what’s in a name?

Earlier this year, someone told me the term “west side” erases the West End’s Black history. They informed me that white gentrifiers were the ones who started calling our neighborhood the “west side.” I was surprised; when I started the business in 2011, I purposefully chose the name West Side Wellness because I thought “west side” was the more authentic term. Even though I’m a lifelong Rhode Islander, my assumption was wrong! And it took 2020 (and a bit of kind criticism) to show me.

Since that moment, I’ve been actively seeking guidance on how to address this, because I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. But everyone I contacted had, you know, a lot on their plate this year. Then I blinked and it was November. So I’m just gonna forge ahead and do my best to amend the situation of our name.

Though I don’t need a state referendum to change the name of my business, to remove “west side” in every instance (website address, payment processors, legal and tax stuff, printed materials, checks, scheduling software) will take quite some time and work. The reality is, I have to prioritize other work to keep this ship afloat in a worsening pandemic. So for now, what I can do is make sure to add the term “West End” wherever I can, including when we talk about the business. And I’m adding a statement to our website that reads:

“West Side Wellness is located in the historic West End of Providence; we love this vibrant neighborhood, but we also acknowledge our role in gentrification of a Black/POC community. Additionally, our office occupies stolen Narragansett/Wampanoag land. So, we strive to work against internal and external racism. And there’s always more work to do.”

I’m white. I’ve always thought of myself as liberal. Back in 2016, when Trump was elected, I participated in a bunch of workshops on dismantling one’s own internalized white supremacy. I learned a lot, and one of the most important things I learned was: there’s always more work to be done. Even now, even after Trump’s defeat — there’s still so much work to be done. So, even though it wasn’t pleasant to be told I’d made an uninformed, racist choice in naming my business, I embraced the information. It made me examine some old assumptions. It made me want to do more. If you’re white, I encourage you to continually be open to the same.

Jen Raimondi, owner