Yaimani Rivera to Mayor Smiley: Do better when engaging with South Providence

In an open letter to Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, South Providence resident Yaimani Rivera questions whether the Mayor’s recent appointments are familiar with the inequities her neighborhood faces…

Rhode Island News: Yaimani Rivera to Mayor Smiley: Do better when engaging with South Providence

June 1, 2023, 2:30 pm

By Yaimani Rivera

Dear Joe Mulligan and Cassandra Thomas,

I write with deep disappointment about your dismissive and disrespectful behavior with members of our South Providence community. As invited guests to engage with an area you both obviously aren’t familiar with, and as representatives and newly appointed members of Mayor Smiley’s administration, I expected better.

I was looking forward to meeting you both at the Trinity Square Together walking meeting of Broad Street. I had high hopes of meeting Mayor Smiley’s newly appointed Director of Planning and Development, and Director of Economic Development to discuss our neighborhood, highlight areas of interest, and work towards collaborative transformational change. This would have been a great opportunity to allow residents to share their lived experiences and what their hopes are for South Providence. Instead, this encounter was treated as a performative pit stop and check mark off your long to-do list. As noted by Cassandra when she refused to take a photo with the group at the beginning of the meeting, “we’re pressed for time and I have somewhere else to go”.

While I can understand that you all must have a lot to do, I would havve preferred you reschedule for a time where you could be fully present, had the will and capacity to listen, and respectfully engage with those who live 24 hours a day in an area that doesn’t look like any other place in Providence. I myself took time from my job to be with you today because where I live matters to me. My neighbors matter to me. The children in my community matter to me. South Providence matters to me!

For newly appointed members of Mayor Smiley’s administration, who aren’t originally from Providence, I was surprised to see how defensive you (Cassandra) became, especially when discussing the budget allotted to our area for clean up. While “equity” was highlighted as a deciding factor for the proposed city budget, I wonder if you both are familiar with the inequities South Providence already faces?

In addition to inequities, I also wanted to note my brief and deeply disappointing exchange with Joe about “choices.” While we all have the ability to make choices, I think it’s also important to note that the choices we make, as residents in South Providence, are contingent on the choices made by the city. For example, I assure you that all the social service agencies and shelters (current and incoming) in our area are not here by choices residents made.

It’s a shame this was how you chose to engage with our community. During Mayor Smiley’s campaign he stated he was going to be a Mayor for all, but I don’t believe the way you chose to engage with us today is reflective of what Mayor Smiley had in mind.

While multiple truths exist when speaking of South Providence, one thing is for sure: We are a mighty community who will not be walked over or disrespected. As I’ve said many times before, South Providence matters, will not be ignored, and deserves better!

Here’s to hoping our next encounter is different and that your behaviors are not a reflection of Mayor Smiley’s vision for our area. Unless, they are…