J’can runs for state rep in NY
WHEN RHODE Island voters go to the polls come November 8, they will have the choice of electing former Jamaican schoolteacher Marcia RanglinVassell as state representative for their community.
Vassell, who migrated to the United States in 1990, and is now a public-school teacher in Providence, got the nod over her opponent after the state Board of Elections denied a lastminute request from lawyers representing House Majority Leader John DeSimone to review alleged irregularities at one polling site.
A recount in mid-September gave her a 21-point edge over DeSimone and the chance to stand as Democratic rep.
She now faces Roland Lavallee in the November 8 general election.
But Ranglin-Vassell, who grew up in Bull Bay, St Thomas, a rural community on the eastern end of the island, says her journey to representational politics, while not deliberate, is simply deeply rooted in her love for people and a strong desire to help change their circumstances for the better.
JOURNEY STARTED AT 18
“Without consciously thinking about it, my political journey began when I was 18 years old and I was selected as a National Youth Service worker. I was assigned to the Social Development Commission located at 74 1/2 Hanover Street in Kingston. Under the watchful eyes of Sadie Bowen and Percival Blackwood, I spent an entire year knocking on doors in East Kingston and Port Royal helping children and their families to build their lives and their communities.”
It also helped that her father, Eric Ranglin, despite growing up poor and without formal education, founded a church and preschool in the neighbourhood – the 11 Miles New Testament Church of God and Preschool – which was initially housed under tarp in the yard.
There were struggles, but an even stronger desire to share what little the family had.
When her father died, her mother, Mavis Ranglin, was forced to start her own business.
“She bought a large basket, and used it to carry fruits to the factories in our neighbourhood to sell to the factory workers. Our family struggled, but again we survived, because of the love and dedication of our mother,” Ranglin-Vassell says.
MOVED BY GUN VIOLENCE
“Fast-forward 36 years, I had no idea that I would run for political office. I have been busy making sure that my family is supported. In addition to that, I have been teaching, and fighting for the community and for families who have worked really hard for everything they have and are just looking for opportunities. As a mother, a Providence public-school teacher, and a community activist, I have done everything I can to give my children, my students, and my neighbours a chance at success.
“However, the catalyst for running for office actually came only a few months ago after I realised that gun violence had taken the lives of so many of the children that I have taught. I realised that I know some of the perpetrators of gun violence, I know some of the victims, I know the incarcerated and I know their families. I was just tired of seeing so many lives ruined, and I thought that running for office could help,” she explained.
If successful, she plans to push forward on changes to laws that would create safer communities and strengthen families.
“As a legislator, my priorities are to work as hard and as smart as I can, to get like-minded
Marcia Ranglin Vassell