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She always knew the I love you was meant for her

Like it was an arrow sent directly to her 

My mother my best friend my everything 

My mama my mommy my person 

The last one to sit down at the dinner table

The first smile I see when I wake 

Coffee mug in hand

Already been up for hours 

My favorite favorite thing about life 

My anchor 

My secret box in the form of a person

The I love you was always meant for her

And it always will be meant for her

Because the love it takes to raise someone 

To clothe

And feed 

And accept no matter what

Is the kind of love that is unconditional

That deserves to be reciprocated 

And how can one not want to reciprocate that love 

I fall and scrape my knee

She provides the bandaid 

I trust and get my heart broken 

She is the bandaid

She is the medicine and the bandaid

The comfort and the entity that drives me

The arrow will always be sent to her

With the message 

The I love you

I could whisper it into the air

She’d know

How could she not know

I love you 

Message sent 




Outside Air

I sometimes like to just go outside

And stand

No certain spot where I stand

I just go wherever my feet lead me

Once I’m where my legs decide I’m supposed to be

I just stand

To hear the world

And smell the air

Air different than inside air

Outside air

And look at the sky

Cause there’s something beyond it

Beyond the sky

Space 

You can’t see it but you know it’s there

I’ll look to the nearby street when I hear a car tire rolling

Indicating a human

A human driving 

Translating to a human living 

A human who I can’t see and who I don’t know 

But nonetheless another life

It reminds me I’m not just me

I’m not just alone in this existence 

Living is living with other people 

Even when you don’t know the people

You don’t know the human 

The human driving that car

They’re still there

And when you stand outside and smell the outside air

And see the sky which is hiding the endless mysteries that are space 

And hear the tire bringing the human to their life

You’re reminded of all of that

Of you not being alone

Even when you’re standing by yourself




COVID-19 Archive: RI Historical Society and Providence Public Library are collecting stories from the coronavirus

Socially distanced shopping at Wishing Stone Farm

The coronavirus has brought with it feelings of loneliness. Social isolation, social distancing … every word after social translates to not seeing others and not leaving your home. We’re all feeling the effects of the quarantine and experiencing the tough transition into this new lifestyle. 

Here’s where Becca Bender, archivist for the Rhode Island Historical Society, and Kate Wells, curator for the Providence Public Library, come in. Together they have created the Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive, a website where the people of Rhode Island can share stories, videos and photographs about their experiences dealing with the quarantine and virus. This is a way to bring the people of Rhode Island together while we are physically apart. 

The way Wells puts it, “The idea is everyone’s voice has a way to contribute to history. No matter what age, sex, ethnicity … it’s just a way to get people’s thoughts and voices heard.” The website is a bit like a time capsule for historians, specifically Rhode Island historians, to look back and know what the experience was like from those who actually experienced it. 

Bender says, “It’s a way to know first-hand what it means to be a person in the community going through this. One of our goals is to get all of the voices into the mix — food delivery workers, janitors at hospitals, moms working from home…” Both agreed it’s important to get view of the home side of this crisis to show how those working from home are doing, while also showcasing how those on the front lines are coping.  

Wells states,”One of the goals is to have a place where people can document this huge lifestyle change. We’re living in a really historical moment, so if there’s anything to collect for future generations that’s a goal.” 

And Wells means anything. Bender is continuing her passion for gardening and building a vegetable bed, while also binging “30 Rock” and completing puzzles. Wells is getting as much sunshine as she can while also spending time with her husband and pets. 

And that’s the exact content to be sent to the archive website: People going about living their lives in this quarantined lifestyle. The content posted doesn’t have to be extraordinary because, let’s be honest, a lot of our quarantining experiences aren’t. Instead the website captures what this experience is really like for so many, and helps us all not feel so alone during a lonely time.

Bender says, “We want people to find comfort in knowing that we’re all going through it together, though physically apart.”

Wells hopes this project encourages more community partnerships and wants to see people in every community participate. “Having a wider range geographically, different ethnic communities contributing, working on translating the site into different languages,” Bender says. “We just want to represent every experience that is being experienced.”

