10 to Watch

Leah Williams Metts

What she does to live:Marketing Director for Catch a Rising Star, the comedy club at Twin River. She’s also a licensed cosmetologist. What she lives to do:Community activism, particularly on …

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What she does to live:
Marketing Director for Catch a Rising Star, the comedy club at Twin River. She’s also a licensed cosmetologist.

What she lives to do:
Community activism, particularly on issues affecting children:

  • Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the DCYF and Family Court systems. 
  • Board member, South Side Elementary Charter School, opening in September.
  • Co-chair, the Davey Lopes Recreation Center alumni board.
  • Chairwoman, NAACP Youth Council.
  • Also works with the RI Black Heritage Foundation and Swim Empowerment, a nonprofit program that aims to teach 30,000 Rhode Islanders to swim over the next 10 years.

How she came to our attention:
As the most prominent and passionate voice fighting against the mayor’s plan to close and demolish the pool at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center last summer, which became a citywide controversy.

“I went to the pool and what I saw was horrifying. There were about 40 children – mostly black – playing on the side of the empty pool with a hose. It was despicable. I wasn’t going to let that happen in my community… I went to every office in the City and the State House that would let me in. I went to Republicans and Democrats. I talked to Senators, Council Members – I just wasn’t shy.”

Fast facts:

  • She was born in Washington, DC, but was raised on the South Side of Providence since about age six.
  • Her cousin is State Senator Harold Metts, whom she frequently cites as an inspiration for her activism. “Someone in my family is an elected official, and he has a voice. So, why can’t I have a voice?”

Why she’s an example for us all:
In addition to working full time, she is a single mother raising four children, two of whom have special needs – yet she can still find the time and energy to get involved and speak out.

On being an example for other young, single mothers:
“I want to discourage teenage pregnancy, but also empower the teen moms who already are pregnant or who already have children. I would like to encourage them by giving them examples of successful teenage parents… A lot of times in America we tell them they can never be anything. We can empower them, we can teach them to be constructive community members and leaders.”

What drives her to do it:
“I know that the children don’t have a voice. They don’t vote. Someone has to speak up for them. And if that someone has to be little old me, then I’ll do it.”

Favorite quotes:

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead
  • “Showing up is 80% of life” –Woody Allen

On speaking out:
“In order to make your voice heard, you need only use it. Politicians will only stay honest and represent your issues if you speak out about them. One benefit of living in this information age is that it's easy to make yourself relevant. Facebook, Twitter, online editions of newspapers, etc. – there are a million ways to get your message out.”

Follow Leah on Twitter @Leahygo