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Dr. Ravi Perry: What’s in a Name: “Woosta” or “Worse-ster”?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Dr. Ravi Perry, GoLocalWorcester  MINDSETTER™

I moved to Worcester three years ago to join the faculty at Clark University. I was excited about the move. It was an opportunity for me to begin a new career, explore new surroundings and embark upon a new life altogether.

Soon upon my arrival, I was sure to visit some key Worcester area strengths. I was first introduced to the Tower Hill Botanical Gardens. I also visited the Worcester Art Museum. A visit to Green Hill Park to hike through rugged trails was an early regular activity. I even ran a track race at a local “mini-meet” at Worcester State University.

My first summer in the area was spent visiting many area festivals celebrating the cultural heritages of Worcester’s population. I also was thrilled to be closer to Martha’s Vineyard, to which I often sneaked away.

But no area activity beat the excitement I recently experienced at the DCU Center when Worcester hosted the WTA Fed Cup last February.

Worcester has many strengths. But, the city needs to do a better job of marketing them.

I travel a lot. These travels have introduced me to the sad reality that Worcester does not have a pretty reputation. Whether it’s to Boston or Hawaii, I’ve heard many refer to Worcester as “Worse – ster” – with an emphasis on “the worse.” From a failed industrial past to the forgotten city to the ***hole of New England, I’ve heard it all. And despite my efforts to inform critics of the many improvements, I’ve only then been asked why so many improvements would be necessary “had things gone right in the first place.”

While some may be quick to dismiss these voices as naysayers not deserving of attention, I disagree. We all should be engaged in the effort to help improve the city’s reputation.

And that effort will require more than championing local business deals so familiar to many and unreachable to most.

I, for one, wish to be even more proud of my city. I live here, pay taxes here and work in Worcester. (I really wish I could fly in and out via the airport as well. And I recommend the state and the city seek one-way flights to Providence, Manchester, Hartford, and/or Boston on only one or two major airlines. That way the nearby airports may not be as concerned about losing central Massachusetts traffic).

Some quick suggestions: It would be great to literally see the mayor and city manager fighting to bring new business here. From more regional sports teams to more hotel rooms and more. Where are the press conferences?

It would be great to see more college-friendly residential and commercial units to make the city more walkable and create more of an “urban” feel.

It would be great to see a local media market for news and events to ensure a greater opportunity for positive news stories. The Federal Communications Commission may need to be called, but it’s worth the ask and the proposal.

Finally, it would be great to see a summer celebration of the arts through a youth art program. Similar to the “Young Artists at Work” initiative of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (in Ohio), such a program here would train young artists pay them for summer work, and help the city’s efforts to beautify bus stops, murals, parking meters, etc.

If we want to see Worcester shine, we all have a role to play. Please share your ideas. In doing so, we can get rid of the “worse-ster” references and proudly proclaim “the Woo” as the place to be!

Dr. Ravi Perry is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of Ethnic Studies at Clark University where he specializations in Black politics, minority representation, and urban politics. He concentrates his research, oratory, and activism in areas such as the new generation of civil rights debates, public policy, and urban politics public service delivery to persons of color. His activism, commentary and oratory have been featured in media outlets nation-wide. 


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