These past couple of months haven’t been ideal for anyone, but sharing experiences and knowing that others are in the same boat helps. Documenting this less than perfect time so that when it’s over we can look back knowing we all made it through is what makes this project so necessary.

To view the archive or contribute an item, go to ricovidarchive.org




Climate Strike 2019

The climate strike held at the State House was the first public and global protest that I attended since turning 18, legally an adult. And that shift changed my thought process and the way my brain wrapped itself around everything happening at the State House that day. 

What I realized, or I should say what was reestablished, was the fact that children and young adults really are running the show. By me changing my age by one year, I’m no longer part of that “child” group. I’m an adult.        

So going forward, I won’t be looking up to the adults in charge in the world. I’ll be looking to the youth. Not only looking to the youth, but looking to them with understanding that I never received while trying to make change as a technical youngster. Greta Thunberg woke people up to the truth; the young generation is making the real differences we all want to see, but just haven’t worked hard for. 

Witnessing the students protesting at the event made me feel hope, something I haven’t felt in a while in regard to climate crisis. Children leaders and global activists are going to make that difference. All we can do is try to follow in their lead.




Burn it Down! Gaspee Days celebrates a bit of RI history

burning-bannerDo you love Rhode Island history and enjoy being around people who are enthusiastic about it? Then the annual Gaspee Days string of events is for you!

Gaspee Days is an annual series of events in Warwick celebrating RI heritage and history. The Gaspee Days celebration has been taking place for more than 50 years to commemorate the burning of the HMS Gaspee in 1772 in Newport. The goal of the event is to educate people about this monumental day while creating an entertaining and fun environment for people of all ages.

Depending on whom you ask, the burning of the Gaspee may be an obscure footnote lost to history (especially if you’re not from RI — you may not realize we shook the world back in 1772). Or it may have been the actual start of the Revolutionary War. The story is rife with a comedy of human errors, but the final upshot is that, upset about excessive taxes, RIers came to the aid of a rum smuggler whose cargo was confiscated by the British. The Brits ran into a sandbar, likely having sampled too much of the rum, and the Rhode Islanders — er, patriots — who arrived to liberate the alcohol set the British vessel, the Gaspee, afire. Again, a fair amount of alcohol consumption was likely involved in this decision-making. Nevertheless, it set a precedent Bostonians would later follow in regard to tea, a far less exciting beverage.

But underlying all those shenanigans was the core concept that would rally the colonies in the next few years — unbridled resentment over taxation — which prompted rum smuggling, as there was no prohibition against alcohol — without representation. Basically, RI lashed out first on this sore point.

For other ways into the tale of the Gaspee, check out the comic series culminating in this issue, by Tim Lemire, at motifri.com/drawntogaspee. Or, for younger readers, consider the tale (or tail) as told from the perspective of a cute little puppy in one of local author Lauren Kelley’s Tuggie the Patriot Pup series of historical fiction (Think Johnny Tremain, but with pups.)

The kick off each year is the parade. Saturday, June 8 this year, it features period costumes, fife and drum corps and groups like the Shriners in a massive show of community and historical spirit.

Leading up to the June 8 parade, there are tons of other fun opportunities to partake in. A 5k run, walk or whatever you are feeling up to that takes place on Parkway, the famed red, white and blue striped street immediately before the parade. There’s a period-themed encampment with food and craft vendors and musical performances that lead up to the hottest event of the entire Gaspee Days festivities: setting a decoy HMS Gaspee ship aflame on June 9! If that doesn’t make you hot with excitement, I don’t know what will. 

A ship burns down, and we make a day celebrating it! There’s no denying the RI spirit, and this special occasion perfectly encapsulates what Rhody pride means.

For more information on Gaspee Days and a schedule of events, to gaspee.com 

Photo from Gaspee Days Committee.




A Case for Change: RI students demand an education that includes civics classes

Most people don’t think twice about the necessity of filing taxes, though it’s often considered an agonizing affair. Yet to 17-year-old Aleita Cook, knowing how to do her taxes, how to register to vote and how to serve on a jury aren’t skills she was exposed to because throughout her education in the Providence school system, she didn’t take one civics class.

