Boosting Latino entrepreneurship in Rhode Island

Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), and Entrepreneurs Forever (eforever), will be launching free small-business support programs focusing on people of color in Rhode Island in May.

The nonprofit organizations will work to provide Hispanic-Latinos and other under-represented groups with the training and support needed to start, grow and sustain their businesses.

According to the Small Business Association, over half of the Ocean State’s private workforce is employed by small businesses, 10.5 percent of those are owned by Hispanics-Latinos. With a 40 percent increase in the Hispanic-Latino population in Rhode Island over the past decade, many of them Spanish language dominant, EforAll programming will also be available in Spanish through its EparaTodos offering.

“I am so excited to join this organization that already exists in over a dozen communities across the U.S.,� said Laura M. Guillén, Executive Director, EforAll. “There are many aspiring entrepreneurs in Rhode Island that just need the guidance and advice from mentors and experts, like the ones offered in our Business Accelerator program, to get their businesses off the ground and revitalize their communities. I look forward to contributing to their success.� Guillén oversees English and Spanish languages programs.

EforAll and its Spanish language program, EparaTodos, are one-year programs, which use a unique combination of practical business training, dedicated mentorship from local business and community leaders, and access to a large professional network. They will be available twice a year.

Since January 2020, 38.1 percent of the state’s small businesses have closed. EforAll and eforever say they hope to help Rhode Island’s entrepreneurs in recovering from the impact of the pandemic, and getting small business owners back on their feet.

Founded in 2010, EforAll has dozens of accelerator programs across the country including Massachusetts.

To learn more about these organizations and their programs, or to donate to these initiatives, visit: eforall.org and entrepreneursforever.org.


Cover Photo: EforAll NWA Launches Inaugural Business Accelerator Program

Marta V. Martinez on putting the spotlight on Latinos through art

The Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA), a nonprofit organization in Central Falls promoting Hispanic-Latino artists; providing them with a space to showcase and perform their work, is the house that Executive Director Marta V. Martínez built.

“ I found that the main things you miss about your culture are the things that the general population considers art, but to us Latinos, it’s our culture, our way of life,� Martinez told Rhode Island Monthly in an interview.

She recalled what she missed about her hometown of El Paso, Texas when she moved to Rhode Island, first for higher education and later to call home.� I was surrounded by the arts; my mom and three of my four sisters are artists,� she said.

In 1988, Martínez obtained a small grant from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts started the Hispanic Heritage Committee and RILA in 2013.

Tour of the Rhode Island Latino Arts gallery

Since then, RILA has sought to raise awareness of the art, culture, and history of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino community through classes, workshops, events, festivals, and plays.

“It’s like a blank slate for ideas, and it’s exciting to see them develop,� she told WUN about the artists enjoying RILA’s space. “I love being in the room for those moments when things come out.�

Martinez shared how in her pursuit of connecting with others in the Hispanic-Latino community, she came to the realization that Rhode Island was made up of every single country in South America and the Caribbean. “And I wanted us to celebrate that together as a group, but also individually,� she said. �We’re similar, but we’re very different. Rhode Island Latino Arts celebrates the diverse cultures, we celebrate together as Latinos. But we also celebrate and teach that diversity of who we are,� she told YurView.

Much of Martínez’s work has centered around advocacy for and documenting the history of, the Hispanic-Latino community in Rhode Island. She was the first director of the Hispanic Social Services Association (HSSA) which, during her tenure, became the Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy CHisPA), one of two non-profit organizations in Rhode Island in the 1980s and 1990s.

Martínez also founded Nuestras Raíces, Rhode Island’s longest-running oral history project capturing and celebrating stories from Colombia to Cuba to the Dominican Republic.

An author, Martínez’s book, Latino History in Rhode Island, was published in 2014.

“What first started as a volunteer effort on my part, more of something that came out of my heart, from mi corazon, that I wanted to connect with the Latino community and have them connect with each other,� she said. “It symbolizes a home, finally, because the artists to me are the life force of the organization wouldn’t exist without them.�


Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from Rhode Island Monthly, WUN, and YurView.

Rhode Island Latino News amplifies the work of others in providing Hispanic-Latinos greater visibility and voice.

