Two local organizers, Artemis Moonhawk and Sarath Suong were honored at the Red Bandana Awards held at Nick-A-Nees in Providence Sunday. Music was provided by local virtuoso Chris Monti and the boisterous partying of the Extraordinary Rendition Band. Bill Harley, who heads up the Red Bandana selection committee presented the awards.
Artemis has been a long time advocate for the homeless, spending a large amount of her time and money helping to prepare meals and advocating for homeless rights. She came to the stage surrounded by the people she advocates for. She had invited them to the event to share the award with her and gave everyone who accompanied her a chance to speak if they chose.
The second award went to Sarath Suong, co-founder and organizer of the Providence Youth Student Movement, (PrYSM). Growing up in a Southeast Asian community in Boston, Suong told the audience that he learned two important lessons from mentors, “One, What’s happened to you and your people and your community is not because it’s your fault. And the second thing they told me is that what’s happening right now and what’s happening in your community, you have the power to change it.”
“I understand my place in this country as a child of war,” said Suong, “When we came here we were sort of a reminder of the Vietnam War, a reminder of a war that the US had lost.”
Suong used his time on stage to advocate for two important projects PrYSM is currently working on. The first one is the Community Safety Act. “We are trying to get passed a city ordinance that will hold the Providence Police Department accountable to the ways that they profile young people, poor people, people of color, queer and trans people… We need more police accountability. We need the police department to get their boots off our necks while we are trying to live.
“We need help,” continued Suong, “For those folks who live on the East Side of Providence or have friends and family or any influence in Providence, please contact Councilpeople [Samuel] Zurier and [Seth] Yurdin. And please urge them to really support the Community Safety Act.”
The second project Suong mentioned was getting the All Students Count Act 2016 (H7235) passed in the State House. “What’s really important for Southeast Asians is that we are lumped into a larger Asian racial category. What that does is erases the real struggles of Southeast Asian young people who will only graduate at 60 percent of the regular rate.”
Here’s a sample of some music from Chris Monti, who opened the show, followed by a song from the Extraordinary Rendition Band, who closed it out. Because of the rain, ERB was forced to perform inside, which is a shame because they are a wild outdoors dance band.
And here’s the entire awards ceremony, which starts with Bill Harley giving a short biography of journalist and community organizer Richard Walton, and explains why these awards are given in his name.