From the beginning, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley has been committed to expanding access to affordable housing enriching neighborhood life across Northern Rhode Island. Central to this mission is our acknowledgement of marginalized groups within these communities that suffer from systems of racism and discrimination.
In our Equity Action Statement, we commit to communities of color by being conscious of the history of community development and its discriminatory and racist practices. Among these being: segregation, the racial wealth gap, redlining and so on. We believe it is important to be a trusted, committed partner and ally with communities of color and other marginalized groups to diligently advance equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Given the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout Rhode Island, Tracey Belliveau – our Manager of Millrace Kitchen – felt empowered to support the cause and put our commitment and equity statement into action.
Tracey honestly admits to first being fearful of the situation, but after witnessing several impactful protests, Tracey asked herself:
What am I afraid of? I’m not generally afraid of much. At that point, I knew I wanted to do something.
And so, she began by sketching a frame that would paint “Black Lives Matter” in big and bold lettering, where people would be able to see it. Tracey was inspired by the Apple Store’s mural in Providence Place Mall, commenting that “the mural is beautiful.”
After some deliberation, she chose the front windows of the Millrace Kitchen at 40 South Main Street, Woonsocket – which most passersby can see as they exit or approach Main Street. Tracey, who has frequently engaged in art, began painting the 10 x 30 feet, acrylic mural and “enjoyed every minute.”
As she started filling in the lettering and the contents of the mural became visible, several pedestrians began to approach her. Through brief, polite debates, Tracey expressed what the mural represents for her and NeighborWorks. These sentiments can be summarized with one of NeighborWorks’ last statements of our Equity Action Statement:
We believe that antiracism is a core imperative of our housing and community development work. When we succeed here, other injustices can be resolved in the process.
NeighborWorks will continue to uphold our commitments to communities of color by advocating for and working towards economic and social justice.