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There’s been an uptick in violence in Providence. This nonprofit leader wants to fix that

Courtesy of the Nonviolence Institute

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Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’d be more excited about convention speeches if they were delivered by wrestlers from the 1980s. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 20,795 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after adding 79 new cases. The most recent test-positive rate was 2.9 percent. The state announced three more deaths, bringing the total to 1,027. There were 82 people in the hospital, eight in intensive care, and five were on ventilators.


Providence has seen an uptick in violence this summer, and a shooting early Wednesday morning was the city’s fourth homicide in less than two weeks. There have been nine homicides in 2020.

Predictably, the 11 percent increase in aggravated assaults compared to 2019 – most other kinds of crimes are down – has led to finger-pointing between the police union and city politicians, who have called for various policy changes in law enforcement following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor earlier this year.

But rather than focus on a war of words, I decided to ask Cedric Huntley, the interim executive director at the Nonviolence Institute, what his organization is seeing in Providence.

Q: You were recently named interim executive director at the institute. What’s your top priority in this new role?

Huntley: Our top priority at the Nonviolence Institute of Rhode Island is to continue the mission of promoting the study and practice of nonviolence through increasing awareness within our city state and increasing the funding for the Institute.


More than ever, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic, our marginalized communities are experiencing the pressures of homelessness, unemployment, mental health issues, hunger, domestic violence, and uncertainty of how learning programs will be deployed at educational institutions.

The institute supports families and living victims of violence via a two-pronged approach: 1) Our outreach programs engage at-risk youth that are prone to violence and redirects them to a positive path through nonviolence training and employment opportunities; 2) Our victim services programs provide relocation assistance, arrangements for loved ones, and help with applying for the state’s victim’s compensation fund.

Q: The coronavirus has made it more difficult for face-to face interaction, and that must be especially challenging for your organization. How are you reaching young people now?

Huntley: We understand as social activities are limited that we must think creatively regarding outreach and developing platforms that address our impacted communities. Prior to COVID-19, we engaged at-risk youth by visiting recreational centers, attending after-school programs, and sporting events to teach them about the institute as well as to mentor, coach, and educate them about the practice of nonviolence.

Due to the limitations in social interaction, we plan to increase our presence on social media platforms to reach at-risk youth with content authored for youth, by youth. Our goal is to partner with local high schools and colleges and other organizations to develop virtual programs to continue our outreach in the community.

Q: We’re seeing an uptick in violence in the largest cities in the country. In Providence, most types of crime are down in 2020, but aggravated assaults are up 11 percent compared to last year and we’re now up to nine homicides. What are you seeing and hearing in the city this year?


Huntley: Youth in poorer cities are experiencing unprecedented emotional trauma from the interruptions of a normal school routine and may experience an increase in violence within their home and neighborhood. Society tends to focus on the act of violence and not the cause. The institute focuses on the cause of violence and provides preventative measures and intervention programs to the community.

Youth have become desensitized, over time, as family and friends are violently assaulted and murdered with frequency. People forget that experiences don’t go away and those youth who are raised in a culture of violence become adults who have never connected to resources addressing that trauma. We have a society of youth and adults dealing with PTSD who never signed up for this war. School has been a way for many to escape the trauma at home and in their community.

Youth who have relied on school for six hours of relief each day have now been told that distance learning will replace relationships and activities that engage developing minds and bodies. The impact of this could lead to more unreported crimes, which is a major concern for us. Safe outlets need to be provided for youth that do not have access to schools that are closed.


Q: 2020 has been a crazy year. Where do you see the institute a year from now?

Huntley: Twenty years ago, the founders of the Institute, Sister Ann Keefe and Father Ray Malm, had a vision to create a space that addressed the causes of violence and ways to prevent it through training programs. One year from now, the board and staff of the Nonviolence Institute of Rhode Island would like to have increased awareness throughout the state about the services offered, doubled the number of volunteers; recruited more youth activists/influencers, provided a blueprint for other states to model and open similar institutes in their communities, and continued to be an inclusive and peaceful safe haven in our beloved community where people can learn the steps of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is a call to and for action. We all have a responsibility regardless of our stations in our communities.


⚓ It’s not every day that I get out of Providence and go to the beach, especially for a story. But if you’ve got children who are picky eaters or you’re like me and just want to blame your kids for your bad habits, check out my guide to beach concession stands in Rhode Island.

⚓ As the nation continues to Google “Rhode Island calamari,” Amanda Milkovits offers a sampling of restaurants across the state where you can buy the appetizer that you never knew you loved so much.

⚓ In more serious news, Amanda reports that town officials on Block Island have temporarily curbed moped rentals following several recent traffic accidents.


⚓ Governor Gina Raimondo says travel restrictions in Massachusetts are hurting Rhode Island’s restaurants, so she urged residents to redouble their efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

⚓ Elsewhere: A new book that will be released next month exploring why some Democrats supported President Trump in 2016 will focus on one Rhode Island community. My assumption is the town is Johnston, which is led by Democrats but strongly backed Trump four years ago.


Coronalife: If you are worried about spending winter stuck indoors, these submariners who wintered in the South Pole have some helpful advice.

Politics: James Pindell breaks down the highlights of night three of the Democratic National Convention.

Fun: Here are 11 excellent rooftop restaurants and patios to enjoy in Boston while the weather’s still nice.

Real estate: As Revere attracts residential development, my colleague Tim Logan reports that some fear the city may become unaffordable for lower-income people.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ Governor Raimondo will hold her weekly Facebook Live conversation on education at 3 p.m.

⚓ If you’re considering home schooling this year, ENRICHri is hosting a virtual discussion tonight at 7 p.m.

⚓ The Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce is holding a virtual panel on the state’s small business grant program at 11:30 a.m.

⚓ Do you ️♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.