The Red Bandana Fund, which honors the legacy of social activist and journalist Richard Walton, has chosen to bestow the annual Red Bandana awards to Providence College Professor Eric Hirsch and workers at the Renaissance Hotel in Providence.
Hirsch, a sociology prosessor, is that rare academic who translates his research into action. A tireless advocate for the poor and homeless, Hirsch has worked with the RI Coalition for the Homeless, in the classroom and at the Rhode Island Statehouse, helping the less fortunate in our community.
The workers at the Renaissance Hotel, many of whom are first generation immigrants to our state, have bravely spoken out for their need for a union. Their organizing has continued for a number of years in the face of resistance from hotel management. The workers insistence on their right to organize for collective bargaining to negotiate for decent working conditions and a living wage reminds us that people are crying out for a decent, sustainable life, both here in Rhode Island and across the nation.
``We’re very excited about the honorees this year,’’ said Bill Harley, president of the Red Bandana Fund and a close friend of Walton. ``There were many nominations for deserving individuals and groups. Eric and the workers from Renaissance represent all of the people working for a better life for all of us here in Rhode Island. Those who remember Richard Walton feel he would be very happy that these folks are being honored.’’
The awards will be presented on May 31 at a celebration at Nick-a-Nees at 75 South Street in Providence’s Jewelry District, from 4 to 7 p.m. The awards ceremony will be accompanied by music from the Gnomes and The Extraordinary Rendition Band. Donations to the Red Bandana Fund will be accepted.
Richard Walton, who died in 2013, was a longtime journalist, author and social and political activist who dedicated his life to working for peace and social justice. He was a passionate man who embraced life in all its contradictions, loved sports, music, politics and journalism and served as a mentor to generations of Rhode Islanders who try to make out state, nation and world better places.
A witty, droll man, Walton was known for his trademark red bandana. He wore it to parties, protests, concerts, softball games and to his annual June gathering of food and music at his home in Pawtuxet Village. That event raised thousands of dollars over the years for Amos House, where Richard was a veteran volunteer.
Walton was a Brown University graduate who was also an adjunct professor at Rhode Island College and was a leader of the union representing adjunct professors.
``Richard had a party this time every year,’’ said Harley. ``What we are doing is completely in keeping with his words, actions and spirit.’’