Mayor Elorza signs formal City apology and unveils proposed Municipal Reparations Budget
Thursday, August 25, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Providence Cultural Equity Initiative CEO and Founder Raymond “Two Hawks” Watson, Reparations Commission Chairperson Rodney Davis, Reparations Commission member and Providence resident Wanda Brown, Congregation Beth Sholom Rabbi Barry Dolinger, 1696 Heritage Group Vice President and Providence Director of Business Development Keith Stokes, Founder and Executive Director of Higher Ground International Henrietta White-Holder, Senior Advisor to Mayor Elorza and Executive Director of the African American Ambassador Group Shawndell Burney-Speaks and community members today announced the next steps in the City of Providence’s municipal reparations process.
Mayor Elorza today began taking action on the recommendations of the Municipal Reparations Commission. First, Mayor Elorza signed an Executive Order constituting a formal municipal apology for African enslavement, urban renewal policies and practices and acknowledgement of the harms to African Heritage and Indigenous communities caused by racial discrimination. In addition, Mayor Elorza signed a second Executive Order committing the City of Providence to continuing to support the work of the African American Ambassadors Group (AAAG).
“On behalf of the City of Providence, today I signed an Executive Order taking long overdue action toward acknowledging the deep wounds of racial injustice and creating a pathway forward to a more equitable future,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Only by formally acknowledging the generational effects of discriminatory policies, bringing those impacted to the table as decision-makers, and making significant investments in the communities targeted by those policies, can we collectively move forward and each of us become full and equal members of our society.”
Mayor Elorza and community members also unveiled a budget plan for the $10 million allocated for the COVID-19 Inequities Fund in the City’s approved American Rescue Plan Act budget. The budget “Closing the Racial Wealth and Equity Gap: A Proposed Budget for Municipal Reparations,” outlines investments in categories such as homeownership and financial literacy, education and healthcare. The full budget proposal can be found here. In the coming days and weeks, Mayor Elorza and community members will engage members of the City Council to discuss the findings of the Commission and the outlined budget.
“I thank the Municipal Reparations Commission for their time and efforts to outline recommendations, and I know that the budget we are proposing is driven by the needs and priorities of the community. While we cannot undo the harm that has been done, I am confident these programs and investments will make great strides in closing the racial wealth and equity gaps that exist in Providence.” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “I look forward to joining them in engaging with the City Council when they are back in session to advance these priority areas.”
In July 2020, Mayor Elorza signed a community-driven Executive Order committing the City to a process of truth, reconciliation and municipal reparations. Since then, the City has been undergoing a thorough process of research and community engagement, including the creation of the “A Matter of Truth” report and the City of Providence’s Reconciliation Framework. Earlier this week, the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission submitted its final report to the Mayor and City Council, which detailed their recommendations for advancing reparations in Providence, as defined by the Commission as “closing the present-day racial wealth and equity gap”.
“Over the past four months, the Commission was intentional in reaching out to community members throughout Providence,” said Commission member and Providence resident Wanda Brown. “Hosting 17 public meetings, 7 community town halls and informed by the historical evidence and engagement before us, we feel confident about the recommendations made to the city and look forward to even more action being taken to move them forward.”
“As beneficiaries of reparations after the Holocaust and as witness to the process of revolutionary healing they can foster, we wholeheartedly and enthusiastically promote the researched, thoughtful proposals in this report,” said Rabbi Barry Dolinger, Congregation Beth Sholom. “True healing comes from recognizing it’s not about scarcity and competition for resources, the very cause of these ills in the first instance, but about abundance and collectivity.”
To read Executive Order 2022-5, Establishing the African American Ambassadors Group, click here. To read Executive Order 2022-6, Recognizing and Apologizing for the City of Providence’s Role in Discriminatory Practices and Policies, click here. To learn more about the Providence Reparations Commission, visit https://aaagpvd.com/providence-municipal-reparations-commission/.