The Providence mayor announced a city reparations commission Monday as he and community leaders outlined plans for the next phase in the Rhode Island capital’s efforts to buy back its role in black slavery, systemic racism and Indian abuse.
The executive order, signed by Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorsa at Bethel AME City Church, sets up the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission.
The 13-member commission is tasked with investigating repairs in other cities, liaising with the community and making recommendations on how the city can begin to repair the damage. NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent is among those already selected to serve on the board, Elorza said.
“Although we know that the city alone cannot repair the full extent of the damage, today’s actions bring us one step closer to tackling the inequalities that our African heritage and local people continue to face,” the mayor said in a written statement.
Elorza also launched a “framework” for reconciliation discussions in the city, which was developed after months of research, public events and other activities by experts from Roger Williams University in Bristol and local advocacy groups.
Organizers say they hope to focus the city’s reconciliation efforts on the experiences and prospects of blacks and locals, especially those linked to Providence Fox Point, Lipit Hill, Upper South Providence and West Elmwood, which they say are have been the hardest hit by urban redevelopment projects in recent decades.
The framework also includes some proposed concepts for the next step in the city’s efforts, including the creation of a multimedia website that includes documentary-style interviews with residents, map visualizations and a way for residents to record and upload their own evidence of racial harm.
Reconciliation is the second phase of the city’s “Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations” process, which Elorza launched in July 2020, also by executive order.
Last March, the city concluded its first “truth-telling” phrase with the publication of the nearly 200-page Question of Truth, which describes more than four centuries of cultural, political and economic damage to Providence’s people of color in 1600 BC. days.
Providence joins other towns and villages in search of reparations.
Boston City Council is considering a proposal to form its own reparations commission, while the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, became the first city in the United States to provide reparations to black residents last year.
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