Race, Power, and Preservation

Preservation, far from representing a neutral position, is a symbolic, political act. How has a preservation practice informed by racial bias and power shaped our built environments and reinforced inequities, here in Providence and more broadly? And how do “we the people,” tell the stories of places that matter — who is included, and who is locked out? Join PPS and community leaders for a discussion on the ways in which historic preservation must grow in order to affect positive, systemic change. 

REGISTER HERE. All registrants will receive a Zoom invitation with a meeting code and password before the event. Please contact us with any questions or for assistance with the Zoom app. 

July 15 / 5:30 pm
Free / Advance registration required


Christopher Roberts is a Research Fellow at RISD’s Center for Social Equity and Inclusion. He earned a PhD in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University and an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. He examines Black geographies of memory and forgetting, with an emphasis on port cities in the US that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. His current manuscript project proposes an alternative episteme through which we can unsettle the antiblackness and geographic imperialism inherent in the monumental landscape of the US via robust archival, field and digital humanities research that analyzes Confederate monuments and African burial grounds in the US American South. Prior to teaching at RISD, he taught at Brown University, where he was the Artemis AW and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Before that, he taught at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ and Temple University in Philadelphia.

In addition to his career in academia, Roberts spent 10 years as a museum professional working in educational programming and tour design at The Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. While in Oakland, he worked as a poet mentor in Bay Area public schools for the organization Youth Speaks Inc. He has also worked as a spoken word artist, performing his poetry in cities across the US, and from 2007–11 he hosted an open-mic poetry event in his hometown of Baltimore, MD.


Maria Carvalho is the Executive Director at the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) a NeighborWorks America Community Development Corporation that works to create healthy and sustainable communities in Providence, Rhode Island. Prior to assuming leadership of the organization, Maria was the Initiative Director for Dunamis Synergy Initiative. Maria spent 23 years working for The College Crusade of Rhode Island, most recently as the Director of High School and Post-Secondary Operations. Maria received the Dr. David B. Swedlow Memorial College Access Practitioner Award of Excellence. She has also received the Leader in Action Award from New England Counselors of Color Bridging Access to College Maria holds an M.Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Rhode Island and a B.S. in Human Services from Springfield College.  Maria serves on the Board of Directors at the Skip Nowell Leadership Academy, a Providence, RI based charter school that works to support expectant and parenting teens to complete high school.

Diana Figueroa is a first-generation college graduate from Roger Williams University. She studied Historic Preservation and Urban Studies, but more than her academic background influences her career path. As a senior in college, she became actively involved with a grassroots organization, Rhode Island Latino Arts. That year, she facilitated a tour highlighting the inclusion of the Latinx community in the textile industry for the Encuentro National Conference on Latino Heritage and Preservation. Most recently, Diana graduated from the 2020 cohort of the New Leaders Council where she presented the importance of community preservation in historically excluded communities.

Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View and From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution. Recently, she co-edited a new edition of  A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams.

Keith Stokes is presently Vice President with the 1696 Heritage Group. The 1696 Heritage Group is a historical consulting firm dedicated to helping persons and institutions of color to increase their knowledge and access to the light of truth of their unique American heritage. Mr. Stokes has a long and distinguished career in business and community development, with degrees from Cornell University and University of Chicago. His past professional positions have included Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and Executive Director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. He has also been an Advisor for Rhode Island with the National Trust for Historic Preservation along with serving on numerous regional and national historic preservation boards including Chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, Vice President & Trustee of the Preservation Society for Newport County, and Newport Historical Society.

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