Ranglin-Vassell starts coalition to address gun violence and joblessness
STATE HOUSE – Frustrated with the high incidence of gun violence and its effects on everyday life for families in Providence, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell has assembled a coalition of fellow legislators, community organizations and faith-based groups that aims to address what she sees as the underlying problem: poverty.
“A Community Response to Joblessness and Gun Violence” is the name she has chosen for this initiative, and she has identified a call to action for it that includes encouraging investment in small businesses, job creation, strengthening the police-community relationship and legislative initiatives designed to make neighborhoods safer.
“Gun violence has been a public health issue and a scourge on our community for too long. The loss of young promising lives due to homicides, as well as gun-related crimes have fueled a determination in our community to address this moral imperative. In order for Providence to remain a safe, welcoming place for families, visitors and investors, we must respond to, and address immediately, economic issues, structural poverty, racism and classism that leave immigrants, people of color and poor people lacking a safety net,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “We must connect the dots here: The lack of jobs and meaningful employment is plunging many young people and families into hopelessness. I strongly believe that the root cause of gun violence lies in generational poverty and lack of proper representation at all levels of government as well as the lack of opportunities.”
With the help of the City of Providence’s Office of Economic Opportunity, launched in July 2017 by Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Representative Ranglin-Vassell and the expanding coalition held several neighborhood meetings around the city this summer to listen to residents and gather input about what they need and how they think the underlying problems could be solved.
Neighbors in those meetings said over and over again that meaningful and sustainable employment is the one ticket they see as a means to end the poverty and hopelessness that fuel crime and violence. Business owners who attended said better job training opportunities that offer work readiness for residents are also needed.
Said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), “I see every day the stifling effects poverty has on our community here in Providence. It’s a cycle that becomes hard to escape, and it fuels crime and violence in so many ways. Employment helps people break out of that cycle, and I’m grateful to Representative Ranglin-Vassell for spearheading this grassroots approach to solutions in Providence.”
To help, the coalition is working with the Office of Economic Opportunity led by Director Brian Hull to organize what Representative Ranglin-Vassell hopes will be a far-reaching and collaborative citywide job fair led by the coalition in the springtime to connect city residents in need of employment with businesses that are hiring. While organization for that job fair is just beginning and no date has yet been set, she is hoping that Rhode Island businesses and organizations with jobs to offer will partner as part of the solution.
“In Providence, we have increased job readiness training opportunities and joined innovative workforce development partnerships, like this one, because we know that eliminating poverty is necessary to prevent and curb crime,” said Mayor Elorza. “The Office of Economic Opportunity is focused on making a city where the average family can get ahead because it is critical to maintaining safe and vibrant communities.”
The job fair is just the beginning, Representative Ranglin-Vassell said, and she hopes that the efforts will grow with the help of her fellow Providence delegation members and others in the community who are partnering with her.
Among the groups and organizations that have been a part of the effort so far are the House of Representatives Providence Caucus, the Rhode Island Black Business Association, the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, the Smith Hill Development Corporation, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action of Gun Sense in America, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Providence and Christine Arvanigian and William Manzo, the owners of Federal Hill Pizza.
Lisa Ranglin, president of the Rhode Island Black Business Association, stated, “Here in Rhode Island, we must recognize that small businesses are the backbone of urban economies and they play a critical role in creating jobs for local residents. RIBBA continues to advocate to state and city leaders for strategic investment which promotes a holistic approach to economic development and allocate resources to ignite small business growth”.
Representative Ranglin-Vassell said she intends to include as many community groups, churches, and businesses as possible in hopes of creating greater connections between the many organizations and groups that already offer help.
“The church remains a place of refuge for all people. We stand committed to working with other faith leaders and community based organizations in addressing issues of poverty, hunger and criminal justice reform,” said Dr. Carl H. Balark, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Providence, which offers a food pantry and other social service programs that addresses a wide array of inequities.
“Rhode Island just took a strong step forward by passing a landmark domestic violence bill to disarm abusers, but this is just one step to address all the ways that gun violence affects our communities. The Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action looks forward to working with Representative Ranglin-Vassell on solutions to reduce gun violence in the coming year in the Capitol and in the community,” said Jennifer Boylan, a volunteer leader with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action of Gun Sense in America.
Representative Ranglin-Vassell intends to work legislatively, with the help of fellow members of the Providence House Caucus to initiate change and to help to change the trajectory of people’s lives. Among the bills she plans to advocate for on behalf of the coalition is her own bill to institute a $15 living wage in Rhode Island. She will introduce a bill requesting that the Rhode Island Department of Education create a study commission to examine the trauma experienced by children who live in and around violence. Other legislation will ask for robust investment job training and education for sustainable employment and gun violence prevention in high schools.
Among gun control measures she would support, she mentioned Rep. Aaron Regunberg’s bill banning high-capacity magazines.
“There’s nothing more urgent than protecting our young people, and that means our state must act with urgency to reduce gun violence,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), who has been working with her. “That means getting serious about common-sense gun control, but it also means making the investments our communities need. When we invest in education, in after-school programs, and in youth employment opportunities, we’re investing in violence prevention. We don’t prioritize these areas enough, but we have got to start.”
Representative Ranglin-Vassell said she welcomes anyone who wants to join the coalition and get to work fixing the problems of gun violence and joblessness. To get involved, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or on Twitter at @MRanglinVassell.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903