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The 11th Annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil



As it has for every year for over a decade, the 11th Annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil, organized by the the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, began with the blowing of the shofar.

The coalition holds the event every year in the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House to implore elected officials to center combating poverty in their deliberations. This year’s vigil took place on the 55th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson‘s declaration of War on Poverty.

Every year the coalition zeroes in on specific ideas. This year there were four main ideas presented:

  1. Help all Rhode Islanders find safe and affordable homes by ending discrimination based on source of income.
  2. Support safe roads by allowing undocumented Rhode Islanders to obtain driver’s licenses.
  3. Assist seniors and persons with disabilities to remain active in their communities by instituting a sustainable source of funding for the no-fare bus pass.
  4. Ensure fair wages for all people regardless of gender, race or orientation and raise the minimum wage to $15/hour.

The music that opened the event was performed by Cantor Judith Seplowin (Temple Beth-El, Providence), David Perolman (Temple Habonim, Barrington) and Brad Logan (Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Greenwich).

The opening prayer was from Abdelnasser Hussein, the principal at the Islamic School of Rhode Island.

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Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser (Temple Sinai, Cranston) and Victoria Strang, director and lead organizer of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition, provided the opening remarks.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was ill with the flu, so she sent Tom Coderre, her senior advisor on the opioid crisis, to deliver remarks in her stead.

Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio addressed the crowd.

The keynote address was delivered by Rabbi Sarah Mack (Temple Beth-El, Providence), President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.

The coalition has an annual tradition faith leaders reading the names of our elected officials, asking them to govern with “wisdom, care and compassion.”

The closing prayer was courtesy of the Reverend Viola Morris-Buchanan (Bethel AME Church, Providence).

The event ended with everyone singing, “If I had a Hammer.”

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.