It’s time to make voting safer and accessible in Rhode Island

The first time I witnessed my mom voting I was about 8 years old while we lived in Colombia. At the time, I did not really understand what she was doing, what impact it had, or why it was all that adults talked about.

The next time I would witness her voting would be in 2020. After successfully becoming a U.S citizen just weeks prior to the pandemic’s start, in 2020 my mom and stepdad were able to cast their vote just a few days before election day at their local City Hall thanks to the emergency order set at the time.

Like my parents, 62 percent of Rhode Islanders voted early in person or by mail in the 2020 general election. Through the shadows of the pandemic, we found ourselves as a state and nation understanding that when it comes to exercising our right to vote, we should prioritize health, safety and equitable access. As a result of this, the Let RI Vote Act was born. This legislation, which has been introduced by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Katherine Kazarian, is supported by more than 30 organizations representing a wide array of communities and sectors such as unions, housing, civil rights organizations, and many more.

This is exactly what the Let RI Vote Act is seeking to do.

Upon passage, the act would provide access to mail ballots for those who need it without requiring a notary or two witness signatures, which are a hurdle for most Rhode Islanders. Additionally, an online form to request mail ballots will be created, because who has a printer at home nowadays? (not this millennial, for sure!)

The act would also preserve an early voting option for voters who would like to cast their ballot in person during the 20-day “emergency voting� period before Election Day without the need for an excuse or special circumstance. As we saw in 2020, nearly 29 percent of voters cast their ballot before Election Day. This allows working adults, families, and individuals with disabilities greater flexibility and access to exercise their right to vote.

In fact, in an effort to close the access and language gaps for thousands of Rhode Islanders, this legislation will extend the deadline for requesting braille ballots and will create a multilingual voter information hotline. These two pieces are essential to ensuring that individuals with disabilities and those who speak a language other than English always have access to unbiased and correct voter information.

In an effort to maintain election protection, the act requires that the Secretary of State’s office update the voter file a minimum of four times per year. This will enhance the accuracy of voter lists by ensuring they are up to date.

An essential piece of being a democracy is the access and safety that citizens feel toward the voting process. As a nation, we have struggled since our inception with how we have defined the “right to vote.� For hundreds of years, we disenfranchised millions of Americans based on their race and gender. Today, some of us would like to think that we are beyond that. Sadly, we are mistaken. In fact, our federal government continues to ignore the need for basic voting rights protections for historically marginalized communities. States across the nation continue to enact legislation and practices to create additional barriers to the ballot box. Truth is, if we truly want a democracy, we must work harder to protect it.


SUGGESTION: Marcela Betancur: Prospering Through Hurdles And Strengths


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: It’s time to make voting safer and accessible in Rhode Island on The Valley Breeze.

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

Do you have an idea for an Opinion-Editorial? Send us your suggestions to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.

RILN Opinion+: Mayor Maria Rivera

Welcome to another episode of RILN Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in the Rhode Island community. This week we spoke with Maria Rivera, the first Latina mayor in the state of Rhode Island. 

Central Falls was one of the hardest hit communities per capita in the United States during the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic in Central Falls inspired Rivera to step into this position. “I needed to come in here and just work and do what I had to do to try to get my community back healthy,â€� stated Rivera. With the relationships she had built in her community she felt as though the people were campaigning for her. Rivera highlighted how when she was elected no one told her what challenges she had to face and how to face them. 

One of the hardest hit groups was the undocumented community as they struggled to access employment, affordable housing, and security. “We’ve had two or three families live in one apartment, undocumented, because they can’t afford to live in one apartment or because of fear,â€� stated Rivera explaining the hardships of undocumented Americans. When establishing vaccination clinics undocumented Americans were hesitant to receive vaccines due to mistrust in the system. However, Rivera was the one person they trusted. Though these clinics could have been hosted by the armed forces, Rivera chose to run them with her team as she deeply cares about the undocumented. 

“We are a team,â€� stated Rivera highlighting the fact that the government of Central Falls protects the undocumented community and does not allow any harm to come in any way, shape, or form. Medicaid for the undocumented community is a change Rivera is advocating for as she believes everyone deserves medical coverage. Accessibility to licensing is another change Rivera advocates for as she believes giving access to them is a benefit to all people. “We have to educate those that don’t support them,â€� stated Rivera. The biggest obstacle we face as leaders is educating those that don’t support minorities. Those who are not gay or undocumented still face challenges. The lack of trust between these groups and the system must be addressed.   

Resources:

Office of Constituent Services and Health: https://www.centralfallsri.gov/health

Central Falls Website: https://www.centralfallsri.gov/

“Hola, I’m Adriana”

“I am a first-generation professional, and I’m in the business of people, ‘ says Adriana Dawson in greeting visitors to her Linkedin profile – that is after “Hola, I’m Adriana.”

Dawson is the Community Engagement Director at Verizon. She drives strategy and execution supporting Citizen Verizon – Verizon’s responsible business plan delivering on its mission to move the world forward by addressing pressing societal issues through action.

She is also the host of US Tech Future, a Verizon-led community-focused initiative working to engage the local community in a discussion about technology and how it can improve the lives of local residents for their benefit and the benefit of the community as a whole.

In a recent episode, Dawson interviewed Angela Bannerman Ankoma, Vice President and Executive Director of the Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI) at the Rhode Island Foundation. “I don’t take the work I do lightly,” said Bannerman Ankoma in answering Dawson’s question about her personal journey, and what led her to do the work she leads. “I know there are many people in our community who have similar stories like me. Who, if it wasn’t for initiatives or programs (like the ones supported by the Rhode Island Foundation) wouldn’t be where they are.”

Adriana Dawson speaks with Angela Bannerman Ankoma, Vice President and Executive Director of the Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI) at the Rhode Island Foundation.

While born and raised in Rhode Island, Dawson’s roots connect to the first Colombians to arrive in the state. Settling in Central Falls, her family assisted new arrivals with housing, employment, and other new world needs. Dawson was featured in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

“Some of my earliest memories involve acting as a translator for my family and being sourced as a navigator for other newly arrived Spanish-speaking families,” she said. “I quickly learned the power of community, activating as a connector, and using my voice to assist others.”

Dawson said, “As an adult, I chose to leverage these formative experiences + my skills to continue the work on a larger scale to support greater societal impact and action.”

Last August she was named to the Providence Public Library (PPL) board of trustees. “The library is an anchor to so many in the community,” she said in a video message. “Particularly invisible populations, traditionally under-resourced, underserved groups.”

PPL received a $100,000 grant from Verizon to expand its technology-related education initiatives and workforce development opportunities in 2020. The grant, the library announced, would be used to help enhance equitable access to relevant skills needed to be successful in the digital age.

“It is magical what happens in the library,” said Adriana Dawson,
a member of the Providence Public Library board of trustees

Dawson is also a first-generation professional. She came from hard-working factory workers who worked long days; family dinner conversations never consisted of stories of the office or their industry. Her lived experiences launched her career and have continued to guide her professionally these past 25+ years.

“I thrive at the intersection of social innovation + business development. I help lift the voice of community and systemically overlooked populations through dialogues, engagements, and thought partnerships to honor their history, narrative, and self-identified opportunities,” Dawson said.


LPI and RI Latino News; 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.

Culturally tailored programs boosts colonoscopy rates among Latinos in Providence 

Colon cancer causes about 11 percent of cancer deaths among Hispanic-Latino males and nine percent among Hispanic-Latina females, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

There are many possible obstacles to colon cancer screening in the Hispanic-Latino population, including language barriers.

Researchers enrolled nearly 700 Spanish-speaking adults in Providence, in a 28-month program that included outreach and guidance by a Spanish-speaking health navigator of Hispanic-Latino origin.

KJZZ reported that 85 percent of residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino got colonoscopies, and 90 percent said they wouldn’t have done so without the program.

A recent study in the journal Cancer suggests culturally tailored programs might help raise colonoscopy rates among Hispanic-Latino adults.

Experts find factors like cultural beliefs, language barriers, and limits imposed by work, insurance and transportation are the root cause for the lack of screenings.

Colorectal cancer ranks as the group’s second leading cause of cancer deaths.


Publisher’s Note: this story is an aggregate from Culturally tailored programs can boost colonoscopy rates among Hispanic adults.

“Diversity is good, and Rhode Island proves it”

“My vision is of a Rhode Island that rose its economy in a way that is more equitable and just because more people are engaged in making our state better,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. Gorbea spoke about what she hopes to accomplish as governor as she has as Secretary of State on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…”.

