PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence leaders are taking steps to provide reparations to communities who have been wronged by centuries of racial injustice.
On Monday, Mayor Jorge Elorza held a news conference to launch the “Framework for Reconciliation” and sign an executive order creating the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission.
The event was held at Bethel AME Church, a historically Black parish that was displaced from its original location.
He was joined by Keith Stokes, the city’s business and development director and vice president of the 1696 Heritage Group, along with other city and academic officials.
According to Elorza, reconciliation is the second phase of a multi-year project announced as part of a previous executive order he signed in July 2020.
“Today, I am proud to be alongside our partners and community members to share another milestone of this three-phase process, the Framework for Reconciliation,” Elorza said. “By engaging those who have been directly impacted by actions outlined during our Truth Telling phase, this framework demonstrates that history isn’t something that just happened in the past but is actively shaping present-day outcomes for African heritage and Indigenous Providence residents.”
Stokes pointed to certain neighborhoods where Black and Indigenous people were targets of racially unjust urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Hundreds of families of color were permanently dislodged and dispersed from their communities and homes, and this was playing out in Lippitt Hill in Providence, Fox Point, South Providence, Washington Park, Olneyville, Elmwood.”
Elorza said the committee will have 13 members appointed by him and members of the Providence City Council.
Members include NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent, PCEI CEO and founder Raymond Two Hawks Watson, Lab Faculty at College Unbound Wanda Brown, Rhode Island Pride President Rodney Davis, 25 Bough St. CEO Lanre Ajakaiye, RISD Assistant Professor Jess Brown, and CareerDevs Computer Science Institute CEO Arnell Millhouse.
“Two years ago and surrounded by our community members, we announced this comprehensive approach that would lead to reparations which has served as a model for other cities throughout the country,” Elorza added. “While we know the city alone cannot repair the full scope of harm, today’s action brings us another step closer to addressing the disparities our African heritage and Indigenous residents continue to face. I’m confident that this Commission of community leaders and advocates will provide invaluable insight into creating a path forward that’s right for our community.”