Ward 3

Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune

Councilwoman Nirva R. LaFortune is a Providence City Council Member representing the city’s third ward, which includes the neighborhoods of Mount Hope, Hope Village (Summit), Collyer Park and Blackstone. She is the first Haitian American to hold elected office in the state of Rhode Island.

Since joining the council following a special election in August 2017, Councilwoman LaFortune has served as the Vice Chair of the Special Committee on Education.



Ward 3: Mount Hope, Hope Village (Summit), Collyer Park, and Blackstone

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My Turn: Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune

One of our nation’s most significant challenges has been providing a high-quality public education that serves all children, and this challenge has been particularly acute in our urban communities.

Over decades the Providence Public Schools have invested in changes — new curriculum, new professional development, new schools, new tests — yet has failed to significantly shift outcomes. Close to half of our students perform below proficiency in math and English, and about half of our high school students missed at least 10% of the last school year.

So why has our district, and so many others, under-performed for so long? I would argue that our public education system is built on a foundation of deep, systemic oppression that cannot be addressed with an isolated approach. The structure of public education in the United States has systematically disenfranchised students of color, students with disabilities, students from low-income backgrounds and students who are English language learners. The system that holds the promise of uniting people from diverse communities in an informed democracy has instead sorted students into increasingly divided groups of “haves” and “have-nots.”

As a proud graduate of the Providence public schools and a mother of two children of color in the district, I am ready for change and optimistic about talk of bold action. We need to shake up the entrenched bureaucracy that is holding our schools back. But I am apprehensive about the state taking control of our schools when they lack a demonstrated understanding of our urban communities, their strengths and their needs. For years our state has neglected the urban core, only stepping in for temporary relief without sustainable progress. I know, because I was there.

My parents sent five children through eight Providence public schools, and two of us completed college. As an undocumented immigrant, English language learner, and lead poisoning survivor, study after study suggests I should not be successful. I worked hard, I had parents and teachers who believed in me, and I benefited from resources in and outside of the classroom — programs, people, opportunities — that helped me navigate all kinds of obstacles.

The dire statistics and inspiring mentors are in part what motivated me to study education policy and to run for city council. I am delighted to hear so many voices saying it is time to do right by our schools, but it remains to be seen if we really mean it.

I am already apprehensive about the prospects for real change because plans are being made without the public. The system has systematically failed our kids — my kids — sowing deep mistrust. The way to build enduring change is through a culture that embraces the realities of daily life for our children and families. The way to build enduring change is through transparency and shared trust. The way to build enduring change is by helping students, families and teachers lead.

In example after example nationally, urban district takeovers are top-down, driven by outside experts, and almost universally fail. Separating students, teachers, and families from authority, governance and expertise will limit our success. We have all seen temporary spikes in test scores. The reason our schools continue to fail is that no one has taken the bold step of building long-term community leadership. Providence, with its incredible strengths, could be the first, but only if we set aside short-term political fixes for transparency and true engagement.

Throughout the city, I’ve heard people worry that this process will prioritize politics, not children. They are worried that the plan is being formed behind closed doors.

We cannot deliver a high-quality education for our students if we fail to address the systemic ways that students, families and teachers have been disenfranchised by a public education system that should help them thrive. We should welcome bold action, but not without bold accountability for the people the system serves.

As submitted to the Providence Journal and published online on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Providence City Council Calls on State to Ban Assault Weapons

City Council members passed three resolutions at tonight’s council meeting urging the General Assembly to pass legislation banning assault weapons, banning high capacity magazines, and prohibiting concealed-carry weapons on school grounds. These resolutions were introduced by Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman David A. Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Rachel Miller (Ward 13), and Councilman Seth Yurdin (Ward 1).

“We are not going to wait until the next tragedy for changes that we need to see enacted now,” stated Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune. “It is time to take a stand against gun violence and the City Council supports the Senators and Representatives that have put forth this much-needed legislation. We need to keep assault weapons off the street and away from criminals in order to ensure the safety of families, students, and law enforcement officers.”

