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‘The future is now,’ Rhode Island’s new Legislative Black and Latino Caucus leader says

State Representative Karen Alzate discusses what the caucus will likely focus on in 2021

Protesters hung a "Black Lives Matter" banner on the statue of Major General Nathanael Greene outside the Rhode Island State House on May 30, 2020.Edward Fitzpatrick/The Boston Globe

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and with Bryant just missing the NCAA tournament, my Cinderella team is now Grand Canyon University  –  Go Antelopes! Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@Globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 130,502 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 315 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.8 percent. The state announced four more deaths, bringing the total to 2,567. There were 138 people in the hospital, while 269,880 residents had received the first dose of the vaccine, and 112,902 were fully vaccinated.


This year’s General Assembly is the most diverse in Rhode Island history, with 21 people of color in the 113-member legislature. Now, the new chairwoman of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is eager to make the group’s voice heard.

”There is definitely power in numbers,” Representative Karen Alzate said. While legislators have been talking about how Black and Latino leaders will play a key role in the future, she said, “The future is here. The future is now.”

So what priorities will the Black and Latino Caucus pursue in 2021?

Alzate, 33, a Pawtucket Democrat whose parents immigrated from Colombia, said that while the legislative agenda is still being fleshed out, the caucus is likely to focus on three main areas: education, environmental justice, and health care (especially as it relates to COVID-19).

Public education is an important issue for the entire state, she said, “but it affects our districts – in Pawtucket, Providence, and Central Falls – a lot.”

In 2019, the House passed Alzate’s resolution creating a commission to study ways to bolster the number of people of color in education fields. The commission didn’t get to finish its work because of the pandemic, but it plans to get going again soon.


”We need to make sure our schools are reflective of our kids and our communities,” Alzate said. “Often, people of color becoming teachers don’t feel supported and can’t identify with their colleagues.”

Amid a national reckoning on race, Rhode Island took a positive step in November by voting to remove the words “Providence Plantations” from the official state name, she said, but it must go further by more fully integrating Black and Latino history into public school curriculum. “We shouldn’t only learn about Black history during Black History Month,” she said.

Alzate said the caucus will focus on environmental justice by, for example, examining health hazards found in or near communities of color. She noted a submarine caught fire last week, sending black smoke into the South Providence area, where many residents are people of color. 

Also, the caucus will zero in on health care, particularly on the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on the state’s communities of color, Alzate said. For example, the age-adjusted rate of positive tests stands at 3,018 per 100,000 for Latino residents, compared to 1,826 for white residents. She said she has been volunteering at a vaccine clinic and sees the need to do more to get vaccine information to the Latino community.



⚓ After filling out their NCAA tournament brackets, fans of Rhode Island politics can continue the March Madness by handicapping this year’s lieutenant governor contest. The 81 applicants include legislators, former mayors, current college students, and a comedian who has debated in a hot dog costume. Read more.

⚓  Amanda Milkovits tells the story of families who are demanding an end to the isolation of loved ones in long-term care facilities. In Providence on Friday, protesters marked the one-year “Banniversary” when nursing homes and assisted-living facilities went into lockdown because of COVID-19. Read more.

⚓ Amanda also reports on a cold case in which a young father from Attleboro, Mass., was stabbed and left to die in downtown Providence in 2010. A man who once lived in North Attleborough, Mass., was arrested in Texas last week. Read more.  

Dan McGowan writes about the crucial work that the Medical Reserve Corps of the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team has been doing during the pandemic. Read more.

Brian Amaral details how a state-commissioned study has found, once again, that police in Rhode Island were pulling over non-white drivers at a disproportionate rate. Read more.

Alexa Gagosz reports that the University of Rhode Island filled more than 70 percent of its quarantine and isolation beds over the past two weeks because of a spike in COVID-19 cases. Read more.

⚓ This week’s Ocean State Innovators Q&A is with Sandra Enos, founder of Giving Beyond the Box, which sells curated gift boxes that carry social missions and support local Rhode Island businesses and nonprofits. E-mail Alexa Gagosz with suggestions for this weekly interview. Read more.



Sports: “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, the boxing legend who helped make Brockton, Mass., the “City of Champions,” died at home in New Hampshire on Saturday at age 66. His 1985 bout with Thomas “Hitman” Hearns is one for the ages. Read more.

Business: My colleague Jon Chesto reports that, one year into the pandemic, some of the area’s biggest companies are hoping to bring employees back to their offices in June or July, but others aren’t giving any return dates just yet. Read more.

Music: The famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma received his second coronavirus vaccine shot on Saturday at Berkshire Community College, and then the part-time Berkshire resident promptly celebrated with an impromptu performance in the waiting area. Read more.

Fashion: While sweatpants might be the fashion trend of the moment, Diti Kohli reports that some much bolder fashion statements were made at the 63rd Annual Grammys AwardsRead more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.⚓ At noon, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about brain health and research will kick off Brain Week Rhode Island with a lunchtime series called “Brain Talk.” Hosted by Dr. Pablo Rodriguez and others, the three-day series mixes science and storytelling. More information here. ⚓ At 1 p.m., the House Oversight Committee’s tourism, arts and recreation subcommittee will meet to receive an overview of arts in Rhode Island from State Council on the Arts executive director Randall Rosenbaum, Rhode Island Film & Television Office director Steven Feinberg, Tomaquag Museum executive director Loren Spears, and others. More information here.⚓ At 4 p.m., the House Committee on State Government & Elections will meet to consider a variety of bills, including a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow for same-day voter registration by eliminating the 30-day residency and registration requirement; a bill aimed at closing the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls by 2028; and a proposed constitutional amendment to give the governor the power of a line-item veto. More information here.⚓ At 4 p.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on bills including the “Green Justice Zone Act,” introduced by newly elected Senator Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat. More information here.⚓ At 6 p.m. US Representative James R. Langevin will host a telephone town hall regarding the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. He will be joined by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, Governor Daniel J. McKee, and Department of Labor and Training acting director Matt Weldon. Call 855-962-1080 or register to receive a call here.⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.