“Yesterday we gave out hotdogs and hamburgers at Chad Brown,” said speaker Kobi Dennis, of Project Night Vision and other programs aimed at curbing inner city violence, “That was fun, but guess what? That was for the kids. This is grown-up time right now.”
Grown-up time means Jim Vincent, president of the Rhode Island NAACP, calling a news conference on the steps of the Garrahy Judicial Complex in response to a drive-by shooting in Chad Brown late Tuesday night in which five people were injured. The NAACP, in consultation with other neighborhood groups, issued a “Call to Action,” demanding that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras call a leadership conference to discuss solutions to a problem that is putting families and children at risk.
In addition to the leadership conference the NAACP also called upon Governor Chafee to direct the Governor’s Workforce Board “to establish targeted workforce development programs” in neighborhoods with high unemployment. As bad as the unemployment crisis in Rhode Island seems to be, in certain communities the unemployment rate is as high as 40%.
Vincent also wants Mayor Taveras to “evaluate the Providence Recreation Department to determine its effectiveness in providing recreation and youth development services to increase its relevancy.” Giving kids something to do can keep them off the streets, out of trouble and out of harm’s way. The cost of doing this is always less than the cost of bullets ripping through bodies.
Vincent also wants 15% of the Google settlement money. This would provide about $30 million “to support youth development and ex-offender training and employment programming,” a real investment in our communities.
Lastly, the NAACP wants the Public Safety Commission to “establish a community liaison to connect high crime neighborhoods with the police department to help prevent wars and provide mediation support.”
Not in attendance Monday afternoon were Mayor Taveras, who is running for Governor, or Governor Chafee, who has declined to run for reelection. Gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell attended, as did Providence Mayoral candidates Brett Smiley and Jorge Elorza. Republican candidate for Attorney General, Dawson Hodges, was also on hand.
One wonders why Taveras declined to attend. What did he have to do that was more important than listening to citizens of his city with proposed solutions to the violence tearing through our communities? Taveras was present the day before, speaking to the crowd at the Community Cook-Out, but that event was for the kids, right? The violence in Chad Brown and elsewhere in Providence is a problem that should concern us statewide. The person who leads the state, who wants to sit at the head of the adult table, needs to be able to show real leadership in times of crisis.
And that means, at the very least, showing up.