RILN Opinion+: Stephanie Geller

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the community.

This week we spoke with Deputy Director Stephanie Geller of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT about youth homelessness, children’s mental health, and educational support for multilingual learners within Rhode Island. 

RI Kids Count is a nonprofit organization based in Providence that has served children, youth, and their families across the Ocean State since 1994. 

Deputy Director Geller first discussed RI Kids Count’s research and efforts to support children and youth experiencing poverty & homelessness across the state.

RI Kids Count published a report this fall that shared data on poverty, income, and health insurance coverage throughout the state. 

Last April, Rhode Island was declared to be in a state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health care. Geller spoke on RI Kids Counts’ recommended steps—published in this report—to address the issue, which included addressing the workforce crisis.

“We’re seeing long waiting lists for a lot of different social services including mental health because we don’t have enough of mental health providers because we’re not adequately paying them,� Geller explained. “So, we really need to look at those fees and make sure we provide adequate payment so that we can have access to more providers in our communities.�

The same report by RI Kids Count found that youth of color were more likely to have their mental health impacted by the pandemic and they were much less likely to receive mental health treatment. 

“One barrier is that there’s a lack of culturally competent and linguistically competent providers so we need to provide access points for more diverse mental health providers to enter the field and for us to provide mental health providers [who] speak all languages that children and families need access to,� Geller said.

Rhode Island’s Hispanic child population grew by 31% between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2021 report by RI Kids Count: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Children’s Economic Well-Being in Rhode Island. 

“We really need to look at diversity as an asset but we also need to be aware of the disparities we see in children’s economic well-being, educational outcomes, etc. by race and ethnicity and really be honest about the reasons for those disparities and then try to topple them,� Geller said.

Geller also discussed the importance of looking at access to college and generally supporting multilingual students as the state has seen lower rates of high school graduation for multilingual learners than primarily-English speakers.

“Only 23% of Latino students in the class of 2021 went directly to college, compared to 46% of white students,� Geller shared. “So, we really need to think about giving people the financial opportunities, and the guidance cousel[ing] they need, and providing them the support if they’re learning English…so they can succeed because we know education is the primary way out of poverty for many families.�

Resources mentioned in this video:

Democracy in RILN: Voter Access Across New England

Hispanic and Latino Americans are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. electorate, with about 34.5 million Hispanics and Latinos eligible to vote in 2022 – around 62% of all new eligible voters nationally since 2018 are Hispanics and Latinos. 

While the turnout for Hispanic and Latino voters nationwide has increased over the past decade, they still fall behind other groups. Hispanic and Latino voters face a variety of barriers, but efforts to limit voter access are increasing across the country.

Democracy doesn’t properly work when people and communities are blocked or prevented from participating within local, state, and national elections. 

Expanding voting access across the country ensures that communities are accurately and justly represented by its elected officials. 

Advocating for and increasing voting access includes expanding early voting, online voter registration, and same-day voter registration. 

In Rhode Island, three significant barriers to voting were recently removed through the Let RI Vote Act, which was enacted in June. 

The act “allows residents to vote by mail without an excuse, drops the requirement that mail ballots be signed by two witnesses or notarized and makes permanent early in-person voting that was introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic,� according to The Center for Public Integrity

However, democracy activists argue that the state’s strict voter ID requirements still create a roadblock, especially for voters of color. 

Studies over the past years have found “that voters of color in states across the country lacked access to the needed IDs to vote in their state…Using county-level turnout data around the country, researchers demonstrated that the racial turnout gap grew when states enacted strict voter ID laws,� the Brennan Center reported

In 2020, non-traditional voting — all types of non-election day voting including vote-by-mail and absentee voting — accounted for about 69.4% of the vote, according to Deliver My Vote Executive Director Amanda Pohl.

“Vote-by-mail programs and any early-voting program does provide greater access to the ballot and that supports the basic foundation of our democracy,� Pohl said.

