By Francisco Luis Gonzalez
On March 2nd, between 6 pm and 9 pm, the gymnasium of the Davey Lopes recreation center, 227 Dudley Street, Providence, hosted a lightly-attended community resource fair and voter registration event.
Besides the array of tables typical of an indoor community fair, the night included ethnic dance, drama, and several musical events.
The main sponsor was “Open Doors,” an organization that services post-incarcerated individuals through a variety of services including crisis referrals, career training, and academics.
“Open Doors” can be located on 841 Broad Street, Providence. Other co-sponsors included: Amos House, D.A.R.E., Ocean State Action, AS220, Southside Community Land Trust (who brought free vegetable seeds—I would have taken some if only I had a place to plant them), RICARES and the center for prisoner health and human rights, and our very own Street Sights.
Performances by Mama Charlotte O’neil, former Black Panther of Tanzanian nationality, exiled poet & singer, and Still We Rise Theater Company—among others—made the evening special. Mama had a way of bringing The audience in. They sat on the gymnasium bleachers as if waiting for a game to begin, in order to participate in a brief sing-along and—an even
Soon people sat on the floor in order to experience some ethnically flavored Hip Hop and a thought-provoking play featuring several mothers of urban youths killed in street violence.
In the meantime, an “Open Doors” intern, Meghan Rondeau, waited for new voter registrants—of which I only counted one (A stack of new registrations sat waiting in a corner of her station).
Sol Rodrigues, executive director for “Open Doors,” invited me to talk with her about the event and about her organization, but the best testimony came from someone who was quite open about her own life and the help which Sol’s organization was providing,
“…‘Open Doors’ is a place where I can go and feel comfortable, and not have to explain my background.” This person had spent some time in prison and was ready to go on with life—taking classes in Income Tax Preparation and in Political Science—a sampling of the priceless services provided by the organization to those navigating new waters.
While the event was well-organized, it is unclear how effective it was in getting the word out to new voters, a hard sell under any circumstances. Several local political candidates wandered in but were soon gone despite the abundance of free seeds.