The Providence City Council respectfully requests the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass House Bills H-5741, H-5762, H-5739; and Senate Bills S-635, S-636, S-637. These legislative bills include the Rhode Island Assault Weapons Ban Act, the Large Capacity Feeding Device Ban Act and an amendment to the RI General Law chapter 11-47 entitled “weapons.” Seven States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning Assault weapons including: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

Councilman David A. Salvatore stated, “The debate is over; there is no justification for military-style assault weapons with large-capacity magazines to be in the hands of civilians. Firearms should be nowhere near our school grounds or public spaces and it is our moral obligation as public servants to protect the people through common sense gun legislation. Rhode Islanders will not let the proliferation of assault weapons go unchecked.”

“This is a clear message from Providence residents to our state leaders that it is time to put an end to mass shootings by banning assault weapons once and for all,” stated Councilwoman Helen Anthony. “Our children deserve a safer world and not one where anybody can easily acquire a weapon that shoots up to 100 rounds a minute.”

Click here to view a digital version of the resolutions.

City Council Passes Pride Resolution

City Council Passes Resolution Welcoming June as Pride Month

At the June 6, 2019 City Council meeting Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) and Councilwoman Rachel M. Miller (Ward 13) introduced a resolution welcoming the month of June as PRIDE month in Providence. The resolution was unanimously passed by the full council.

“Providence is a city that welcomes everyone, regardless of their gender, race, orientation, religion or how they identify,” stated City Council President Sabina Matos. “As a Catholic, I was deeply hurt by the remarks of Bishop Tobin regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, and believe that God welcomes all and stand by Mark 12:31, ‘The second {commandment} is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which many consider being the catalyst that moved the gay liberation movement forward. In the early hours of June 28, 1969 Trans-women and men, gays, lesbians, and their ally’s took to the streets after continued abuse at the hands of the New York City Police in a series of riots that would propel the movement forward to where we are today.

“We can’t forget that Pride’s origin was a broad social movement for equity and inclusion. That’s especially true in today’s political climate while the LGBTQIA community is organizing to stop a national rollback on some hard-won victories,” Councilwoman Rachel M. Miller stated. “As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I was angered by Bishop Tobin’s recent comments but I’m proud to create an opportunity for elected officials to be on the side of love and on the side of affirming and supporting our LGBTQIA+ community.”

The first Pride march in Providence took place in 1976 when over 70 brave men and women, marched in Kennedy Plaza, after winning the right to do so after a court battle handled by the ACLU. They were taunted by police and residents alike, yet they were not deterred. Today, known as the “76’ers,” Belle Pelegrino one of the original marchers, told The Providence Journal that, “We totally expected that when we stepped into the plaza, gunfire was going to come. We thought we were going to die.”

As noted by The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone, CNN, and countless other news outlets the Trump administration has continually rolled back almost every single LGBTQIA+ protection that were put in place by previous administrations. This is why the City Council believes it is more important than ever to memorialize and codify their support for all members of our community.

Pride is celebrated around the world during the month of June, in recognition of the Stonewall Riots that took place on the morning of June 28, 1969. This year marks the 43rd Anniversary of Providence Pride which has grown from a march of 70 men and women to a weekend celebration that brings 1000’s of people to our city in celebration of equality and love.

In 2018, the City Council officially recognized the month of June as Pride Month in perpetuity and was passed by the full Council. The Providence City Council celebrates and recognizes the contributions, struggles, risks, and many identities of Providence’s LGBQIA+ community and their families and proudly affirms that love is love.

The City Council recognizes and thanks Rhode Island Pride for all they do to for the community not just on Pride weekend, but throughout the year. Pride takes place on Saturday, June 15 with Pridefest taking place along South Main Street (North from Memorial Boulevard and South Water Street to the South ending at Wickenden Street) from 12 pm – 7 pm. It will culminate in New England’s only illuminated night Pride Parade that begins at 8 pm and will travel down Dorrance Street, to Washington Street, to Empire Street and ends on Weybosset Street. This year’s theme is #LiveYourTruth.

For more information on Rhode Island Pride, please visit prideri.org.

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