African American Ambassadors Group
Mayor Elorza began meeting regularly with the African American Ambassador Group in May 2020 to discuss the disproportionate number of African Americans impacted by COVID-19. The group has since evolved to meet weekly and discuss and advance a social justice agenda for the City of Providence.
We envision a future where racial, social, and economic equity is achieved for African Americans in Providence, and where our government and institutions represent and empower the African American community.
The African American Ambassadors Group protects, uplifts, celebrates, and empowers the African American community in Providence by developing and advancing City of Providence policies that dismantle oppressive systems and extinguish racial, social, and economic equity gaps for African Americans.
African American Ambassador (AAAG) Subgroups
To become a national model for African American and African-Diaspora culture that effectively provides the necessary services, programs, and engages the community in our Education for a truly Equitable Education System.
The mission of the Police Justice & Accountability Subgroup is to connect the history of policing and the broader legal system towards present day outcomes for Black residents, and to develop and recommend solutions to address present day harms.
A strong voice for BIPOC members of Providence in advocating for city and state level equitable housing policies and practices that are data-driven and resident-oriented.
Support the mission of the African American Ambassadors Group by uncovering the truth of past and present wrongs and their impact on African and Indigenous peoples.
OUR Work to Date
- On June 19, 2020, Mayor Elorza joined City Council President Sabina Matos, Councilwoman Mary K. Harris, Community Relations Advisor Shawndell Burney-Speaks, Bishop Jeffery Williams, members of the Mayor’s African American Ambassador Group and community members to sign an Executive Order removing the term “plantations” from all City documents and oath ceremonies. The announcement was made on the 155th year 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.
- On June 23, 2020, after feedback from members of the African American Ambassador Group and community members, Mayor Elorza announced his order of the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from its current location in the Elmwood neighborhood to an undetermined future location. The City’s Special Committee for Commemorative Works will advise on the next destination of the statue.
- On July 15, 2020, Mayor Elorza, joined by members of the African American Ambassadors Group and community members, enacted a community-driven Executive Order committing the City to a process of Truth, Reconciliation, and municipal Reparations for Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color in Providence.
- On March 8, 2021, the National League of Cities (NLC) selected four municipalities for their innovative programs promoting inclusivity and diversity as the winners of its 2021 Cultural Diversity Awards. The City of Providence AAAG received this national accreditation.
- On March, 29 2021, Mayor Elorza joined 1696 Heritage Group Vice President Keith Stokes, Truth-telling and Reconciliation Subgroup Members Raymond Two Hawks Watson and BJ Murray, Senior Advisor Shawndell Burney-Speaks and community members to announce the African American Ambassadors Group (AAAG) Truth-Telling report: A Matter of Truth. The report includes a comprehensive analysis of the role of the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island in supporting a “separate and unequal” existence for African heritage, Indigenous, and people of color.
- On June 15, 2021, Mayor Elorza joined community members to declare Juneteenth a City holiday to recognize the emancipation of slavery and honor the history, perseverance, and achievements of Black Americans. Read the Executive Order here.
- On February 28, 2022, Mayor Elorza joined joined City 1696 Heritage Group Vice President and Providence Business Development Director Keith Stokes, Reconciliation project co-leaders Providence Cultural Equity Initiative (PCEI) CEO and Founder Raymond Two Hawks Watson and Roger Williams University Assistant Professor Brian Hendrickson, Providence resident Cheryl Taylor, Senior Advisor to Mayor Elorza and Executive Director of the African American Ambassador Group Shawndell Burney-Speaks and community members to announce the Framework for Reconciliation and sign a community-driven Executive Order to launch a Providence Municipal Reparations Commission.
On August 21, 2022, Mayor Elorza and the Providence City Council received a detailed report from the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission outlining the Commission’s findings, including a series of recommendations to advance reparations, defined by the Commission as “closing the present-day racial wealth and equity gap.” The report follows two years of engagement driven by Mayor Elorza’s community-driven Executive Order committing the City to a process of Truth, Reconciliation, and municipal Reparations for Black, Indigenous People, and other People of Color.
- On August 25, 2022, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Providence Cultural Equity Initiative CEO and Founder Raymond “Two Hawks” Watson, Reparations Commission Chairperson Rodney Davis, Reparations Commission member and Providence resident Wanda Brown, Congregation Beth Sholom Rabbi Barry Dolinger, 1696 Heritage Group Vice President and Providence Director of Business Development Keith Stokes, Founder and Executive Director of Higher Ground International Henrietta White-Holder, Senior Advisor to Mayor Elorza and Executive Director of the African American Ambassador Group Shawndell Burney-Speaks and community members announced the next steps in the City of Providence’s municipal reparations process:Mayor Elorza signed an Executive Order constituting a formal municipal apology for African enslavement, urban renewal policies and practices and acknowledgement of the harms to African Heritage and Indigenous communities caused by racial discrimination. In addition, Mayor Elorza signed a second Executive Order committing the City of Providence to continuing to support the work of the African American Ambassadors Group (AAAG). Mayor Elorza and community members also unveiled a budget plan for the $10 million allocated for the COVID-19 Inequities Fund in the City’s approved American Rescue Plan Act budget. The budget “Closing the Racial Wealth and Equity Gap: A Proposed Budget for Municipal Reparations,” outlines investments in categories such as homeownership and financial literacy, education and healthcare. The full budget proposal can be found here.
- On November 18, 2022, Mayor Elorza Elorza signed the Reparations budget into law joined by Reparations Commissioners and community members.