Cook, who currently is a senior at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, is among 14 Rhode Island students who filed a federal lawsuit that claims RI violates their constitutional rights by providing a substandard education that does not require them to take civics classes. According to Cook, not having those classes makes young learners ill-prepared for life after they graduate. “Going into the real world, you need the knowledge that civics gives you,” she said. 

Civics classes are vital for students to help them navigate life once they graduate and teaches them about their duties as members of society. Students who aren’t exposed to civics classes might not realize how important it is to vote or might not understand their basic rights as US citizens.

Cook has high hopes for students if they win their case. “So many doors will open,” she said. “Kids will go to school and say, ‘Oh good, I’m learning about the different branches of government.’”

Another reason Cook joined the suit was to inspire other students across the country. “This can be an opportunity for other students in other states to think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ I want to help motivate students to be active in their own communities, schools and states.” Cook has always considered herself an activist, but the suit helped her decide to study law in the future. “This case is helping me build my activism career while expanding my knowledge,” she said.

But Cook must first focus on the case, which has gotten a fair amount of attention since it was filed in November. Late night political talk show host Bill Maher flew one of the involved students to LA to be acknowledged on his show, and “The Daily Show” recently contacted Cook for an interview. Cook couldn’t be happier that people are taking notice, “I’m so stoked people are taking interest and that our voices are being heard.”

To the people who see this case as unimportant, Cook has something to say. “If you don’t know how to file taxes or take out a loan or buy your first house, it can jeopardize your life. It’s just as important as math, science, or English.”

Cook feels grateful for the outpouring of support from friends, teachers and her family throughout this process, and jokes about how much it has impacted her life. “My friends think I’m famous now,” Cook said with a laugh. It’s easy to see, though, that this young activist is it in not for the fame, but to make real change in the school system and impact the lives of her fellow students. 




Teens Love Love, but Not Valentine’s Day

ChocolateOh, Valentine’s Day — it’s the worst day of the year or the best, it all depends on your relationship status. Or at least that’s how it used to be. But now younger people and Valentine’s Day don’t blend as well as they used to, in large part because very few teens care about the day dedicated to love.

The holiday that involves flowers, chocolates or that overly expensive bracelet for the partner who truly desires something from the heart seems to have gone out of fashion.

If you talk to teens about their thoughts on love and this holiday that celebrates it, you’ll learn that the next generation of lovers may put this candy company hoax of a holiday out of business.

Rosalind Nilsson,19, is in a relationship and thinks Valentine’s Day isn’t even about the love anymore. “I feel like Valentine’s Day is over commercialized and people are made to focus on spending and buying for their significant other rather than actually appreciating their significant other,” she said. While some may argue that the day is imperative for showing your loved ones you care, Nilsson thinks otherwise. “You should appreciate your significant other and loved ones in general, more often than just on Valentine’s Day.”

Valentine’s Day always has had its fair share of critics, the majority of whom are single, which has prompted card companies to offer humorous Valentine’s Day cards for the lonely hearts out there. Sayings on cards include “Happy singles awareness day” and “Relationship status: Waiting for a miracle.”

Isabella Caban,18, is one of those single people who, while believing that showing affection to your loved ones is important, has a negative view of Valentine’s Day. “I just don’t think it’s necessary. Always show your friends, family, significant other or anyone who means something to you affection and love — not just on one day, but always,” Caban says.

There are very few ways to make a holiday centered around love work for everyone. The idea of Valentine’s Day and celebrating love sounds nice, but when you add in the materialistic expectations from partners, leaving out those who haven’t found that special someone yet, and the loss of weight in your wallet, those nice feelings for the holiday can fade. 

The good old days of making construction paper hearts at school while classmates passed around homemade festive treats have gone away. Now, teens feel that Valentine’s Day is just another day, only with more profit for big businesses and upscale restaurants.




Social Media, Minus the Hate

The world is crazy. Acts of hate have been normalized, there are protests held seemingly every week and we have an orange in the White House.              

Despite all the craziness, there’s a platform that brings everyone together. A place where you can connect with your best friend from kindergarten, find that cute barista who works at your favorite coffee shop, and congratulate that cousin who lives miles away from you on her pregnancy. This magical place is called social media — or it’s what social media should be.