“We had the highest turnout election in modern history,� she added. “We had more people of color [and] young people voting…and more people accessing the ballot who otherwise,� would have not be able to.

Nonprofit leaders at the Vote Local Day discussion on Vote By Mail & Voter ID’s emphasized that the rate of vote-by-mail has increased over the years. They also spoke on how early-voting, vote-by-mail, and absentee ballots have led to greater and more diverse participation throughout the country. 

“Those accessible programs do increase access to voting for disenfranchised communities, especially, and we have some research that we released in February that also shows that young voters and especially voters of color are more likely to vote if they’re given vote-by-mail options,� Pohl said in the discussion.

Although data has found that expanding voter access results in higher participation rates among communities, officials across the U.S. are working to backtrack some of these laws.

“As soon as those things happened, we immediately saw states starting to clamp down on voting methodologies…We’re also seeing backlash from legislatures that don’t want to see that increased participation,â€� Pohl said. 

Since May, almost 400 restrictive bills have been introduced in legislatures across the nation. Some restrictions deny assistance to voters with limited English proficiency, according to the Brennan Center

“Over the past 18 months, there has been a wave of anti-voter bills introduced and passed across the country, many of them designed to undermine the growing political power of Latinos and other communities of color,â€� wrote the Brennan Center. 

Research by the Brennan Center would support the idea that the ongoing increase in voter restrictions are strongly motivated/influenced by “racial backlash�.

“Racial Backlash� is a theory that “describes how white Americans respond to a perceived erosion of power and status by undermining the political opportunities of minorities,� according to the Brennan Center.  


Important Reminders 

Registration: 

RI residents can no longer register at this time. Voter registration by mail, in person, and online ended on Oct. 9. 

Check your registration status at: https://vote.sos.ri.gov/Home/UpdateVoterRecord?ActiveFlag=0&?ref=voteusa_en 

Early Voting

Early voting is available from Oct. 19 to Nov. 7. Learn more at:

https://vote.sos.ri.gov/Voter/PersonVotingPage

Submitting an Absentee Ballot: 

Any voter could have requested a ballot by mail before Oct. 18. 

Ballots by mail must be recieved by Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. EST either by mail or in-person to be counted. 

Track your mail-in ballot at: https://ballottrax.sos.ri.gov/voter/ 

Voting Day:

On Nov. 8, RI Polls are generally open 7a.m. to 8 p.m. (any resident standing in line at the polls at 8 p.m. is able to vote.) Find specific hours by municipality at: https://elections.ri.gov/voting/pollhours.php 

Locate a polling place near you at: 

https://vote.sos.ri.gov/Home/PollingPlaces?ActiveFlag=2

Or 

https://gettothepolls.com


Additional Resources 

General

Be The Ones English Local Voter Guide 

Be The Ones Spanish Local Voter Guide 

Vote.org Poll Locator – https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/ 

Rhode Island

Common Cause RI Website – https://www.commoncause.org/

3 Questions With Executive Director John Marion Episode – https://rilatinonews.com/category/3-questions-with/ 


Publisher’s note: RI Latino News, under the Latino News Network umbrella, has put together this informational guide with the help of our partner Be The Ones, to help voters make informed decisions not only at the polls, but in their engagement with democracy going forward. 

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

Addressing Voting Barriers Among the Latinx Electorate

General local and state elections are quickly approaching so it’s crucial that residents feel informed and motivated to vote on Tuesday, November 8.

While election guides and resources are plentiful in the fall – such as our New England Voting Guide–  many organizations like Common Cause Rhode Island are dedicated to promoting and educating people on local and national democracy all year-round. 

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization committed to upholding democracy across the U.S. with a presence in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

Common Cause RI Executive Director John Marion was this month’s guest on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…â€�. 

Marion first spoke on national efforts to address voting misinformation and disinformation, which continues to disproportionately reach Hispanic and Latino communities online. This leads to confusion and frustration among potential Hispanic-Latino voters, possibly turning them away from casting their ballot. 

