City Councilors Call on the City of Providence to Transform into an Anti-Racist Institution

Jul 16, 2020 | 0 comments

By investing and supporting in structures, programs, and policies that align with the
Just Providence Framework and the City’s Climate Justice Plan

Councilwomen Helen Anthony (Ward 2) and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), along with co-sponsors Councilors Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), John Goncalves (Ward 1), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), and Councilor David A. Salvatore (Ward 14) introduced a resolution at tonight’s City Council meeting calling on the City of Providence to commit to developing an anti-racist institution that prioritizes investment and support structures, that align with the Just Providence Framework and the City’s Climate Justice Plan.

“Climate change impacts our marginalized communities disproportionately, stated Councilor Helen Anthony. The City’s Office of Sustainability in partnership with the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee have done an excellent job creating a plan that addresses the interconnected issues of public health, racism, climate, and environmental sustainability.”

The resolution points out specific markers in history where city leaders repeatedly failed residents of color. Black and Indigenous communities were displaced to build industrial sites, highways, and roads. Schools that serve predominantly students of color lack resources; schools –

Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune stated, “We can not build a just and equitable society without addressing the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable community members. The Office of Sustainability and the Racial and Environmental committee are committed to working with the community to ensure that climate and sustainability plans recognize the intersection of race and class as an indicator in Environmental Justice assessments. Tonight’s resolution is a  movement seeking to rectify policies and structures that failed to acknowledge Black, indigenous and communities of color in climate and other environmental-related initiatives. It is up to all of us to  work together to make sustainability and environmental justice a guiding principle in addressing climate change.”

“The Climate Justice Plan is recognized as a national leader and model for community-centered planning, power-shifting, and climate justice. The Office of Sustainability is being tasked with updating existing policies such as zoning, developing new programs such as ‘Green Justice Zones’ in our frontline communities, and creating new policies to help mitigate the climate crisis we are facing, especially in these frontline communities where the crisis is only exacerbating health and economic inequities. As elected officials, it is incumbent on us to support them in this much-needed endeavor,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.

Tonight’s resolution calls on the City to commit to transforming to an anti-racist institution by following the “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization,” to support and invest in structures, programs, and policies that align with the Justice Providence Framework and the Climate Justice Plan.

Councilor Kat Kerwin shared, “Further, this resolution requests that the Office of Sustainability be supported in the FY21 budget so that it may improve the lives of Providence’s BIPOC communities. And that they can continue their work to mitigate long-term climate threats and reduce the loss of life with solutions that result in clean air and water, climate-resistant low-income housing, community health initiatives, environmental justice, youth programs, and economic justice.”

“The time for us to act is now,” stated Councilman John Goncalves. “Our futures depend on the resiliency that we cultivate today so that we may grow a brighter tomorrow for the next generation of all Providence residents. The interconnectedness of climate justice, housing, and economic prosperity for all is dependent on us working together today to address and mitigate the social issues that are caused by an ever-changing climate.”

Finally, the resolution also requests that the City follow the Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership outlined in the Climate Justice Plan and move towards a collaborative governance decision-making process that centers those who are most impacted by the current health, environment, and economic crises.

“Our residents and our future residents deserve nothing less,” stated Councilman Pedro Espinal. “The time is now for us to take action, and I believe that we can change the trajectory of our collective history by working together.”

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