Social media, however, has a dangerous way of always becoming a breeding ground for negativity and hate. This is largely because anything a person says on Twitter or other platforms is said through a screen. What better place to confront or insult someone than from the safety of your bed, phone in hand?

Cyber bullying has also gotten out of control because social media makes it tough to prove who said what to whom and when. Kids as young as middle schoolers are being bullied online, and there’s no escape. With face-to-face bullying, as terrible as it is, at least the kids can get away from it when they leave school. With online bullying, there’s no running from the torture. 

That kind of constant abuse leads many teens to develop depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts. I once made a positive comment about the animal rights group PETA for getting a huge fashion company to stop using animal fur for their pieces. Almost instantly I was bombarded with comments by people who find fur pieces appealing, calling me almost every name in the book. That small, maybe 10-minute confrontation with people I’ve never met before made me feel horrible and helpless. 

Social media apps can also cause users’ self-esteem to take a hit. Social media, Instagram in particular, is full of perfectly edited and Photoshopped selfies that are viewed by impressionable teenagers. Instagram users begin to have unrealistic beauty standards, leaving many to think they aren’t good enough or need to change the way they look.

With the constant hate and negativity that infiltrates social media, it leaves a good chunk of my peers and me feeling worried about the impact social media will make in the future. If it’s out of hand now, what will it be like as technology advances?

Social media has tremendous power when you take out the antagonism and hatred. It should be a space where we all spread love, not hate. Where we see humorous memes, not someone’s nudes being leaked. Where raw, natural selfies are shown as much love as the airbrushed ones, because they are both beautiful.

These are my hopes for the new year. A new meaning for social media sounds like the perfect aspiration.

Tess Lyons is a Motif intern and student at The Met School.




Why We’ve Had Enough

“Did you hear about the shooting down the street from your school?” My heart dropped. A waitress at my job broke the news to me that a few streets over from my school, The Met High School, another shooting took place after school hours.

I was shocked; I still am actually. Not only was this shooting more personal as it happened just down the street from me, but the 15-year-old bystander, named William Parsons, who was shot and killed, was two years my junior. Thinking of someone so young dying from senseless violence caused me to shudder. Then it hit me: His age shouldn’t be what’s making me shudder. Last school year numerous students died from what felt like weekly school shootings. Granted, this wasn’t specifically classified as a school shooting as it happened after school hours outside of the building, but that matters very little as it still involved a young life being taken.

What should upset me is that there was a shooting, something to which I’ve seemingly become more accustomed. No student should go to school knowing that there is a chance they won’t return home, but the sad truth is that students, parents, and news outlets have become less and less fazed by school shootings.

When I was in 6th grade I grieved with the rest of the nation over the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. None of it made sense to me. All over the news there were images of parents and students embracing while letting their tears of sadness streak down their cheeks. It was heartbreaking that so many died from such a new threat. Everyone wanted to help the families who were affected. It was covered by the news for months.

Then more recently, the Parkland Shooting happened, and the nation was thrown for a loop again. There were marches and protests and memorials and rallies and condolences. There was the March For Our Lives rally that citizens participated in all over the country. The shooting had caused a national uproar. The news had updates on the attacks for weeks and weeks.

Then it just stopped. The same thing happened here that happened with Sandy Hook. Everyone jumps on board to help as much as they can for a certain period of time, then they just stop. Same goes for the news. I haven’t heard one thing about Parkland since May.

That’s how it usually goes with school shootings. The shooting happens, the nation is shaken, people demand justice, the White House promises it, then everything fizzles out.

We students aren’t blind to it. I spoke with Mary Villegas, a senior at The Met High School, about whether we as a society are getting too used to gun violence. “Definitely,” she said. “We’ve all become so numb.”

Like so many others she, too, notices a pattern in how school shootings and shootings in general are handled. “[There are] prayers, public apologies, more information about the attack and then the next day everyone goes back to regular life and forgets.”

With the Parkland shooting, I was with everyone else believing that it was the end of school shootings and senseless acts of gun violence plaguing our nation. But it wasn’t; it was just the beginning of our fight.

