STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today gave her wholehearted support to efforts throughout state government to improve racial bias sensitivity and education, increase inclusion and eliminate hurtful symbolism.

At the same time, these efforts must be backed up by real progress in addressing the poverty and inequities that disproportionately hurt and hinder the Black and Brown communities, she said.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) said she strongly supports the executive order being signed today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to remove the phrase “Providence Plantations” from gubernatorial orders and citations, executive agency websites, official correspondence and state employee paystubs. Representative Ranglin-Vassell has long advocated for removing “and Providence Plantations” from the official state name, will be actively supporting pending legislation to put the official name change on the ballot this November, and will enthusiastically promote public approval of the question.

“For Black people and people of African descent, this is a good symbolic step to help to ease the pain and hurt caused by centuries of oppression. This enslavement and oppression began when a group of people were forced to leave their homeland to the Americas. This is a good first step; the greater work lies ahead which is to ensure that Black Americans in Rhode Island have equitable social and economic resources to change the trajectory of their lives,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell welcomed the governor’s related announcement today of her “RIse Together initiative to increase implicit bias and equity training within state government, improve State Police engagement with Rhode Islanders and accountability and comprehensively study state contracting practices to ensure that minority-owned businesses truly have an equal opportunity at procurement.

She is also grateful to her colleagues in the House for passing a resolution (2020-H 8074) she sponsored recognizing and honoring African-American history in Rhode Island and urging the adoption of African-American education in K-12 public schools statewide. The House passed the resolution Thursday, calling for schools to use a curriculum distributed by the Department of Education beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

But all these efforts will ring hollow, she said, without substantial change, particularly economic change, she said.

To actually improve the lives of Black and Brown people and create equity, there needs to a commitment to addressing poverty and inequities in public health, education and safety, she said. Among the next steps she called for are passing bills she has sponsored for years to institute a $15 living wage (2020-H 7570) and to (2020-H 7587) to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs, which would help address higher maternal mortality and complications rates for Black mothers. She said she is anxiously awaiting information about the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget to see whether it will still include nearly $95,000 for doula reimbursement, as it did when originally proposed in January.

“Investments into Black and Brown communities are what’s really needed to improve the trajectory of people’s lives and bring about real equality,” she said.