Although a relatively recent transplant here, student and political activist/writer Sam Bell’s East Side roots run deep: his father grew up on Pratt Street, where his grandmother still resides. Bell migrated to Providence five years ago to pursue a PhD in Geology at Brown, and now plans to remain in Rhode Island.
“I love this neighborhood and want to live here for the rest of my life,” the native Midwesterner says. “You don’t get community like this anywhere else in America.” Sam currently lives near Wayland Square and joined the College Hill Neighborhood Association to help augment residential life on the East Side. He is part of the steering committee to build a new dog park across from Richmond Square.
“Having parks in our community makes more of a difference than we often appreciate,” notes Sam. “It’s important for people to have places they can walk to and let their dogs off the leash. It really adds to the neighborhood.” Sam has also volunteered for the Parks Conservancy and its greater efforts in Providence, which is currently pushing for River Road to become a more park-like, pedestrian-friendly experience. The group previously helped stop the PawSox stadium relocation, and has been instrumental in energizing Rhode Islanders regarding the lack of state support in building parks. Initiating the construction of the promised pedestrian bridge/walkway and parks post-195 relocation is still a major focus.
His passion for community evolution is perhaps best exemplified in his political activism at the state level and beyond; he serves as state coordinator for the RI Progressive Democrats and regularly contributes Op-Ed pieces to The Providence Journal. The group’s mission is to implement national progressive goals at the state level: protecting a woman’s right to choose, repealing tax cuts for the wealthy, lowering middle class taxes, funding more city services and gun law reform – just to name a few. One example was cutting the top marginal income tax rate for the wealthy by 3.91 points in 2010; the state has had huge fiscal problems ever since, and compensated by raising the car tax on the middle class.
Rhode Island may be small, but in Bell’s eyes what happens here absolutely affects the rest of the nation and these next few years are crucial. “If we don’t solve our state’s political problems before it’s time to elect new senators, we’ll end up with new senators who don’t represent our core values.”
If You Had One Wish to Enhance Life on the East Side, What Would it Be?
“One thing we sometimes forget is that the East Side has become more racially segregated over the past few decades,” Bell says. “When my father was growing up here, there was a vibrant and integrated African-American community on College Hill, whose historical heritage has largely disappeared in recent years. I think it would be nice to bring that back and to make the East Side more racially integrated.”
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