I think that’s what is continuously frustrating to students everywhere. It’s so obvious that we need a change in our gun laws, but Congress never delivers. I used to say, “How many shootings do we have to endure before a  lightbulb goes off in peoples heads?” I stopped saying that because the majority of the people I speak to are on the same page as me, knowing that stricter gun laws are our only saving grace right now.

So why doesn’t Congress obey our continuous pleas for change? I’d love to know that answer. I thought I did; it was simple to blame it on the NRA and the loads of money the government makes off of guns. However, now I don’t believe that. It’s not simple and it doesn’t give anyone peace of mind knowing that the people who are supposed to be helping all of us out and the people who are supposed to be in charge are neglecting citizens dying just because they want to make money.  

I firmly believe it’s not just because of the 2nd Amendment either. That argument doesn’t even come close to holding up when speaking to the majority of students. When the amendment was created, guns could only fire up to three rounds a minute — and that’s if you knew what you were doing. Today guns are so powerful and dangerous some can fire 800 rounds a minute. I understand that some people feel like they need to protect themselves, but are 800 rounds a minute really necessary? Too many lives have been lost to continue this silly argument, because it’s not just about which side has an age-old law to back it up, it’s about which side is actually paying attention to all the signs telling us stricter gun laws are in order.

That’s our reason to keep on fighting.

To continue fighting to end fear in schools, to continue fighting to end unnecessary shootings by people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns in the first place, and most importantly, to continue fighting to end school shootings.

We students have a voice and we’re not going to stop until what we demand is given to us. We’re not going to stop until we receive peace in all schools no matter where they are or who attends them. School shootings/ shootings in general have become the new normal, but so has teens fighting for what they believe in. One of those is going to stay the new normal and the other is going to go back to being a rarity; and we’ll have students to thank.




Tommy Denucci Opens the Vault

I recently interviewed local film director Tommy Denucci about his most recent project, “Vault,” which stars Don Johnson, Theo Rossi and Samira Wiley. The film is based on the 1975 Bonded Vault robbery, which took place in RI and was, at the time, the biggest heist in American history — the thieves stole more than $30 million dollars of valuables from the mafia. 

Tess Lyons (Motif): What made you take on this true story and make it into a movie?

Tommy Denucci: This story is actually a bit of a folk tale around Rhode Island. I first heard about it when I was a teenager, and I thought to myself, “Why isn’t this a movie?” 

Eventually, I met [producer] Chad [Verdi] and my career started. Chad had always wanted to do a story on Raymond Patriarca, so we combined the two ideas and started creating a script for this movie.

TL: What attracts filmmakers to RI?

TD: I think it has a lot to do with Steve Feinberg and the Rhode Island Film and Television Office. We [also] have a very dynamic look — woods, oceans and downtown Providence, where we are filming this movie. You can drive from one end of the state to the other. We have a nice little hub here.

TL: How long did it take you to find your star-studded cast? 

TD: Believe it or not, that stuff usually happens pretty quickly. Theo Rossi was attached to the project since August 2017. Then from there on out he was the only actor we had signed for months and months and months. It wasn’t until January that we brought in some other big names — the cast came together quickly in about a two-month process.

TL: Should audiences expect a lot of action in this film?

TD: There’s gonna be a little bit of action, a little bit of romance, a sense of adventure. There’s gonna be a feeling of needing to get away or escape. There’s gonna be a lot of exciting things for people who like the genre. They’re gonna get everything they want to get out of a movie like this, plus some surprises that make this movie unique.

TL: What’s the hardest part of setting a film in the ’70s?

TD: The looks of the actors. There’s a big difference between what we consider long hair today and considered long hair back then. There were thick mustaches and thick sideburns that take months to grow. You don’t really start casting until a month or two out, and it’s very hard to find those people just walking around. Not just the stars, but the background actors, too. 

TL: How is this project different from your other projects?

TD: This is my first movie working with this many elements. It’s the biggest movie I’ve ever made. The budget is bigger than all of my other projects combined. On this budget we are able to do some of the more advanced things I wanted to do in my movies before, and just didn’t have the means. It’s fun to work with people who can make my wildest dreams come true.