STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus held their annual Black History Month celebration today in the Bell Room of the State House. The event was a celebration of Black culture, natural hair, and the contributions of Black Rhode Islanders to the state’s history, culture, and commerce.
“Black history is American history,” said Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “From the foundations of the nation to now, Black investors, creative, and thought leaders have created much of the fabric of our society. While this month is a time to intentionally focus on our achievements it is also a time to focus on our future including policy, advocacy, and commerce that promotes the Black American experience.”
Attending the event was the RI Black Business Association (RIBBA) along with over 20 Rhode Island based Black owned businesses including CandlesByJudith and Soulita, a natural skin care company. Attendees read Hair Love, a book celebrating natural hair, took a tour of the State House, and had an opportunity to have their hair braided or portrait drawn. Speakers included Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Rep. Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Harrison Tuttle, President of BLM RI PAC. Food for the event was provided by Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC.
While the event was a joyful celebration of Black culture, it was also a call to action. Speakers celebrated the beauty and diversity of natural hair and voiced support for the CROWN Act. The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act would prohibit racial discrimination based on natural textures and protective hairstyles. Similar legislation has been passed in 19 states including Massachusetts and New York.
“Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee is proud to be involved in the State House’s ceremony for Black History Month,” said Tuttle. “It is so important to honor Black history and put emphasis on legislation that will push forward civil rights for people of color in Rhode Island.”
The event was hosted by Senator Mack, Sen. Robert Britto (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73 (Newport, Middletown), Rep. Nathan W. Biah (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Rep. Brianna Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence, Pawtucket), Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), Rep. Jennifer A. Stewart (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), and the co-chairs of the Black and Latino Caucus, Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Rep. Leo Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket).
“It’s beautiful to come together to celebrate the vibrancy and beauty of the Black community in Rhode Island,” Representative Felix said. “Beyond a celebration, this event was also an opportunity to advocate for anti-hair discrimination legislation. Discrimination based on hair texture and protective and natural hairstyles, is deeply rooted in the belief that straight hair is ‘more professional.’ This bill will protect Rhode Islanders, especially the Black and brown people who for generations have been marginalized because of their hair. We hope that Rhode Island will join the 19 states who have enacted anti-hair-discrimination legislation.”
In Photo: Customers shop at one of the more than 20 vendors participating in this year's Black History Month celebration at the State House.