City Council Member Mary Kay Harris inviting Attorney General to help community replace the Board of John Hope Settlement House

Mary Kay Harris
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“As I speak tonight, my office is working to set up a community meeting, and I want you all to pass the word,” said Providence City Council Member Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) at a press conference outside the grounds of the John Hope Settlement House. “I want you all to be a part of it. We’re inviting Attorney General Peter Neronha and the purpose of that is to help us understand exactly what are the rules regulations and the real power of [the John Hope Settlement House] Board.”

The group of community activists standing with Harris had recently prevented the John Hope Settlement House Board from leasing space to a charter school, the Wangari Maathai Community School. (See below to links to the full story.)

“I’ve heard the pain in your voices about the lack in transparency here ,the lack of communication, from the board and administration of John Hope,” continued Harris. “This has always been more than about the charter school that started this adventure. It was more than that… It’s a historical, unresolved issue that’s happening here at John Hope. The school was just a straw that broke the camel’s back and allowing us to come together and say enough is enough.”

I asked Harris why the community feels it needs the involvement of the Attorney General.

“We don’t know what steps we may have to take, that’s why it’s important to learn from the Attorney General,” said Harris. “We don’t know if there are legal steps, or whatever. We don’t know if there’s the possibility for an injunction, we have no idea how [the John Hope Settlement House] Board is supposed to be dismantled, and then put back together in a safe way.”

“So you want to replace the Board?” I asked.

“We want to change the Board,” said Harris. “We want the organization to stay vibrant and strong in the neighborhood. We want to celebrate 90 years. We really want to celebrate that. We want to celebrate the historical fact of this organization.

“What we don’t want is for the operation and the opportunity for the staff and the great people that work there to not be able to continue their work,” continued Harris. “The children are happy, the children are being trained really well, they are doing really well in the [day care] program.

“A lot of [the children] are connected to alumni who have grown up in John Hope, and now they’re bringing their kids back,” concluded Harris. “So why not have this institution, doing what it has done over the years, taking good care of the children and the community as a whole?”

Also speaking at the press conference was Suzette Cook, who helped lead a group of “committed residents” in a campaign to prevent the takeover of John Hope by a charter school, the Wangari Maathai Community School.

“When we had the issue of the charter school coming in, [the John Hope Settlement House] said in a press release that they would give us a community meeting,” said Cook. “Well, that did not happen.”

After asking for a community meeting several times to no effect, “We decided to take it to another level,” continued Cook.

“We have several people in our community that are willing to come out and volunteer their time to be able to help this social service agency,” concluded Cook, “and it’s unfortunate that particular people in the leadership will not comply with anything for any reason with anyone.”

Previous reporting on this subject:

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About Steve Ahlquist 1079 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential