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BLM RI opens African American Innovation Center in Pawtucket

“Black people – We are resistant,” said Brother Gary Dantzler, executive director of BLM RI. “We fight through anything. Adversity. We’re strong, independent. We’re starting to get more and more unified…”

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On Saturday Black Lives Matter Rhode Island (BLM RI) opened the African American Innovation Center at 225 Main Street in Pawtucket with a four hour celebration filled with tours of the facilities, refreshments, speeches and entertainment.

Bernice Morris, the policy advocate with BLM RI, opened the speaking program..

The first speaker, Pastor Carl Jefferson, opened with a blessing and stories.

“Brother Gary is literally the first African-American I spoke to in a workplace in America, ” said Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence). They worked together at Hasbro shortly after Representative Ranglin-Vassell-Vassell first immigrated from Jamaica. Representative Ranglin-Vassell-Vassel went on to talk about her legislative priorities, such as a $15 minimum wage, combatting Black maternal mortality and reducing gun violence.

“Black people – We are resistant,” said Brother Gary Dantzler, executive director of BLM RI. “We fight through anything. Adversity. We’re strong, independent. We’re starting to get more and more unified…”

Gary Dantzler introduced Derrick Isom, who will be leading the BLM RI efforts on prison reform.

Claude Arnell Milhouse, who founded CareerDevs Computer Science Institute, which will have a classes inside the Center, to train young people of color of technical careers.

Gary Dantzler:


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Jessica Mayernik, Grant Advisor for Real Jobs Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, helped set up the grant that will allow CareerDevs to train young people for jobs in the tech industry.

Lisa Pina-Warren, Director of Victim Services and Street Outreach for the Nonviolence Institute and Marcus Lopes, an Outreach Worker at the Nonviolence Institute, spoke next.

The last speaker was T Michael Thomas, founder of The People’s Academy (TPA) in Boston, which trains young people in metalworking. The motto of TPA is, “Trades Not Triggers.”

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.

atomicsteve@gmail.com