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City Council commits Providence to becoming ‘an anti-racist institution’



We can not build a just and equitable society without addressing the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable community members…

Councilmembers Helen Anthony (Ward 2) and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) introduced a resolution at Thursday evening’s Providence 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.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), John Goncalves (Ward 1), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), David Salvatore (Ward 14) and Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15).

“Climate change impacts our marginalized communities disproportionately,” said Councilmember 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.”

“We can not build a just and equitable society without addressing the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable community members,” said Councilmember LaFortune. “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 resolution listed specific times when city leaders failed residents of color:

  • The institution of slavery being Providence’s principal source of income;
  • The displacement of indigenous peoples through violence and lies;
  • The race riots of Hardscrabble and Snow Town leading to the formation of the Providence Police Department;
  • The displacement of Black and Indigenous communities to build industrial sites, highways, and roads;
  • The defunding of schools whose students are majority Black, Latinx, and Southeast Asian;
  • The over-policing of Black, Indigenous, and People of color neighborhoods;
  • The tradition of placing toxic sites in and near Black, Indigenous, people of color neighborhoods;

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“The Climate Justice Plan is recognized as a national leader and model for community-centered planning, power-shifting, and climate justice,” said Councilmember Miller. “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.”

The resolution commits the City to three ideas:

  • Transforming the City into an anti-racist institution by following the “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization” by continuing to support and invest in structures, programs, policies that align with the Just Providence Framework and Climate Justice Plan;
  • Supporting the Office of Sustainability in the FY21 budget to improve the lives of Providence’s BIPOC communities in order to mitigate long-term climate threats and reduce the loss of life with solutions that result in clean air and water, climate-resilient low-income housing, community health, environmental justice, youth programs, and economic justice; and
  • Following the Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership outlined in the Climate Justice plan and moving towards collaborative governance decision-making processes that center those who are most impacted by the current health, environment, and economic crises.

You can read the entire resolution here:

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.