Last week I announced that we would soon be welcoming three new voices to these opinion pages. For those who’ve tried to cajole the names out of me in the days since, I hope the wait wasn’t too excruciating.
We’re excited to welcome three people who will be joining Arlene Violet in her column spot, writing on a monthly rotation starting in a few weeks. We think they’ll offer unique perspectives on issues here in Rhode Island, strengthening The Breeze’s place as a leader in driving the community conversation.
Here they are:
• Marcela Betancur, executive director of the Latino Policy Institute, which focuses on the evolving Latino experience in Rhode Island.
• Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, co-founder with his wife Bernadet of Pawtucket-based Mixed Magic Theatre, a company that has striven to bring diverse stories and images to the stage since 2000.
• And Tom Ward, founder and former publisher of The Valley Breeze and long-time columnist before his retirement.
These three will be joining Dan Yorke, Arlene Violet, and Erika Sanzi. Dan will still be writing three times per month, and Erika will be the monthly fill-in for his slot.
We’re also reserving several column spaces each year for guest columnists. Thank you to those of you who have thrown your hat in the ring in the past week.
Betancur grew up in Colombia and immigrated to the U.S. at age 12, where she moved to Central Falls.
Her early professional career began at the Providence Housing Authority where she helped lead and coordinate special programs and policies for residents. Later, she went on to serve as director of home ownership for NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, where she focused on serving first-time homebuyers, specifically Latinos, immigrants, and millennials. She worked as a policy associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island where she worked with local and statewide organizations to ensure that policies, laws, and regulations proposed or enacted protected civil and human rights for all Rhode Islanders.
Today, Marcela serves as the Latino Policy Institute’s executive director. She brings to the position a wide range of experience in key areas of Latino Policy Institute research and advocacy, including housing, education, civil liberties and workforce development.
She serves on the board of several organizations such as New Urban Arts, Providence Housing Authority, and United Way of Rhode Island.
Pitts-Wiley, who previously wrote a guest column for The Breeze, is an actor, playwright, composer, and director, beginning his professional career at Trinity Repertory Company in 1974. The 2017 Pell Award recipient has often shared perspectives on such issues as race relations and how the arts are treated in Rhode Island, and his work on the stage is widely hailed for getting audiences to think beyond themselves.
Some of the universities he has taught theater at include MIT, the University of Rhode Island, University of Southern California, Rhode Island College, University of Dartmouth, Hofstra University, Long Island University, Eastern Michigan University, and Brown University.
Ward admits he didn’t jump at the chance to write again after I asked him to join his good friend Violet.
“I am happily, and lazily, retired,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed being a nobody, for months even behind a mask, since last spring. I deliver Meals on Wheels in Woonsocket to people who don’t know me at all. It’s wonderful. I have appreciated, though, the many kind people telling me (mostly at Dave’s Marketplace) that they wished I’d write again.”
He said he might by design be “a bit more circumspect” now that he’s not the owner, saying The Breeze’s owners “deserve my respect and best work.”
“I remain conservative in my principles and lifestyle, and doubt I’ll ever change,” he said. “Is anyone interested in old-fashioned notions like faith, family, and self-reliance anymore? And so, beginning next month, let’s see where this goes!”
Ethan Shorey has been the editor of The Valley Breeze since 2017. He and his family live in Cumberland. Later this week, he’ll be named co-president of the Rhode Island Press Association.