The upside of hope in Rhode Island

Nine individuals who are bullish and optimistic amid the state's current tough times
By IAN DONNIS  |  January 29, 2009

Photo by Frank Mullin

Julie Davids
Age: 41
Where she's from: Outside Philadelphia
Moved to RI: 2005, from Brooklyn, New York
Level of hope and optimism for the state's future, on a scale of 1 to 10: "In terms of how I want to feel about Rhode Island, an 8; How I feel about it — 8."
Reasons to be cheerful: The beaches and proximity to the ocean.
Julie Davids is nationally known for her activism against HIV/AIDS, so it's a little funny to hear this self-described cynic go a bit gooey in describing Rhode Island's weather, raving about the slightly cooler and less humid summer days than those found in her longtime former home city of Philadelphia.

That said, Davids, who continued her fierce reputation as the founder and longtime director of Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP; — which trains people to become more effective as activists — isn't about to go soft.

Surprised and saddened by the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has flared locally in recent years, she plans to make fighting for immigrants' rights her priority this year. As board co-chair of the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM;, Davids (who remains a senior consultant for CHAMP) is also focused on helping to organize a national network to advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Southeast Asian youths.

Having relocated to Rhode Island after marrying fashion designer and RISD professor Liz Collins, Davids is quick to tick off a listing of appealing attributes about the state: natural beauty; compelling history; interesting housing; strong educational institutions (and yeah, that weather). The Cranston resident hastens to note the flip side, calling Rhode Island "a state that has so much to offer and is so rich in many ways, but it has so much inequality," particularly in the economy.

While still immersing herself in her adopted state, Davids is heartened by the resiliency she sees in the state's residents, and by the opportunities that could come with rethinking Rhode Island's current problems. "I think there's a lot of goodwill that can be marshaled," she says, "if people have the space to grow into that."

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |   next >
  • An angry electorate? Eh, whatever
    Whither the rage? Rhode Island's Great Recession — greater, even, than the national model — was supposed to conjure a once-in-a-generation anti-incumbent fever. But so far, it's looking more like a modest headache.
  • Indentured servitude and other keys to the Rhode Island recovery
    Despite the continual awarding of tax breaks to various upper-income types, we Rhode Islanders are told our business climate is still near bottom. So I make these seven modest suggestions for addressing the problem.
  • Rhode Island's ticking time bomb
    This is a story about the pension crisis that's tearing apart Providence and Central Falls and just might lay waste to the whole goddamn state.
  • More more >
  Topics: News Features , Josh Miller , Providence Public Library , David N. Cicilline ,  More more >
| More
Featured Articles in News Features:
Share this entry with Delicious
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS