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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

juliedavids
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; champnetwork.org) — 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; prysm.us), 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."

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