“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 Withâ€¦”.
Secretary Gorbeais 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 stateâ€™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 stateâ€™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 communityâ€™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.
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 TomÃ¡s 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. â€œPart of the officeâ€™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. â€œThe 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. â€œWe 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. â€œBack 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. â€œBy 2043 Rhode Island is going to be a majority-minority state,â€� states Associate Director Ã�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.
â€œCorporations 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. â€œWith 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. â€œWhether intentional or unintentional it has limited the growth of the minority community,â€� explains Ã�vila on the glass ceiling that exists in minorities. â€œManagers 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.
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 didnâ€™t understand it. I couldnâ€™t understand how the absence of someone or something could create such a deep feeling.
It wouldnâ€™t be until the age of 25 that I would finally understand the depth of grief after losing my grandmother. The loss of our familyâ€™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 weâ€™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 itâ€™s a difficult and painful badge to carry. Itâ€™s one we will all hold at some point, and showing compassion is an imperative part of carrying it.
“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 Instituteâ€™sÂ #LatinosInRIÂ series.
As a person of Latine heritage, Elliotâ€™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.
â€œIf the pandemic is literally killing Black and Latino communities at higher rates, itâ€™s obviously affecting them in different ways, too,â€� 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 â€œbeen working on (issues of inequality) for decades,â€� 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 pandemicâ€™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;Â partnersÂ in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Islandâ€™s Hispanic-Latino communities.
Is there someone in the community you think we should feature? Send us your ideas to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.
The new year started how the old year ended for residents of Central Falls – under the figurative foot of COVID-19.
The working-class, Latino-majority city, which became the hardest-hit by the pandemic in Rhode Island at the start, was seeing daily positivity rates hovering around 20 percent when a former Rite Aid was converted to a new COVID-19 testing location on January 3.
The site, located at 1114 Broad St., is able to test up to 800 people per day, according to the office of Mayor Maria Rivera.
â€œThe previous site had four windows,â€� said Rivera who was present, when the testing site opened. â€œThis one, they have 10 lines, so we increased it by over 50 percent, and they do have a rapid line here.â€�
The stateâ€™s first Latina mayor began her second year in office, the same way she started her first year: hands-on and with the community.
â€œThe biggest challenge has been coming into office in the middle of a pandemic â€“ trying to figure out how I can get my community back to being healthy,â€� Rivera said in an interview with The Boston Globe.
â€œWe live in a community of color, an immigrant community where thereâ€™s always lots of questions of trust,â€� said Rivera, who has gone door-to-door at local businesses to answer questions about the vaccine.
Mayor Rivera was born in Camden, NJ. She moved to Central Falls in 1987 with her parents who are originally from Puerto Rico.
Rivera was elected as the Mayor of Central Falls in November 2020 with 77 percent of the vote, she took office on January 4, 2021.
Prior to this role, Mayor Rivera was the top-vote getter in the 2018 election of all Central Falls City Council Candidates, and became the first female and first Latino Central Falls City Council President, a position she earned in just her second term as a council member.
She was named Rhode Islandâ€™s Woman of the Year for 2021 by GoLocalProv: â€œWhile some politicians seem more style than substance â€” Central Falls’ Mayor is in the midst of transforming the one square mile city block-by-block.â€�
Despite the accolades, Rivera is not resting on her laurels. Central Falls is facing both a public health crisis and a housing crisis.
The city is asking the state for $4.5 million so it can buy unused property to build about 200 apartments.
â€œTo be able to give them the space where they can afford and have their own space, itâ€™s going to make a huge difference with the health in the city,â€� she said.
As the year comes to a close, the RI Latino News (RILN) team is looking back at a yearâ€™s worth of producing content that provides greater visibility and voice to the Hispanic-Latino community. In 2021, NHLN made its debut with the â€œ3 Questions Withâ€¦â€� (3QW) podcast. 3QW is a public affairs program tackling matters most important to […]
Sitting on the stairs at the entrance of a building â€“ shy look, short black hair, a tired tone of voice, slim and brown skin- Daniel is wearing a red helmet and vest and next to him a black bike he uses at work every day. Daniel, 25, who preferred not to give me his […]
Christmas is this week, and the thoughts of Latino families across the state are set to the centerpiece of that magical night â€” the Christmas dinner. Although born in the Dominican Republic, Claudia Hilario moved to Puerto Rico at the age of 12. And Puerto Rican Christmas traditions influence the way she and her family […]
“I’m truly humbled by this unexpected honor from the Murray Family. I’m also very grateful to family, peers, board, and community members who have welcomed me and worked collaboratively to make a difference,” said Mario Bueno, executive director of Progreso Latino in Central Falls. Bueno is the 2021 Murray Family Prize for Community Enrichment at […]