“We, nationally, have a program called social media monitoring where we recruit volunteers among our supporters and we give them training [on] how to spot misinformation and disinformation,� he told RI Latino News.

The program also shows volunteers how to either fix the factually incorrect information on the social media platform or “how to elevate it so that, ultimately, in some instances it can be reported to the platform itself.â€� 

Marion said the program is always looking for volunteers, particularly Spanish speaking volunteers. 

“Much of [misinformation and disinformation] has been targeting the Spanish language population in the United States and they’re especially vulnerable because platforms haven’t been as good in dealing with [misinformation from] non-English speakers on the platforms.�

For Election Day, residents can sign up as a nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer at ProtectTheVote.net. Anyone with a Rhode Island zip code would be directed to Marion so he can schedule them a one-hour online training session. 

“Once they’ve gone through that training, we assign them to a polling place and they’ll ask them to do a three hour shift on Election Day,â€� Marion explained. These volunteers stand outside with informational English and Spanish literature, looking for voters who might have questions. 

Marion also shared multilingual resources across Rhode Island that aim to support the state’s diverse communities in voting.

“Rhode Island has four communities that under the federal Voting Rights Act have to provide bilingual election services to voters…because of the size of the Spanish language populations in these communities,â€� he explained. 

Providence, Pawtucket, Central falls, and Woonsocket “have to provide ballots in English and Spanish as well as all other voting materials and they’re also supposed to have poll workers who can speak Spanish so they can assist voters.�

“Our Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has been fantastic in developing resources in multiple languages,� Marion said. Residents can visit Secretary Gorbea’s website — vote.ri.gov — for a variety of information on voting available in English and Spanish

Rhode Island has taken steps, institutionally, over the past decade to get young people registered to vote but Marion emphasized the importance of local organizations and groups to motivate young people to cast their ballots. 

“That is, to me, really the gateway to civic participation: through working with other people that care about issues you care about,â€� he said. 

“Young people need to get involved with organizations that are working on issues they care about,â€� Marion explained. “Whatever issue you care about, find the group that is working on that and start showing up and I think you’ll find like minded people and then you’ll find that politicians are paying attention to your group.â€� 


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Labor Issues Are a Concern Among Central Falls’ Diverse Workers

CENTRAL FALLS AND PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Issues concerning worker’s rights spread across the globe, but in Rhode Island, two cities in particular—Central Falls and Pawtucket—have workers, advocates, and organizations advocating for solutions to wage theft, labor exploitation, low wages, and insufficient healthcare. 

DHL courier and union member Rasche Brown is one of those workers. Brown attended the Teamsters Local 251 Union strike at the DHL Express ServicePoint in Pawtucket on September 9. 

Please Note: The audio of Brown’s interview in the clip below was captured just before the strike had become violent. Police used pepper spray on protestors and five people were arrested and charged. For more on the events of the strike check out reporting by ABC6.

Rasche Brown, a DHL courier and union member, explained the protestor’s demands and why they personally chose to participate in the Teamsters Local 251 Union strike.

“We’re fighting for affordable healthcare and fair labor,� Brown said. “We’re working for peanuts…I have to have open-heart surgery and I can’t have it right now because I need affordable healthcare and working paycheck to paycheck is not helping at all. I’m being dead serious. If you ask anybody they’d say I was supposed to have open heart surgery last Thanksgiving. I can’t afford it and if I don’t get the surgery I’m going to die.�

In nearby Central Falls, Community Coordinator David Molina-Hernandez of Fuerza Laboral said two significant issues his organization is trying to end are “labor exploitation and wage theft, especially among vulnerable communities, especially Latino and immigrant communities.â€� 

Fuerza Laboral is a local nonprofit organization that advocates for workers’ rights within Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Central Falls is home to one of the largest Latino populations in Rhode Island. Hispanics and Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in the city at 69.3% of its total population, according to 2021 census data.

