Councilman John Goncalves Introduced a Resolution Asking the City of Providence to Recognize Nelson Mandela International Day
Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) and Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) introduced a resolution at last night’s City Council Meeting calling on the City of Providence to recognize July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day. The resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David A. Salvatore (Ward 14, Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), and Councilor Kat Kerwin (Ward 12).
“Nelson Mandela International Day was inspired by President Mandela’s call for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that ‘it is in your hands now,’ stated Councilman John Goncalves. “Nelson Mandela International Day is more than a celebration of his life and legacy, but it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and to change the world for the better. I believe that those of us in public service should heed that call and all work towards making a better tomorrow for those that come after us. From what we see happening in our own country at this very time, I believe that we can look to the work that President Mandela did and make a real change like he was able to achieve in his lifetime.”
On July 18, 2009 the United Nations declared Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of the former President of South Africa’s dedication to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic South Africa.
President Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who was imprisoned in 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the anti-apartheid government. He was originally sentenced to life in prison but was released 27 years later. His release came after outcries from world leaders, and due to the civil unrest and the fear of a civil war. For these reasons, President F. W. de Klerk released Mandela in 1990. Together, they worked to negotiate an end to apartheid which resulted in Mr. Mandela being elected the first Black President of South Africa in 1994.
In 1994, Nelson Mandela shared this story, “A friend once asked me how I could reconcile my creed of African nationalism with a belief in dialectical materialism. For me, there was no contradiction, I was first and foremost an African nationalist fighting for our emancipation from minority rule and the right to control our own destiny. But at the same time, South Africa and the African continent were part of the larger world. Our problems, while distinctive and special, were not unique, and a philosophy that placed those problems in an international and historical context of the greater world and the course of history was valuable. I was prepared to use whatever means necessary to speed up the erasure of human prejudice and the end of chauvinistic and violent nationalism.” Time goes on, but still, President Mandela’s words ring true today as they did then.
Mandela served one term as South Africa’s President and left to become a philanthropist who focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through his foundation. In 1993, upon a visit to the United Stated Mandela was awarded one of the United States’ highest honors, the Liberty Medal, by then-President Bill Clinton. The same year he and President F. W. de Klerk were joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
President Mandela was an ardent supporter of education and education for all. He once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” President Mandela died at the age of 95 on December 5, 2013.
Sadly, his youngest daughter, Zindzi Mandela, died at the age of 59 on Monday, July 13, 2020. Ms. Mandela served as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is world renown for his values and his dedication to the service of humanity, through his work as a humanitarian in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of the poor and underdeveloped communities.
“Tomorrow around the world there will be celebrations honoring the extraordinary life and enduring legacy of President Mandela. Let us take a moment here in Providence, especially with all of the division in our world, to come together in unity and solidarity, to reflect and follow in Mandela’s footsteps in advocating for a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable city for all,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
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.”
Council President Matos Calls on the Department of Planning and Development Promulgate Rules Regarding Administrative Tax Stabilization Agreements
Providence City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), and co-sponsors Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilor David A. Salvatore (Ward 14), and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) introduced a resolution tonight calling on the Department of Planning and Development to promulgate strict rules around employment and contracts relating to the I-195 Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA).
“The requirements outlined in our TSAs impose specific employment criteria that developers must adhere to in exchange for being provided an incentivized tax structure,” stated City Council President Matos. “Providence needs to ensure that we are putting our residents to work and that we are developing our own local economy. When developers ask to be exempt from these requirements, they are seeking to receive special tax benefits without having to make a meaningful contribution to the residents of this City.”
Section 21-266 of the Code of Ordinances defines strict employment standards that all developers must abide by should they wish to obtain a TSA within the City. These employment standards include dedicating at least 10% of the construction costs for Minority (MBEs) and Women-owned Businesses (WBEs), as well as ensuring that 100% of the construction hours worked on the project are done by contractors who have or are affiliated with an apprenticeship program. The Code of Ordinances currently provides the Director of Planning with authority to reduce these employment requirements should a Developer petition the Director to do so. President Matos’ resolution is aimed directly at these petitions for relief by asking the Director of Planning to promulgate strict and specific rules regarding how petitions will be evaluated moving forward.