Secretary Gorbea is the first Latina to run for governor in New England. If she wins, she would also be the first Puerto Rican governor on the mainland. Gorbea is no stranger to making history in public office. In 2015, she was sworn in as Secretary of State, becoming the first Hispanic-Latina to hold statewide office in New England – a position she was re-elected to in 2018.

“We made government work for people,” said Gorbea in describing the work she is most proud of during her tenure as Secretary of State. The list includes:

  • New voting machines and electronic poll books
  • Re-building the state’s election management database
  • Upgrading election cybersecurity

She also led bills to improve the state’s lobbying system and created automated voter registration.

Rhode Island is home to 180,000+ Hispanics-Latinos, making up approximately 18-percent of the state’s total population.

Gorbea was born and raised in Puerto Rico; moved to Rhode Island in the mid-1990’s. She says that her ethnicity is a piece of the state’s immigrant history, and that it has shaped her approach to leadership.

Secretary Gorbea was also part of a group of Latino activists who began developing the community’s political power, through the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee and the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund.

“Having a diversity of opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds around the policy making table makes all the difference in the solutions that we implement, and how long lasting and how good they are,” Gorbea said. “Diversity is good, and Rhode Island proves it.”


Publisher’s Note: This story is written in part from an interview in Rhode Island Monthly.

RILN Opinion+: Tomás �vila

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

This week we spoke with Tomás Ã�vila, Associate Director for the Office of Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity, and Opportunity (ODEO). Associate Director Ã�vila works to diversify the workforce in Rhode Island and make the work environment more inclusive and welcoming for all identities. “Part of the office’s responsibility is to diversify the state employment so it will reflect the demographics of Rhode Island,â€� explained Ã�vila of the role of ODEO. “The second part of it is to make sure we recruit and diversify a set of individuals who can potentially be employed by the state.â€� 

Associate Director Ã�vila assists minorities pursuing to build businesses and making sure they receive equal opportunity. “We have the responsibility of the minority business enterprise and in that end, it is our responsibility to make sure that they get their due fair share of the investment that the state does in expenses,â€� explains Ã�vila. “Back in 1986, the state passed a law that said that a minority community is entitled to ten percent of all the expenses that the state does.â€� Associate Director Ã�vila has the responsibility to make sure minority communities receive the same funding and increase their opportunity. 

The pandemic caused the ten percent deal to minority business enterprises to be suspended due to an executive order placed by the governor. Fortunately, the executive order has been reversed. Another major issue was ODEO being able to recruit.

Within the last forty years, Rhode Island has become more diverse. “By 2043 Rhode Island is going to be a majority-minority state,� states Associate Director �vila as he explained the perpetual growth of diversity in Rhode Island. Within the current minority, the Latinx population is the fastest-growing population as they have grown by 45 percent while the Asian community has grown by 18 percent and the African American community has grown by 7 percent.

“Corporations and governments have a responsibility to actually help and make sure those individuals can grow,â€� Ã�vila calls the state government to create equal opportunity for the marginalized. “With Floyd’s death, the consciousness was raised that we need to be more intentional and practical.â€� 

Rhode Island faces the same problems in terms of workplace opportunity as the rest of the country. It all goes with the way we recruit. “Whether intentional or unintentional it has limited the growth of the minority community,â€� explains Ã�vila on the glass ceiling that exists in minorities.  “Managers need to break the mode of hiring individuals who look like them and hire people who are qualified.â€� This will lead to hiring people who will produce the results that managers want and fulfill the qualifications they are looking for. This is the key to closing the gap between them and us. 

Resources:

Office of Diversity, Inclusivity, and Opportunity at Rhode Island: http://odeo.ri.gov/

Jobs in Rhode Island: https://www.employri.org/vosnet/Default.aspx

Our secret badges of grief should turn us toward empathy

While growing up, the idea of grief was foreign to me. It was something I saw others endure on television or heard my family members mention. However, I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand how the absence of someone or something could create such a deep feeling.

It wouldn’t be until the age of 25 that I would finally understand the depth of grief after losing my grandmother. The loss of our family’s matriarch, a woman who was my second mother, shattered our family. Many years later, our family still finds itself re-learning what the world looks like without her. We have been forever changed by grief.

