“I often like to think of what I do as a variation of a common grassroots saying; mine is “think globally, write locally.” - Reza Rites
Reza Corinne Clifton (Reza Rites) was born in 1980 and briefly raised in Providence, RI before her parents relocated her and her brother and sister to Cranston, RI. After graduating from Cranston High School East in 1998, she attended school in Washington, DC at American University. Interrupting her education at AU, she returned to RI in December 2000 and completed a semester at CCRI before transferring to the University of Rhode Island. She graduated from URI in 2003 magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in African and African-American Studies and a minor concentration in International Development. Before graduating, she was presented with the William Gould Award for All-Around Outstanding Achievement by URI’s Black Faculty and Staff (BFS) and nominated for the Rainville Leadership Award and the Diversity Award by, respectively, the Leadership Office of the Student Union and the Multicultural Center. She also joined, upon invitation, the Golden Key National Honors Society.
During her course of study at URI, and in conjunction with a program at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo), Reza studied in and traveled across Cuba. She has also studied in Spain and traveled briefly to Aruba, St. Martin, Canada, Costa Rica, Nassau, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. She has also traversed the continental and territorial borders of the U.S., and tries to pursue national or international voyages as often as possible.
While at URI, and for a short time after her 2003 graduation, Reza produced and hosted a radio news show called “Diaspora Dimension,” which aired on URI’s 90.3 FM, WRIU - RI’s largest non-commercial radio station. Incorporating hip hop, reggae, and other Pan-African music throughout the program, the news subjects and stories she covered hailed from regions like Latin America, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa and focused primarily on women, children, diplomacy, development and military interventions. A year after she graduated, in the summer of 2004, Reza was introduced to Print Journalism - and to career possibilities as a freelancer - when her first written article was published in a publication called Fiesta Magazine.
She has written for RI-based publications including but not limited to The Providence American newspaper, a Providence-based African-American weekly; Motif Magazine, Black Notes, and RIFuture.org, print and online publications covering art, culture, and politics in RI; daily newspapers the Kent County Daily Times and the Johnston Sun Rise; and the quarterly She Shines magazine, a publication of YWCA Northern Rhode Island, whose mission is Empowering Women and Eliminating Racism. In the late summer of 2005, she began operating a website to post her own archived and up-to-date articles - www.RezaRitesRi.com.
While at URI, Reza also worked closely under the Civil Rights icon, Dr. Bernard LaFayette of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, and helped to establish a college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP). In January 2005, she joined a fledgling group called the Rhode Island Young Professionals (RIYP). As an auxiliary organization to the Urban League of RI, and as a local chapter of the National Urban League Young Professionals, RIYP targets RI’ers between the ages of 21 and 40 for local and national opportunities to network, perform community service, and access resources in relation to career and leadership development.
From January - May 2006, Reza participated in “Leadership for a Future,” a program jointly offered by RI for Community and Justice and The Institute for Labor Studies and Research. Participants in the program elected her class speaker, an honor with responsibilities that included speaking at the State House. She has also been invited to lecture and speak publicly about Cuba, journalism, Pan-Africanism, voting rights, and other subjects - both in university and community settings.
In June 2006, the Urban League of RI recognized Reza with the Arthur David Wright, Esq. Youth Achievement Award for her commitment to community action and her ability to lead others to action, and in December of 2006, fellow members of the RI Young Professionals selected her to receive the 2006 Young Professionals Member of the Year award. In 2006 she also joined the National Association for Black Journalists.
Reza’s accomplishments continued into 2007. Early in the year she began a one-year term as elected vice president of the RI Young Professionals, while professionally, she worked briefly in the Advocacy and Public Policy unit of the Urban League of RI before moving on to teach, advocate, and develop programming for young mothers as Workforce Development Consultant at YWCA Northern Rhode Island. Reza did not abandon her “emancipatory” journalism work, though. On the contrary; her website, RezaRitesRI.com, earned her a 2007 “Metcalf Diversity in the Media Award” in the category of “Technology for the New Millennium.”
Reza’s freelance work also gained exposure in 2007. One way was through an article she wrote which appeared on blackenterprise.com; it explored the who, why and what of African-American federal lobbyists. She has also been published in the nationally- distributed publication, Urban Influence Magazine, which was designed to reach Young Professionals spread across the country. In November 2007 Reza returned to radio, and WRIU, but this time her focus was music instead of news: she became the fourth host and dj of a weekly, Saturday morning program called “Voices of Women.” Besides in RI, MA, CT and parts of NY, the show can be heard from 9-11 AM (EST) anywhere in the world via live streaming available at www.wriu.org.
Reza’s perspective and experience as an online publisher (and occasional blogger), 21st century freelancer and cultural critic continue to be sought after post-Metcalf. She regularly appears as guest or commentator on shows airing on 95.5, 88.1, and 93.3 FM and on the CW television network, and she offers advice via service to various communications committees. In the spring of 2008, she was hired as a temporary employee for the NPR program, All Things Considered, and she was selected to serve as Guest Editor for the Minority Health edition of She Shines magazine. For the second year in a row, she was selected to serve as hostess for a RI concert festival commemorating the emancipation of American slaves, and she was picked as a hostess for Sound Session 2008 - a week-long, Pan-African summer music festival held annually in Providence, RI.
Reza’s career highlights continued into the fall of 2008, when executives at WRIU agreed to sponsor the radio broadcast of a program she created, directed, and co-produced alongside Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, Inc. and Beatbox Studio of Providence and Pawtucket, RI, respectively: the four-part Rhode to Africa Interview Series. The 30-minute episodes about Africans in RI and MA aired weekly during three different slots in October and early November. The radio broadcasts coincided with a Concert Series they organized, which showcased regionally-residing West African, Haitian, Native American, and African-American bands, musicians and DJ’s. The concerts were held at Firehouse Number 13, an art gallery and performance space in Providence, RI. Under Reza’s direction, Rhode to Africa received funding and support from The Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, The Van Leesten Group, and hundreds of other musicians, individuals, organizations, and businesses.
The Rhode to Africa Interview Series was also promoted and is available as podcasts on her website, which continues to thrive as an important source for showcasing and exploring diverse voices. RezaRitesRi.com is referenced regularly in RI, includes staple columns and pieces by guest contributors, and is read as far away as Spain, California and Washington, D.C. This is due to the accomplishments and uniqueness of Reza and her web staff, to the reach of the website’s accompanying e-newsletter, and to the culturally-relevant news and features, exclusive photos, eclectic listings, original podcasts, and unique resources you find there.
She is always open to publishing and publicizing the works of other writers and independent journalists and loves hearing about events, ideas, or people that could lead to good pieces. To achieve this, Reza started a yahoo group - the Reza Rites Chirp - but she also encourages communication via email, text message, or phone. To join the Chirp or to contact her, email email@example.com or call 401-497-5246.