President Matos continued, “All too often we hear stories of our local MBEs and WBEs being overlooked by contractors and developers. We are a city on the proverbial financial cliff, our residents need to work, and making it harder for developers and owners to no longer be able to get around these requirements will go a long way to keeping our residents working, and ensuring that our city continues to grow forward.”
The resolution will require the Director of the Department of Planning and Development to create strict rules and regulations governing the procedure by which petitioners for relief of Section 21-261 are vetted and approved.
As other Black Americans are intimately aware of, the Black experience is one riddled with broken promises, false hopes and dreams, violence, trauma, and systems and institutions that seek to benefit from the exploitation of our individual and collective anguish.
Black communities across this country are suffering exponentially more because of COVID-19, a stalled economy, and a defective criminal justice system. Except, we’re not only risking health, eviction, homelessness and joblessness; Black families are risking body and life to keep the exhaust of our nation’s engine away from our collective consciousness. Black Americans across this country are forced to send their children to failing school systems, are relegated to minimum wage jobs, and are forced to live in decaying neighborhoods to support the American dream of others.
Therefore, the debt owed to my Black brothers and sisters not only stems from historical transgressions against our freedom, but accumulates to this day because of the underclass conditions we are forced to live in and told to be grateful for.
We don’t need to look too far back to find examples of discriminative governmental polices. There are plenty of inequitable systems today that desperately need our attention and energy.
With two years left in our terms, I believe the right initiative to undertake would be a Crisis Mitigation Plan for Black Communities in light of COVID-19 and every other modern-day inequality my community has to endure and disproportionately suffer from.
While I agree that we as a society are overdue for tough conversations about our past, that conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to restitution.
The word “reparations” is a special word, and like a well, elected officials should refrain from using it so much or risk diminishing its worth. For when I think of reparations, I think of a restitution that is intrinsically connected, dollar for dollar, to the value of the uncompensated services provided by generations of Black slaves. I think of the compensation owed to us for our physical, mental, and emotional trauma that we experienced when our families were torn apart at auction blocks and cotton fields: trauma that haunts our community to this day.
Therefore, when I think of what is due to the Black community when we utter the word “reparations” I’m thinking of a remedy so thoughtful, holistic, and valuable as to be able to make a dent in the debt owed to my community. Whatever the reparation is better be capable of generationally shifting the plight of an entire community.
While down payment assistance programs, and tax abatement programs for our Black communities are initiatives worthy of exploration, they do not meet the criteria that is collectively conjured when we think of what is owed to these families.
I look forward to conversations about these very important matters and applaud the Mayor for providing a forum for doing so.
Yet, 2020 is definitely not the year to overpromise and underdeliver. My people have been through enough.
Mary Kay Harris, Deputy Majority Leader
Providence City Council
Councilwoman – Ward 11
Ricky Bernard and Marcia Ricketts, owners of The Island House Restaurant at 242 Broad St have been in the restaurant business for over 15 years. They opened their first restaurant in Pawtucket in 1997. They owned a restaurant on Lonsdale Ave for three years, where they held their now 13 year old son’s baby shower. The couple became full owners of The Island House in 2019 after four years in business.
The Island House feeds the homeless on Broad St from the back of their restaurant, and keeps a swear jar inside to prevent any foul language! Their restaurant is located in close proximity to 3 high schools, so they have are very popular among students. They are proud to share Jamaican and American food with their community.
On Mother’s Day of 2019, a car crashed into the restaurant, forcing Island House to close for two months. After overcoming this struggle, the Island House now faces the same struggle that many local businesses are facing; trying to keep their business going through COVID-19. With schools being closed, Island House has lost many of their student customers.
In an effort to help small businesses like Island House get back on their feet through the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Providence City Council and the Providence Revolving Fund created a Micro-Business Loan Program. This program provides loans to small businesses in Providence’s commercial corridors. Island House, in Ward 11, represented by Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris was awarded one of these loans. With their loan, Ricky and Marcia plan to get outdoor seating for their restaurant, an app for faster takeout to better cater to their student customers, plexi-glass sheilds and other social distancing measures to keep their employees safe and healthy.
Be sure to stop by The Island House restaurant to try out some great Jamaican and American food and support local business! Congratulations on behalf of Councilwoman Harris and the City Council to Ricky, Marcia and the rest of the Island House staff!