After experiencing grief myself, I felt as if I was holding a secret badge that at some point everyone would receive. This secret grief badge allowed me to feel more compassion toward others when I realized that they too were wearing the badge. I also became increasingly aware that my first experience with grief only meant that I would inevitably be receiving yet more badges with time.

When I talk to others who may have never experienced grief after losing a loved one, the conversation quickly turns toward an awkward silence or response. Truth is, the notion of losing someone scares us. Earning the secret badge of grief is something we’d rather ignore. But it is one of only a few certainties in the world: at some point, our heart will be the recipient of this difficult secret badge to carry.

Thanks to therapy and ongoing life experiences, I have come to learn that the nature of grief is more complicated than I realized. We can experience grief when we go through divorce, when we, or someone we love, is diagnosed with an illness when we lose our dream job, or experience violence.

During this time of the year (holidays), many of us may be experiencing some type of grief. Some of us are grieving a loved one. Some of us are grieving an illness. Some of us may be grieving the loss of a dream.

The ongoing pandemic has created yet another layer of grief for many of us. Millions of people around the world are grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, while others grieve the loss of connections, normalcy, and safety. Since last year (2020) anxiety, stress, and depression have increased dramatically for millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds. While some of us have the privilege of accessing mental health services, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, each year nearly 30 million adults and children living with mental health conditions in the U.S. go without any treatment.

This incredible disparity is due to lack of health care access or affordability issues, a limited number of providers available, or even lack of interest. I understand that therapy may not be for everyone, but I also believe that other types of support for individuals suffering through depression, anxiety, addiction, and grief should be readily available and encouraged.

Every day, we encounter individuals who are mourning something or someone. Some may be dealing with their grief alone, some may be hiding their grief behind anger or even a smile. We may not always recognize it when they are carrying their secret badge, but when we do, we must remember that it’s a difficult and painful badge to carry. It’s one we will all hold at some point, and showing compassion is an imperative part of carrying it.


Cover Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

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: Our secret badges of grief should turn us toward empathy 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.

Do you have an idea for an Opinion-Editorial? Send us your suggestions to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.

Elliot Rivera: Creating Change

“YIA plays an imperative role in the development of youth and their adult allies, going beyond traditional approaches to leadership development by prioritizing social-emotional development,” said Elliot Rivera when he was named Executive Director of Youth In Action (YIA) in 2019.

Since then, Rivera has been working to fulfill YIA’s mission of creating opportunities for youth to become their best selves. “They address power imbalances that stifle the potential of youth, especially young people of color, and create more caring and fair public institutions and systems,” reads in part the About section of the YIA website. By building power, leadership, and action amongst youth in our communities, YIA believes a more equitable and safe world is possible.

Growing up in Worcester, MA as a first-generation Salvadoran, Rivera did not have the access to most resources. What he did have were two dedicated parents working countless hours in manufacturing and janitorial services to get by. Never really thinking he would end up working with people, opportunities to support his communities from fighting within a union for undocumented worker rights to supporting youth in multiple settings came naturally to Rivera. He was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

As a person of Latine heritage, Elliot’s connection to his work and its journey is rooted in his deep core connection to all aspects of his culture. Now proudly calling Providence RI home, in his current role with YIA, he amplifies the stories and journeys of the next generation and supports them in their journeys by opening doors to experiences and opportunities he was never afforded.

“If the pandemic is literally killing Black and Latino communities at higher rates, it’s obviously affecting them in different ways, too,� Rivera said in an interview with the Brown Daily Herald about the Providence Public School District operations in March 2021. Rivera said the school district had “been working on (issues of inequality) for decades,� but he questioned the quality of the progress that had been made. The pandemic may be slowing down reforms made by the state takeover, he said, noting the pandemic’s highlighting of the inequitable access to technology throughout the district.

Rivera was recognized with the Service to Youth Award by the City of Worcester in 2019. His experience includes Community Engagement Specialist and Program Director with the City of Worcester. He’s also been the Program Coordinator with the Latino Education Institute.

Rivera is a graduate of Worcester State University and has a Master’s degree from Tufts University.


LPI and RI Latino News; 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.