MEET OUR GRADUATES: La-Brina, On the Front Line of Social Justice

La-Brina Almeida

This senior has joined public protests, testified at the State House and founded a nonprofit to raise awareness around inequality in adoption.

​La-Brina Almeida is a recipient of the B.S.W. Social Justice Award for academic excellence and outstanding community service on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed populations in Rhode Island. Faculty noted that Almeida has​ an incredible commitment to minimizing the effects of oppressive systems in the lives of marginalized people, ​and she understands how racism and poverty impact individuals.

Less than three months into her B.S.W. internship at House of Hope, a nonprofit​ that helps the homeless secure housing, Almeida joined the agency in protesting an anti-panhandling ordinance in Cranston. Other community partners, such as the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless and the Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights organization, also took part in the protest, while Almeida elicited the participation of RIC’s School of Social Work students.

“Panhandling directly impacts the people we serve at House of Hope,” Almeida explained. “Our coalition argued that streets are public domain. If you are a member of the public, you ought to have the right to stand on the street. Panhandling is allowed in Providence because agencies like ours have been fighting for it.”

Approximately 50 in all came out to protest, and many were served multiple citations for standing on a highway/freeway or for distributing flyers to drivers. However, due to their protest, panhandling is now allowed in Cranston until the court makes a decision.

As a future macro and micro social worker, Almeida said that “everything came together” for her on the day of the protest. “I had been working with homeless clients at the micro level, but for the first time, I was also able to address social injustice at the macro level, the systems level. I realized that fighting for social justice is something that we can do for our clients both inside and outside of the clinical setting.”

Almeida has also shown impressive leadership in the arena of reproductive rights. Upon attending a hearing at the State House where testimony was being heard on passage of the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would protect the abortion rights articulated by Roe v. Wade, Almeida decided to sign up and present her testimony. 

“People argue that adoption is an option but they ignore the vast number of African American children who do not get adopted,” she said. “Less than 10 percent of black children in foster care are adopted in comparison to roughly 50 percent of white children.” 

Following the hearing, Almeida was approached by Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and invited to intern there as a community organizer. In 2017 she founded Adoption Inequality to continue to raise awareness around racial inequalities within adoption. She enlisted the support of volunteers and collaborated with business and community groups, including the NAACP and Adoption Rhode Island. She has also held workshops at RIC and Brown University to raise awareness around the low adoption rates of African-American children, particularly those in state care. 

Almeida​ is a recipient of the 3.5 Society Academic Achievement Award and was recently awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship, a full-tuition fellowship that will allow her to complete her M.S.W. at Boston University, where she will begin classes in the fall.