Editorial & Opinion

An Open Letter to the Nonviolence Institute:

We are community members and organizations writing to ask that you distribute the $500,000 in funding you were awarded by Rhode Island Foundation and Brown University directly to the families and young people who have been impacted by the shootings in our cities… We additionally call on you to end collaboration with police in your efforts to intervene in this violence, and to invest in healthy and affordable housing, economic opportunity, mental health, recovery, and reentry services, strong public schools, out of school programs, and safe spaces for youth.
Photo for An Open Letter to the Nonviolence Institute:

Published on June 16, 2021
By DARE Behind the Walls Committee

We are community members and organizations writing to ask that you distribute the $500,000 in funding you were awarded by Rhode Island Foundation and Brown University directly to the families and young people who have been impacted by the shootings in our cities. Our youth are in need of community support and funds to pay medical and legal expenses – yet it is you who is receiving money. All but one who were injured in the Carolina Ave shooting are between the ages of 17-23. We cannot allow them to go through a life in prison, the streets, death in their twenties. These youth are struggling to move forward and their families have received no financial or emotional support from the Institute since their children left the hospital.

We additionally call on you to end collaboration with police in your efforts to intervene in this violence, and to invest in healthy and affordable housing, economic opportunity, mental health, recovery, and reentry services, strong public schools, out of school programs, and safe spaces for youth. Providence Police Chief Clements described the youth impacted by the Carolina Ave shooting as young men who “have no regard for life at times.” This language is dehumanizing and damagingly represents gun violence as an issue stemming from individuals. Gun violence, like so many other forms of harm, is structural and systemic. It thrives on racism, over-policing and mass incarceration, gentrification and housing instability, poverty, and failing public systems that leave our youth without support or opportunity.

Last June, Behind the Walls member Alexis Morales testified to Providence City Council: “I’ve seen police officers stand over dead bodies of Black men and laugh like their life didn’t mean anything.” Do the police have any regard for life? Is it regard for life to keep mothers and sisters waiting outside a hospital for days on end without being able to see their children who are in critical condition? Is it regard for life to put a teenager in a jail cell, where he will be abused and humiliated on a daily basis, separated from the people who care for him, only to leave with a record that will forever follow him as he applies for school, jobs, housing- anything that would allow him stability and a way off the streets?

Zackary Alvarado, who has been serving a 35 year sentence at the Rhode Island ACI since age 19, writes: “This place can break a man’s spirit. Many people here just give up, men that are going to be leaving here with hate in their hearts because of what this place does to them.” Police and prisons cannot help our communities heal and rebuild. They are a force of violence and trauma.

Yet the Institute continues to work with police, and actually awarded Clements their 2020 Sister Ann Keefe Award – in a year when a massive uprising was taking place across the country in resistance to police violence. Joseph Shepard, a former Streetworker with the Institute, testified: “Every time there’s a shooting or stabbing, they give information back and forth with the police department. I watched them sitting there in a circle with the cops trying to help the cops put two and two together. Clements meets with Cedric [Huntley], the director of the Institute, on a regular basis. They don’t do shit for the community, they get their grants and that’s it. Not everyone at the Institute acts like this, but the higher up you go, the stronger the relationship with police.”

The Institute’s collaboration with police not only makes it complicit in the violence our communities are experiencing. It also makes the Institute tone deaf and ineffective in its efforts to squash conflict. Our young people are fully aware that the Institute is an extension of the police and that they are not to be trusted.

It is unacceptable for the Institute to profit off the violence in our community when you are actually contributing to it. This money does not belong to you. It belongs to our communities.

