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RI PowerPlayer: Ray Watson

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Ray Watson. Photo courtesy of James Walker for Sonny Walker Photography.

Each week, GoLocal shines the spotlight on one individual who is making an impact on Rhode Island. This week, GoLocal sat down with community leader Ray Watson to talk about his work in Providence, and vision for the future.

Tell us about your current work with the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association. 

I currently serve as the Executive Director of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, Inc, a community development/ social service organization based in the Mt Hope section of the East Side of Providence. November 28th, 2013 marked the start of my 8th year with the organization, which is a blessing because 4 previous generations of my family called Mt Hope home and I lived in the neighborhood until the age of 12.

Why did you start to take on an activist role regarding speaking out on the Urban League?

I took a more active role in voicing my concerns about the Urban League of RI because I care about the Rhode Island community, and know what a great resource the League could be if it was better servicing the State of Rhode Island. Unemployment is rampant, violence is prevalent especially amongst our urban communities, and overall our community is in need of a great reprieve. The Urban League of RI should be a beacon of light for our community during this period of darkness.

What are you hoping to achieve with organizing the recent rallies?

My goal in organizing the recent rallies is to raise awareness and gather support with the intention of organizing the community to hold the Urban League accountable to its commitment to the Rhode Island community. My intent is to bring light to this situation and I fully agree with Mayor Taveras’ and Councilman Yurden’s calls for a more in-depth examination of the org’s financial management before allowing the current Board and CEO to sell the Prairie Avenue facilities. The recent circumstances regarding the concerns around the financial management of the Urban League of RI are just indicative of the poor management of the org as a whole. The attempt to sell the building rather than leverage it as a resource shows an overall lack of vision for the organization’s future. Good business standards and practice say that it’s time for a change in leadership to stoke a new heroic period for the org.

What do you think the biggest issue is facing Providence right now? 

I think there are several major issues that community leaders have been working to address here in Providence. Accountability and professionalism amongst our law enforcement agencies and officials is one particular issue. Violence and lack of achievement amongst our youth is another. Racial disparities in how school policies are implemented is a third. Lack of employment opportunities for City residents is also an issue. It’s hard to pinpoint one particular issue as the most important problem that Providence is facing

Take us through a day in the life of Ray.

I usually wake up around 7am, read my bible and say my prayers, and then hop in the shower. I then check my calendar and see what’s on my schedule for the day. Depending what my agenda looks like I can potentially be out of the office at a meeting, but if I’m in the office I’m probably working on a project, looking for funding opportunities for the Center or helping to ensure that the overall programs/services of the Agency are running well. Evenings can vary as well. Depending on the day of the week I can be at a community meeting, at drum practice with the Eastern Medicine Singers, at Church or working on an audio/visual project at my studio. If I do happen to have some free time I will usually be with family or friends spending quality time. It’s usually a full day.

Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I used to have a phobia of butterflies and moths. Lol. Strange, I know. Lol.

Quick hitters!

Role model:

My biggest role model in my life would be my late grandmother Alice Watson. She was born-again saved and was an excellent example to me of what Jesus meant when he said Love God first and treat others the way you want to be treated. She raised me to understand right from wrong and the value of hard-work, which has impacted how I’ve dealt with myself and others throughout my life. It was actually her passing that motivated me to get more involved in community activism. I still reflect upon conversations that we had and lessons that she taught me growing up. I miss her a lot and always try my best to be a similar example to others of the type of love that she showed. Those are big shoes to fill, but it’s a worthy endeavor nonetheless.

Favorite book:

The Bible. I’m actually finishing up my 5th complete read through of it in the past 7 years.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world today, who would it be and why?

Hmmmmm. That’s a tough one. I’d like to have a meeting with the future Governor of Rhode Island and future Mayor of the City of Providence to have an open and honest dialogue about the issues facing our collective Rhode Island community. The intent would be to leave such a momentous occasion, lol, with their personal, professional and political buy in on the implementation of a solid plan of action regarding the appropriate next steps for the productive, comprehensive and righteous development of our collective community.  


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