NORTH KINGSTOWN–The North Kingstown student body is made up of about 85 percent white students. While, some may question the importance of creating an organization that tackles the issue of race in a town that has little diversity, that is one of the main reasons why a new organization has been formed in North Kingstown to do just that.
The organization called Towards an Anti-Racist North Kingstown (T.A.N.K) was founded earlier this year by Jennifer Lima. It started formally when they held their first meeting in mid-October with a small group on Zoom. From there a private Facebook group for T.A.N.K. volunteers was created and by their second meeting in early November, the group had doubled in size.
Before those meetings however, Lima explained that important work was already being done in the community which really made the organization possible.
“Various awareness building activities were already taking place over the summer. A group called NK Neighborhood Action for Black Lives had formed and were holding bi-weekly street actions in town,” said Lima. “An alumni from NKHS authored a petition calling for a reform of the history curriculum that was signed by over 1800 people.”
In addition, down the road in South Kingstown the community had seen a great amount of success with a similar organization that had been formed. So, it was decided that it was a good time to create their own in North Kingstown.
“In South Kingstown a group of students, parents and allies formed Toward an AntiRacist South Kingstown (T.A.S.K) and were successful in getting several education reforms passed. We built upon that momentum to start a similar group here in town,” stated Lima.
Lima explained that the main mission of the organization is to help move North Kingstown forward when it comes to honoring diversity and equality.
“Our mission is to move North Kingstown forward as a community that acknowledges its history, celebrates its potential and fosters a climate honoring and encouraging diversity, equity and the unique character of all its residents through anti-racist policy reform, education and advocacy,” Lima wrote in a email. “Our primary focus currently is on adopting ant-racist reform in the school system and in creating a more diverse educational experience. We are not a community that is racially and ethnically diverse but that doesn’t mean it’s not our issue.”
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day the organization held a community event honoring his legacy on Monday where leaders across the community and state spoke about the importance of honoring MLK’s dream and the importance of T.A.N.K.
North Kingstown School Superintendent Phil Auger who attended the MLK event virtually with his wife said he appreciates the T.A.N.K organization.
“I watched the event with my wife, Kristin. I appreciate the T.A.N.K organization and their efforts to increase our awareness of matters of race and multiculturalism,” Auger said in a email after the event. “There is a growing interest in being proactive about anti-racism in the NKSD community, and I invite the advocacy of groups like T.A.N.K as we set and work to achieve our district goals.”
Lima said during the event Monday night that the organization is committed to doing the work not just on holidays like MLK Jr. Day but instead everyday.
“We intend to do the work on days that aren’t celebrated as well.”
The organization will be doing just that starting next month.
With Black History Month coming up in February the organization has some big plans and events scheduled. One of the recurring events that will be taking place is spotlighting a book that is BIPOC-centered, on the organization’s Facebook page. In partnership with the North Kingstown Free Library, as part of the Read Across Rhode Island event, the organization will host a virtual book discussion on “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. They also will be hosting a virtual book discussion on “We Want to Do More Than Survive” by Dr. Bettina Love.
T.A.N.K will be featuring a talk by Tim Cranston of Swamptown Enterprises on “Setting the Record Straight — The Unfortunate Truth about Rhode Island’s History with People of Color.”
The organization is also planning a possible community service event.
Aside from the upcoming events Lima said that they will be continuing to meet regularly to move forward with their mission.
“Beyond these awareness and educational activities, we will continue to meet every other week to review and move forward the school policy reform, similar to that adopted in South Kingstown, and begin efforts to begin a BIPOC student union at the high school.”
Currently T.A.N.K has about 30 members and are looking to increase their membership. Lima said that they encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.
“We welcome new voices, especially BIPOC and youth. We are committed to being a good community partner.”
Those who are interested in joining the organization or want to learn more can do so by emailing email@example.com or by calling 401-236-7220.