Fuerza Laboral Community Coordinator David Molina-Hernandez at his work station in Central Falls, RI.
Fuerza Laboral Volunteer Jhonny Mendosa is from Venezuela, he’s helping out at the organization while he’s in the U.S. these next few months.

Specifically pertaining to who’s more vulnerable to wage theft, Molina-Hernandez said, “It’s very common in which employers will not pay what’s legal or fair to their employees because they will be undocumented.�

Undocumented immigrants, including those that make up the Latino population in Central Falls, are more vulnerable to wage theft due to being afraid of immigration enforcement and thinking they can’t speak up to their employer because they believe they “don’t have a full book of rightsâ€� as a U.S. citizen would, said Molina-Hernandez. 

A common situation of labor exploitation and wage theft Fuerza might see is when an employer in a field like construction takes advantage of an undocumented latino employee by not providing sufficient pay for the hours they work, Molina-Hernandez said. The employer might pay for 40 hours when the employee worked 80 hours, all without providing any health insurance.

Misclassification of employees is an issue too. People that should be considered employees, employers treat as independent contractors so they can avoid paying certain taxes or can fire them without justification.

Governor Dan McKee speaks at Teamsters Local 251 Union strike at DHL Express ServicePoint in Pawtucket. “Our number one goal in the state of Rhode Island right now is to increase people’s incomes and that’s why you’re standing here today: benefits and incomes,� said McKee.

Central Falls resident Raul Ortega, while not in the labor industry, had experienced a form of wage theft at a car dealership he worked for in Massachusetts. 

“[Wage theft] happened to me in a past job where the company wasn’t paying out in overtime what they were supposed to be paying,� said Ortega.

Ortega is currently unemployed and said he wants to start his own car dealership. 

Both Molina-Hernandez and Brown had suggested asking local politicians how much they know about worker’s rights issues in the area and how they might try and help workers in the two cities out.

A partial solution RI State Senator Jonathon Acosta and RI State Representative Joshua Giraldo mentioned for worker’s rights issues was supporting the development of cooperatives in the state. 

Cooperatives are “businesses owned by ‘member-owners’� and they are “democratically controlled by their member-owners and unlike a traditional business, each member gets a voice in how the business is run. Services or goods provided by the co-op benefit and serve the member-owners,� according to the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I think the cooperative bill is one way, it’s one step but it’s also about making sure that we have the bureaucratic capacity to enforce the labor regulations that we have on the books,â€� RI State Senator Jonathon Acosta said. 

RI State Senator Jonathon Acosta (Democrat, District 16 Central Falls, Pawtucket) discussing his thoughts on how supporting co-ops can help with labor issues in Rhode Island.

“I was a big supporter of the bill put forth from the attorney general’s office that would make wage theft a felony…I feel like it really compliments the initiative I have,â€� RI State Representative Joshua Giraldo said. 

RI State Representative Joshua Giraldo (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls) discussing his support of bill S 2775 to make wage theft a felony in Rhode Island; it is currently classified as a misdemeanor.  

Ortega said he thought Acosta supporting the development of co-ops was a good idea. “That’s definitely the right move to do,� said Ortega. “It’s an equal thing. Everybody gets a piece of the pie.�

“With co-ops, since everybody’s their own bosses and their own workers, you will be fighting labor injustice in that way,â€� said Molina-Hernandez. 

Co-founder and Executive Director of LUNA Community Care Casey Gallagher supported the idea of developing cooperatives throughout the state. LUNA is the first disabled workers cooperative in the United States, Gallagher said. 

“In a workers cooperative, we’re able to really teach everybody the basics of the business and work off of people’s strengths, but also take care of one another,â€� said Gallagher.  

LUNA Community Care Co-founder/Executive Director Casey Gallagher (far left), Co-founder/Worker-Owner Tara L. Boulais (mid-left), Worker-Owner Jeremiah Rainville (mid right), and Worker-Owner Sy Bedrick (far right).

In this audio slideshow, Gallagher provides more info on LUNA Community Care. The cooperative held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, September 26, to celebrate the full opening of its programming, which includes classes, support groups, and special interest clubs, Gallagher said.  

“It is really a space where all disabled workers have equity… to give and receive support to one another, engage in special interests, [and] meet other community members,� Gallagher said.

In this audio slideshow, Gallagher provides more info on LUNA Community Care. The cooperative held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, September 26, to celebrate the full opening of its programming, which includes classes, support groups, and special interest clubs, Gallagher said.

Publisher’s Notes: This story is from Latino News Network’s partnership with Roger Williams University in supporting students’ community-driven elections coverage, possible by grants from the Center for Cooperative Media’s Democracy Day and the American Press Institute.

Latino News Network and Be The Ones Announce Partnership

Latino News Network (LNN) and Be The Ones are proud to announce their partnership to help constituents be well informed and prepared to participate in down-ballot races (local & state races) this November. The multi-layered communication and education campaign equips voters with accessible, clear, factual information to better understand which positions are on the ballot and how these officials impact issues like reproductive justice and voting access. 

While 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the U.S., only 53.7% cast a ballot in 2020. Research shows lack of easy to understand and accessible information is a barrier to participation. Local civic & voter education is essential if we want to increase participation. 

State and local officials shape our lives. They make decisions impacting everything from kids’ education, immigration policies, expanding healthcare, and voter access. With 99% of elections this year being state & local positions, we have an opportunity to meet people where they are and help them see the value their vote has in their community. 

Be The Ones is a nonpartisan organization working to increase local civic participation through accessible education campaigns. This fall their work is centered around educating voters on 10 local & state positions through their bilingual Local Voters Guide & hosting Vote Local Day on Saturday, October 8th. 

“Be The Ones is thrilled to work alongside Latino News Network to help make sure the voices of our communities are heard in this very important election. We know voting is just one tool in our toolbox that impacts access, opportunity and freedom. While our work is currently focused on preparing folks for November, we look forward to expanding our partnership with Latino News Network as we continue to strengthen the Hispanic-Latino community’s participation in our democracy,â€�  says Cate Mayer, Founder & Director of Be The Ones.

Hugo Balta, Owner, and Publisher of LNN commented on the partnership, saying, “We’re excited to work with an organization that aims to equip voters with clear, factual information that will help them confidently elect the local leaders they want to represent them and their community. Our newsroom takes a collaborative approach to prioritize communities through solutions-focused reporting rather than problem-focused.�

This partnership is part of a project called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms across the country are shining a light on threats to democracy and what action is needed to protect it. At Rhode Island Latino News (RILN), as it is with all of our sister news outlets under the Latino News Network banner , we’re not neutral about democracy. It fuels our commitment to serve the public, our belief in empowering an active citizenry.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.


About LNN

The Latino News Network (LNN) oversees five independent statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus English language news and information websites in New England and the Midwest.

LNN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Learn more about our work: https://latinonewsnetwork.com/, Twitter: https://twitter.com/LatinoNewsNet_ / Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/latino-news-network/

About Be The Ones

Be The Ones is a nonpartisan organization working to increase local civic participation through accessible education campaigns. We blend technology, community partnerships and storytelling to rally Americans to be more informed and ready to participate in local civic activities – from the ballot box to the pesky pothole down the street. 
Information and knowledge are power. When we provide information that’s easy to understand, engaging and relatable, constituents become actively invested in the future of our communities. Learn more about our work and join us: www.BeTheOnes.org / Instagram: @LetsBeTheOnes  / Twitter: @LetsBeTheOnes

Cover Photo Courtesy: Dan Dennis on Unsplash

Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos: Opening Doors

On Monday, June 27th, Governor Dan McKee signed the $13.6 billion budget for the 2023 fiscal year, promising many benefits for Rhode Island residents. 

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos appears as a guest on the Latino News Network podcast, â€œ3 Questions With…” to share details of the new budget and the benefits to the Latino community.

