Fifteen students from Central High School surprised City Hall visitors and staff on Thursday with a flash mob performance during the Providence City Council’s Black History Month celebration. The students interrupted the speaking agenda to perform “We Shall Overcome,” which was followed by a spoken word performance and African dance. The flash mob was followed by storytelling performances from Valerie Tutson and Joe Wilson, Jr.
Behind-the-scenes plans for the flash mob began when Council President Luis Aponte first met the high school students during a holiday performance at Latino Public Radio in December. Impressed with the students’ talent, Aponte asked Central High School music teacher Joyce Bernau-Enriquez to help the students arrange a flash mob performance at City Hall. According to Bernau-Enriquez, the students spent upwards of 20 hours after school in preparation for the event. The students choreographed their own African dance routine and adopted a poem written by a fellow student for the spoken word performance.
The stunning performance kicked off the Council’s second annual Black History Month celebration, which features an archives exhibit that chronicles the black suffrage movement in Providence from 1785-1885. At the students’ request, dozens of elected officials, staff members, nd visitors joined them in singing a resounding chorus of “We Shall Overcome” in unison.
Storyteller Valerie Tutson also performed as Elleanor Eldridge (1785-1865), who left home at age ten for employment and later became a successful entrepreneur and Providence landlord. Joe Wilson Jr. of Trinity Repertory Company was the final act, performing as Alexander Crummell (1819-1898), an influential scholar, college professor, preacher, and education advocate for people of color.
“We are quite honored to have so much history in our archives department, right here in City Hall,” said Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, who urged attendees to return to the exhibit with friends and family. She is also working with the Providence City Archives Department to develop a program for groups to come to City Hall and learn about the black suffrage movement in Providence. “Education is empowerment,” said Harris. “I want to bring my constituents to City Hall and share this history with them.”
The archives exhibit will be displayed on the third floor of City Hall through the end of March. To schedule a group tour, interested parties should contact Deputy Archivist Caleb Horton at (401) 680-5315.
The City Council tonight passed an ordinance amendment that establishes new mandatory operational and management reforms to the city’s Board of Licenses. Spearheaded by the Council’s Majority Whip Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), this legislative package brings to fruition many of the recommendations outlined in the Jeffrey Pine report, which was commissioned by the Council last year.
“Recognizing the integral role that the Board of Licensing plays both in the economic development of the city and as a regulatory authority for neighborhood quality of life issues, the Council initiated a comprehensive reform effort to improve the city’s licensing operations,” said Ryan, who also chairs the Council’s Committee on Municipal Operations and Oversight, an entity that delves into the details of local government to improve city services.
Changes to state legislation were adopted last year by the General Assembly in support of the Council’s licensing initiative. This legislation modernizes and better defines liquor license classifications, which in turn provides businesses with a more predictable business framework.
Ryan noted that the City of Providence has already implemented one of the report’s recommendations; a comprehensive audit of all licensing records is now underway. Pine deemed this measure essential for accountability, especially regarding records management and payment collection.
“We’re pleased that our colleagues in government are working with us to improve licensing operations,” said Ryan. “Together we will continue to bolster and grow the city’s economy while protecting the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
Introducing Ordinance Prohibiting City from Banking With Lenders to Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)
Councilman Seth Yurdin (Ward One) has called for the City of Providence to terminate its relationship with Citizens Bank for as long as it continues to provide support and financing to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Providence should not support financial institutions like Citizens Bank as long as they choose to fund the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Yurdin.
Yurdin is introducing an ordinance that will prohibit Providence from doing business with banks that provide financing to DAPL. According to Food and Water Watch, Citizens Bank is providing $72,500,000 in financing to Sunoco Logistics Partners, one of the principal pipeline partners.
DAPL is a $3.7billion 1,200 mile pipeline designed to transport fracked oil from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to Patoka Illinois near Chicago. DAPL has been opposed by certain Native Americans due to concerns about local environmental and cultural impacts on their lands. DAPL is also opposed by climate change advocates. In 2016 President Obama blocked DAPL from proceeding. Upon taking office, President Trump revived the fracked oil pipeline project.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens local communities and our climate,” said Yurdin. “The new federal administration is pushing DAPL ahead, ignoring both the concerns of Native Americans and the pipeline’s serious impact on climate change. Now more than ever, local governments need to support important issues like the opposition to DAPL.”
The ordinance will be presented at the City Council Meeting scheduled for February 16th.