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RI Power Player: Jim Vincent

Monday, February 17, 2014

 

Each week, GoLocal shines the spotlight on one individual who is making an impact on Rhode Island. This week, GoLocal sat down with NAACP leader and RIPTA Compliance Officer Jim Vincent to talk about his work in the community and goals for the future. 

Jim Vincent

Tell us some of the accomplishments of your career to date. How have you gotten to where you find yourself now?

I have focused my entire career on "giving back" to a community which has given so much to me. Since coming to Rhode Island from Boston in 1990, I have served as a volunteer on 35 non profit boards, four as president: Urban League of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Affirmative Action Professionals, East Bay Community Action Program and the NAACP Providence Branch. I am most proud of my past 20 years working in the area of civil rights. Being the only Rhode Islander who has ever served as the president off both the Urban League and the NAACP has been particularly gratifying. I am also proud of producing and hosting the Jim Vincent Show, a public affairs television show now in its 12th year; working for 14 years to provide access for members of underserved Rhode Island communities to first time homeownership opportunities; and my current job as the Civil Rights Compliance Officer at RIPTA overseeing the agency's EEO, DBE, ADA and Title 6 programs.

I have gotten to where I find myself today due to the tireless and heroic activities of African Americans who fought, bled and died so that a poor son of Cape Verdean immigrants from the South End of Boston could have equal access and an opportunity in life. The opportunity and access given to me as a teenager were seldom given to individuals far more talented and deserving than I and who were even only two years my senior. I stand on the shoulders of those heroes who came before me and it is a debt that I can never repay. 

What are the biggest challenges facing Rhode Island right now? What are your goals for 2014?

The biggest challenge facing Rhode Island is bringing good paying jobs to our state which presently has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Businesses will only come to a state which has a trained, educated, and motivated labor force. Our efforts to bring in businesses have been greatly compromised by our refusal to take seriously and with urgency the crisis facing our children of color in our public schools whose achievement lag far behind their white peers.  These students are the workers of the present and future and we have failed them by any objective measure--miserably! Other major stumbling blocks to our state prosperity is our total failure to integrate our businesses owned by individuals of color to the economic vitality of our state and the total lack of talented and industrious people of color at senior levels within our institutions, companies and agencies. Our state will never prosper as long as we keep making excuses and remain in total denial of these facts.

My goals for 2014 are more diversity at RIPTA in the EEO and DBE areas; making the NAACP Providence Branch a key player in the areas of voter registration/ education and youth empowerment in Rhode Island and to continue to have quality guests on the most diverse public affairs television show in Rhode Island.

What does Providence need in its next Mayor to address the biggest issues facing the city?

The next mayor of Providence needs to understand that the failure of the public schools in the capital city is a tremendous drag on our state's ability to attract quality businesses to Rhode Island who are looking for that trained, educated and motivated workforce. Providence and Rhode Island face major financial problems which cannot be solved by austerity. We need to grow our way to normalcy and eventually to prosperity. Also, there is a need for far more people of color, particularly African Americans, at top municipal positions. New blood, new creativity, more productivity. The old way is not working. 

Take us through a typical day in Jim Vincent's life.

My weekday starts at 8:30AM at my position at RIPTA. My job is to make sure that my agency embraces and complies with the ideals of the Federal Transit Agency. After the workday ends, my day continues with community meetings mostly involving NAACP issues, virtually, 7 nights a week and many Saturday and Sundays. I love it.. It's an honor and a privilege to serve my community. 

Tell us something no one knows about you.

While in junior high school, I played the drums with the Prince School orchestra and also, served as an alter boy at St. Cecelia's Church. As an undergrad, one of my classmates was Meryl Streep and another was Russell Wilson's uncle Ben, a friend.

Best book you have read recently:

AMERICA'S HELL ON EARTH written by Omar Bah, a Gambian journalist, declared "wanted" and eventually forced into exile for speaking up against injustice in his native Gambia. Omar is a Rhode Islander and friend.

Favorite thing about being Rhode Islander. 

I'm a Cranston resident, I love our state's diversity. Big D. Also love the feeling of playing a significant role on advocating for equal opportunity and access for Rhode Islanders of color.

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

 President Obama. I want to thank him for his tireless commitment to ALL Americans despite enduring some of the ugliest unpleasantries any president has endured in American history. I also would like to ask him why he doesn't have a better communications and messaging strategy. 

 

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