“I’m excited about this budget and the investment we’re making in the future of the state of Rhode Island,â€� said Matos as she shared the different elements and the impact the budget will have on the Latino community. 

“One of the areas in which I advocated for… and I’m very pleased to see that was included in the budget was the Cover All Kids campaign,� she said. This campaign will ensure that all children in the state of Rhode Island have access to health coverage regardless of their immigration status.

The Lt Governor shared other elements she advocated for that were included in the budget, like additional coverage for new mothers, investment specifically allocated for minority-owned small businesses, and a historical investment to improve homeownership in the state, taking an important step to eliminate critical disparities experienced by the Hispanic community.

 â€œI have seen first hand through my involvement with the housing advocate organizations… how building affordable housing transforms a community and transforms the quality of life of those individuals that live in that community. That’s why I make this such a priorityâ€�.


SUGGESTION: Sabina Matos: Leading The “Messy� Work Of Democracy


Lt Governor Sabina Matos was appointed as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of the state of Rhode Island on April 14, 2021, being the first Dominican American to hold this position in the United States.

“This appointment means so much to our community,â€� said Matos, deeply honored and humbled. “It means so much for our young people because they finally see someone that looks like them, that sounds like them, in a position of leadership in the state of Rhode Island…They can see that ‘this could be me, I can be this person one day.â€�


Do you have a suggestion for a guest to be featured on “3 Questions With…�? Send us your ideas to Info@latinonewsnetwork.com.

Ilhiana Rojas Saldana is the Founder, and CEO of BeLIVE Coaching & Consulting.

She is the author of the collaborative book, Extraordinary Latinas: Powerful Voices of Resilience, Courage & Empowerment.

Rojas Saldana is also a member of the New England chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW).

Ilhiana is no stranger to the Latino News Network, she was a guest on the podcast “3 Questions With…”: Pulling Herself Up.

RILN Opinion+: Amelia Rose

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the community.

The importance of cultivating green space was highlighted during the pandemic as residents struggled to find safe and clean outdoor spaces. “ A lot of our work is focused on communities that have high immigrant populations already. All the work that we do we try to do in multiple languages,� explained Amelia on the demographics of the communities they serve. 

This week we spoke with Amelia Rose, Executive Director of Groundwork Rhode Island.

Groundwork is a network of local organizations that focuses on environmental stewardship and economic opportunity for underserved communities. Groundwork is one of the fortunate companies to not be significantly impacted by the pandemic due to the accessibility of landscape and compost services with minor supply chain issues.

Partnerships is the main avenue that Rose is taking with Groundwork in order to build relationships and provide services with as many communities as possible. Involved community members have the opportunity to become immigrant ambassadors to engage with the community and get more people involved. 

Low-income communities face a variety of challenges such as climate, air quality, substandard living conditions, polluted facilities, etc. “We call these communities environmental justice communities or front line communities that are closer to these hazards,� explains Rose. Groundwork gives young students the tools to be educated on important topics through educational programs. 

In conversations about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Groundwork strives to open up conversations involving new voices to improve the principles of leadership of the organization. Opening up positions of leadership that do not require a college degree is essential to opening doors for those that cannot afford to go to college. This promotes inclusivity for college students and non college students. 

People can get involved through the planting of trees in Providence, Central Falls, Johnston, Cumberland, Lincoln and other cities across the state. Other services such as compost, watering, and adding green space will allow residents to get involved. 

Resources: 

Main website: https://groundworkri.org/

Facebook: facebook.com/GroundworkRI

Instagram: instagram.com/groundworkrhodeisland

Ray Nunez: Disrupting Dominant Culture Through Marketing

Ray Nuñez has a life-long passion for creative storytelling, inclusive community engagement, and equitable brand building. Since migrating to the United States from Los Reyes, Michoacán, Mexico in 1999, Nuñez has been recognized nationally for his innovative work in marketing, design, and leadership.

