Rhea grew up in a small family raised by a beautiful, educated single-mother, to the smell of burning plantains and sounds of salsa beats in the heart of Jamaica Plain. From a young age, Rhea was known for her leadership and public speaking skills and quickly made a name for herself by participating in heated political protests and debates within school. At 15, Rhea finally found her love for the spoken word and other forms of performing arts. She became highly involved in her community and used her poetry to captivate the minds of her fellow youth and community leaders. She has been published in several books includingTwilight Musings and recently performed alongside poet Martin Espada, Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues , Political activist, professor, and author, Angela Davis, and Boston City Councilor, Felix Arroyo, in Celebrate the Children of Resistance, a program dedicated to the memory of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Rhea’s desire to participate in social change and public service stemmed from her own experience with public assistance and the lack of community involvement by politicians while Boston’s poverty-stricken neighborhoods were being torn apart by drug abuse and violence. On Thanksgiving Day 2005, Rhea lost a good friend, Dion Emmanuel Taylor, to the violent streets of Boston. Even after Dion’s murder, Rhea lost four more friends to gang shootings and stabbings. The period that followed their deaths was filled with darkness and confusion, but after five months of grief and depression, Rhea began to see clearly again. It was then that she realized that she could be the change that her community needed. At the same time, Rhea began to see the affects of homophobia on her own life which she considers an undisputed facet of violence. As a GLBT (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender) youth, Rhea resented not being able to take her partner with her to her own Junior Prom, after enduring constant homophobia from her classmates. During the month of June, Rhea met with several homeless GLBT youth and realized her purpose in applying for the John William Ward Fellowship. She is currently working alongside Amy Stickles, the Program Coordinator for the Diversity Unit at the Department of Social Services, on an ongoing project to bring a youth perspective into the creation of a policy and/or training that would give social workers, foster parents, and adoptive parents, mandated education on how to properly service GLBT youth in the child welfare system. She is also working on a performing arts show with the assistance of the DSS staff, where GLBT youth will be able to express their stories through the art of spoken word, song, and dance.
Rhea believes that change can only take place when a community comes together in the name of unity. She also believes that she has the capacity and strength to play an active role in improving her surroundings. She is honored to be working at the Department of Social Services under Ms. Stickles who has inspired her to think deeply about the affects of classism, homophobia, and institutionalized racism on an entire population, and how sorting through the disproportionalities within the child welfare system can help her create her own contribution to a more culturally competent world. In the future, Rhea hopes to go to law school, and go on to teaching constitutional and civil rights law.