Rhode Island reparations report suggests programs, not money

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A new report suggests ways for Providence, Rhode Island, to atone for its close ties to the transatlantic slave trade and centuries of racism and discrimination by, among other things, creating home repair funds, launching financial education and increasing support for Black and Indigenous organizations. .

The report, released Monday by the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission, notably does not recommend making direct payments to black and Native American residents, as some had demanded.

Instead, it defines “reparations” as efforts that close “current racial wealth and equity gaps” and outlines 11 areas the city needs to focus its reparations work on, including criminal justice reform. , neighborhood development, health equity, and improving education and health. cultural opportunities.

The Providence Reparations effort was launched the same year that Rhode Island voters approved a referendum by vote removing the words “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name because of its connotations of slavery.

The new report suggests creating a dedicated fund to support residents affected by urban renewal policies that have displaced and negatively impacted communities of color. He also asks for the cancellation of certain debts of the municipal court; ending police use of so-called no-knock warrants; decriminalize the consumption of alcohol in public; and the creation of a school curriculum based on the city’s research into its racist and discriminatory policies.

But the report does not suggest how much money should be spent on the many specific initiatives it lists, or which ones should take priority over others. Mayor Jorge Elorza, who launched the repair effort two summers ago and leaves office at the end of the year, is expected to address the next steps in the process on Thursday, including how he proposes to spend $10 million in federal coronavirus pandemic funds that the city has specifically earmarked for repair-related work.

The report recommends limiting eligibility for reparations efforts to people with indigenous heritage or ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa, residents of neighborhoods disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and low-income households earning less than 50 percent. of the region’s median income.

Rodney Davis, chairman of the commission, said in a statement that he hopes the report will help advance new city policies and programs and inspire outside institutions to get involved as well.

“Our recommendations center on the goal of moving people, institutions and businesses in a similar direction towards universal equity,” he said.

Last year, the administration of Elorza released a landmark report tracing the city’s racist and discriminatory practices and their legacy, from the colonial era to modern times. The reparations commission has been meeting since the spring with members appointed by the mayor and the city council.

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