In 2015, Nuñez graduated from College Leadership Rhode Island and in 2017 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and Digital Media from Johnson & Wales University. 

After working in the media industry Nuñez decided to make a shift in his career towards entrepreneurship. 

Ray Nuñez delivers a speech on his entrepreneurial journey at Equity Institute‘s Regeneration event. Courtesy: LinkedIn

“In February of 2020, my wife and I quit our full-time jobs, left our health insurance, left all security,� Nuñez told Providence Monthly.

Nuñez and his equally-driven partner Taryn launched Nuñez, The People’s Agency, a multi-cultural marketing agency with an anti-racist focus that embodies the diversity and equity they wished to see globally. 

The agency helps mostly BIPOC-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate digital migration and overcome the systemic barriers in place that traditionally keep these firms from accessing resources. 

During the 2020 election, The People’s Agency played a key role in eliminating “Providence Plantationsâ€� from the state’s name, which was officially Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Nuñez said they launched a marketing plan, including customizing video messaging to each zip code in the state in order to best reach the majority of voters. The campaign was successful as the amendment passed with approximately 53 percent of the vote.

Nuñez’s bet is on the untapped creative potential born out of defiance of dominant culture. As such, he’s placing his chips in gathering a culturally diverse team at The People’s Agency to create a unique, fresh perspective on the way businesses and individuals tell their stories at the intersection of four focus points: data, design, disruption, and diversity.

“As the most influential industry, because we are everything you see, everything you read is marketing, it’s design, it’s communication, we knew that we had this huge responsibility to do good with that,� said Nuñez.

Nuñez sits on numerous boards in his effort to support marginalized communities, including the Latino Policy Institute and Rhode Island Mexican Association. He is the Vice President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a Community Advisory Board Member at the United Way of Rhode Island. Through these projects, he says he hopes to provide youth leadership opportunities and promote inclusivity.

Nuñez pictured with son Ramoncito | Courtesy: LinkedIn

Nuñez’s efforts led him to be named ‘2022 Who To Watch’ by Providence Monthly and receive a ‘Next Tech Generation 2021 Tech10 Award’ by The Tech Collective. He resides in Riverside, Rhode Island with his wife, their son Ramon, and their three dogs; Frida, Diego, and Pancho.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Ray Nuñez was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

LPI and RI Latino News are partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

Is there someone in the community you think we should feature? Send us your ideas to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.

Roe v. Wade Overturned: Rhode Island Reacts

The Supreme Court ruled Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion and leaving individual states to decide themselves whether to restrict or ban abortion alltogether. 

The decision closely mirrored Justice Alito’s majority opinion draft which leaked in May of this year, making headlines and causing much political debate on reproductive rights and the separation of church and state.

According to the Washington Post, 13 states are expected to outlaw abortion within 30 days due to “trigger bansâ€� which were designed to take effect in the case that Roe was overturned. The Post reports that at least eight states banned abortion immediately after the decision was reached. 

President Biden reacted to the decision stating, “Now with Roe gone let’s be very clear, the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.â€� He ended his speech calling on Congress to act and urging people to vote. “This is not over,â€� he said.

What this decision means for Rhode Islanders

Abortion remains legal in Rhode Island.

In anticipation of the leaked draft coming to fruition, the Rhode Island Supreme Court sustained the Reproductive Privacy Act, a 2019 ruling that solidified Roe v. Wade into state law, in early May.

“Here in Rhode Island, we will always support a woman’s right to choose,� Governor Dan McKee said in response to the decision. “Despite [Friday’s] ruling, Rhode Islanders still have the right to access abortion health care services in our state thanks to the General Assembly codifying these protections into law – but all people should have the ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions, no matter where they live.�

Officials predict that states that choose to keep abortion legal will see an increase in visitors traveling to receive abortion and reproductive health services. 

“Planned Parenthood health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island said they’re already seeing patients from other states, particularly Texas, because those patients don’t have access to abortion care,â€� said health reporter Lynn Arditi on the Public’s Radio.

