a judgemental microscope by N.Y.'s Italians. The white cops and Italian N.Y. people are critical and angry towards this family. They are constantly attacked in the news! I don't mean to vilify Italians -- yes, all over New England they will befriend African-Americans. But they will let us know right away how they despise interracial marriage between them and us! For generatins, most did not care for marrying any European of non-Catholic or non-Italian heritage. They have started to lighten up about this now. But, never when it comes to marrying blacks. And they will ostracize any Italian who does cross this line. I read that Italians are conditioned that 'patriatism' is about hating blacks. They have made it abundantly clear in this country.