Pan-African Flag Raised on City Hall Celebrating Juneteenth
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza today joined City Council President Sabina Matos, Councilmember Mary Kay Harris, Community Relations Advisor Shawndell Burney-Speaks, Bishop Jeffery Williams, members of the Mayor’s African American Advisory Group and community members to sign an executive order removing the term “plantations” from all City documents and oath ceremonies.
“I firmly believe that in order to truly say we are an inclusive and kind city, we must commit to an active, anti-racist stance at every level in our city,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Though this does not correct generations of pain and violence against our Black and Indigenous residents, this Juneteenth we can take this step to build a better, brighter future together. I want to thank the community members that led this work and that continue to raise their voices in our city and across the country, demanding change.”
This executive order was developed by the Mayor’s African American Ambassador Group, initially created to serve as a direct line of communication between the community and the Administration to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 related care and resources. The group has since expanded, with subcommittees focused on recommending strategies to increase equity citywide.
Council President Sabina Matos stated, “The reference to the Providence Plantations in our State’s name, while not a direct reference to slavery, serves as a hurtful reminder of the early years of our State in which slavery played a pivotal role in forming the foundation of Rhode Island’s economy and has caused much harm. In the wake of so many deaths rooted in systemic racism, we have lost Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and most recently George Floyd, and countless other individuals of color, including Trans-Women of color, all of which have refocused the discussions surrounding race, inequality, and justice in this country. As a Black woman and as an immigrant I am so proud to of our City in this moment.”
This announcement also marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. For this year’s celebration, the City partnered with the JuneteenthRI Committee to raise the pan-African flag on Providence City Hall.
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“Symbols matter,” said Bishop Jeffery Williams. “Symbols represent what often others can’t or refuse to see. As a society who through much pain is coming to terms with the inequality and injustice evident in the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, our laws, our schools, our houses of worship and in our government, today’s action is the start of a new era for this city and state.”
Those interested in engaging in the subcommittees of the Mayor’s African American Ambassador Group are encouraged to contact Community Relations Advisor Shawndell Burney-Speaks at firstname.lastname@example.org.