Arditi says that while these procedures remain legal, Rhode Island residents, especially low-income women, still face barriers in accessibility due to cost and insurance terms because Medicaid and other state health plans do not cover abortion services. 

“More than 85,000 women of child-bearing age in Rhode Island and their dependents are enrolled in state health insurance plans that prohibit abortion coverage, according to an analysis by The State Budget Office. So they could be forced to pay out of pocket for an abortion, which could prevent them from getting one,� she said.

Altercation at local protest goes viral

Protests arose around the nation almost immediately after Friday’s ruling, including one outside a federal courthouse building in Providence and another at the Rhode Island State House on Friday night.  

While the protests were mostly peaceful, an altercation at the State House protest is gaining national media attention.

Radio host Bill Bartholomew captured footage outside the State House in which it appears Providence police officer Jeann Lugo allegedly punches State Senate candidate Jennifer Rourke in the face.

On Saturday, Rourke shared the video on Twitter with the caption “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.â€�

At the time of the alleged assault Lugo was running for the GOP nomination of the same seat as Rourke. He has since ended his campaign.

Gov. McKee tweeted  “The violence that occurred at a peaceful protest at our State House this weekend was outrageous. Violence of any kind is unacceptable and we will not stand for it. Thank you to our RISP for investigating this matter. Individuals responsible must be held accountable.â€�

Lugo was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. He has been suspended from his job with pay while the investigation is pending.

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Cover photo by Gayatri Malhotra from Unsplash

More Than A Bus Ride

About a month ago, news swirled that RIPTA would be suspending its express bus service to the beach. I felt a pain in my belly immediately, and a wave of nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks.

You see, growing up with a single mom with limited financial means and a fear of driving on the highway – a fear continuing to this day – the only time I ever got to go to the beach as a teenager was by taking the RIPTA bus from Central Falls to Scarborough. On hot Saturday mornings, we would pack a small cooler with homemade sandwiches, chips and water and walk to the bus stop on Broad Street. I distinctly remember being in awe as the bus drove down the highway, since it was one of the only times we ever left our one-square-mile city.

Today, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that my mom and I had the opportunity to do this. Our little tradition. Nothing fancy, just a cooler with snacks and a day under the sun.

This is why it was so frustrating to read about the possible suspension of these services earlier this spring. And while the governor has restored the RIPTA express beach bus for this summer, it does beg the question, why don’t we think this bus service is as important or necessary as others? How will we ensure that this service is sustained and possibly expanded in years to come?


Among urban residents, 27% of Hispanics-Latinos report taking public transit daily or weekly, compared with only 14% of whites. Foreign-born urban residents are more likely than urban dwellers born in the U.S. to regularly use public transportation (38% vs. 18%)


Earlier this year, RIPTA began a pilot program offering Central Falls residents rides when they board a bus in the city. This pilot is set to go through March 2023. This is an incredible initiative for our state and city, especially since so many residents struggle to afford gas or rising vehicle prices. Continuing to invest in different methods of transportation and access routes for Rhode Islanders should be a priority. Ensuring that families have accessible information for special routes and programs through RIPTA is also imperative.

Last week, my parents, now newly retired, asked me to help them figure out the best RIPTA route from Central Falls to the beach and Newport. When I asked them why they wouldn’t simply drive, their answer was simple: “the bus seems easier and also sort of an adventure.� Naturally, my heart fluttered, and I immediately helped them map out the best routes to the beach and Newport.

This is the sentiment we need to recall as often as possible. For many of our families, RIPTA represents a cost-saving measure, an easier option, and for some, even an important tradition.

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Cover photo by Andre Gaulin from Unsplash

Marcela Betancur

Marcela Betancur is the proud daughter of Colombian immigrants and currently serves as the director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

Publisher’s Note: More than a bus ride was first published on The Valley Breeze.

LPI and RI Latino News; partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

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