Signed,

  • The Behind the Walls Committee
  • Direct Action for Rights and Equality
  • Party for Socialism and Liberation, RI
  • Black Lives Matter RI PAC
  • Olneyville Neighborhood Association
  • SISTA FIRE
  • Providence Youth Student Movement
  • Code Black RI
  • Providence Student Union
  • Providence Alliance for Student Safety
  • Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance / Alianza para Movilizar Nuestra Resistencia
  • Providence Democratic Socialists of America
  • The FANG Collective
  • Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education
  • A Sweet Creation Youth Organization
  • Sunrise PVD
  • Reclaim Rhode Island
  • Samuel Orellana, Sam’s Smart Repairs
  • Brandon Reynolds
  • Douglas Rogers
  • Andrew Stewart
  • Suzette Cook
  • Malika A
  • Jared Cetz
  • Jairson Ascencao
  • Russell Jones
  • Kamila Garay
  • Trent Manning
  • Joann Manning
  • Haley McKee
  • Leonard C. Jefferson
  • Marcus Robinson
  • Irene Collins
  • Fritz Boutin
  • Jose Angel Arias Hernandez
  • Jordan Jace
  • Anusha Alles
  • Debra Harris
  • Valerie Fae Linsangan
  • Angelo Adams, Former Senior Streetworker at the Nonviolence Institute
  • Alexandra Gonzalez
  • Mark Gonsalves Sr.
  • Sheila Wilhelm
  • Maxiel Cabrera
  • Melody Francisco
  • Robin Perry
  • Reynaldo Rivera
  • Luis Rivera
  • Evelyn Caraballo
  • Jimmy Cancel
  • Joana Luciano
  • Joana González
  • Wildin Sosa
  • Ernesto Martinez
  • Samuel Martinez
  • Diana Dejesus
  • Shonda Rodriguez
  • Yesenia Brito
  • Jordany Brito
  • Joseph Shepard
  • Irbaneza R. Morales
  • Tyson Ferrera
  • Ulysses Diaz
  • Everett Pope
  • Devon Diaz
  • Darnell Almeida
  • Robert Grullon
  • Zamayrya Estevez
  • Courtney Bason
  • Elijawon Kelly
  • Emily Serra
  • Briant Jimenez
  • Whitney Barbosa
  • Harry Harris
  • Donnell Ramey
  • Diovanni Ramey
  • Danielle Ramey
  • Derick Ramey
  • Dorchina Gaines
  • Dominique Gaines
  • Kevin Lewis
  • Lisa Harris
  • Isabel Harris
  • Al Shepard
  • Victor Randall
  • Michael Harris
  • James Craig
  • Tara Freeman
  • Deni Johnson
  • Jasmina De Leon Gill
  • Nikteha Salazar
  • Susanna Yim
  • Mie Inouye
  • Vatic Kuumba
  • Shey Rivera
  • Jeremy Costa
  • June Kramer
  • Jenny Li
  • Christopher Samih-Rotondo
  • Terri Wright
  • Brittany Palumbo
  • Devon Pinkus
  • Ilana Rose
  • Nina Wolff-Landau
  • Senator Tiara Mack
  • Senator Sam Bell
  • Senator Kendra Anderson
  • Senator Cynthia Mendes
  • Anita Bruno
  • Justin Thomas
  • Joel Gilbert
  • Monica Huertas
  • Reverend DL Helfer
  • Dawn Trimble
  • Rachel Lu
  • Claire Macon
  • Jack Doughty
  • Belinda Hu
  • Molly Scavuzzo-Duggan
  • Emma Kintner
  • Melissa Wong
  • Connor Jenkins
  • Roberto Gonzalez
  • Hilary Rasch
  • Carissa Koski
  • Beka Yang
  • Katie Giardino
  • Tatiana Reis, Community Member
  • Justin M Roias
  • Rosangela Ramos
  • Jason von Kriegenbergh
  • Jeff Feldman, member of Graduate Labor Organization
  • Brian Resnevic
  • Melaine Ferdinand-King
  • Russell Jones
  • Mary Hennessey
  • Emily L-Gottlieb
  • Angel Lopez
  • Adam Chuong
  • Jess Huetteman
  • Tracy Miller
  • Miranda Grundy
  • Mayra Paulino
  • Casey Gallagher
  • Marlene Martinez
  • Catherine Allard
  • Justine Johnson
  • Heather Harmon
  • Alexandra Tilden
  • Madeline Lessing, MSW
  • Noraa Kaplan
  • Kate Schapira, Providence resident
  • Laurel Leake

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