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Teen activists launch Silence is Violence: 401 in Woonsocket



We’re not stopping,” said Jaliyah Joseph, one of the organizers. “The momentum isn’t going to stop, the energy isn’t going to stop. We are the voices for the community and we are willing to use our voices. We’re not standing down whatever the obstacle.

About three dozen people gathered in River Island Park in Woonsocket on Sunday to hold a moment of silence for George Floyd, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis in May, sparking a wave of protests around the world against police violence. Sustaining the protests and turning them into a political movement capable of systemic change is now the task of thousands of organizers, including high school students Zainabou Thiam and Jaliyah Joseph, who organized the event in Woonsocket.

Thiam and Joseph were among those who organized previous protests for Black lives in Woonsocket.


Following the moment of silence organizers conducted some demonstrations about what having privilege in America looks like, and participants of all ages, race and gender, sexuality and religion exchanged stories about what having, or not having, means to people in their lives.

I spoke with Jaliyah Joseph and Zainabou Thiam, founders of Silence is Violence: 401, after the event.

“We wanted to show people their privilege. We wanted people to get an understanding of what privilege is and what it looks like,” said Thiam. “This was a big conversation starter. Yes, this was our smallest showing, but it was really good because people engaged with each other and started conversations, and that’s the best way to cancel out ignorance and learn something new.”

“Learning about each other’s stories and learning about the next person – whether they have a different skin tone than you, a different religion, a different sexuality – it’s more about knowing the people in your community and getting more together,” added Joseph. “That’s one of our main goals: Bringing the community together. There’s no need for division.”

As for next steps, “We have a meeting with the Mayor this week,” said Thiam. “And in that meeting we’re going to go over how can you work with us? How can we help you help us?”

“Tell her some of our personal goals for the community and present a ten-point agenda which we created,” added Joseph. “How can we work with you to accomplish it for the community?”

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Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt is running for re-election against Woonsocket City Council Vice president Jon Brien, so now is an opportune time fro the young activists to reach out.

Silence is Violence: 401 is also partnering with Gen Z We Want to Live, a Providence based youth organized group as part of their 7 Days and 7 Cities series of protests. Starting on July 19 in Cumberland at 3pm, and then at the same time every day for seven days and in seven different Rhode Island cities and towns, there will be youth led protests for Black lives. More details avialable here.

“We’re not stopping,” said Joseph. “The momentum isn’t going to stop, the energy isn’t going to stop. We are the voices for the community and we are willing to use our voices. We’re not standing down whatever the obstacle.”

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.