July 15, 2024

East Providence Residents Selected for Statewide Minority Leadership Program


They are among just 38 statewide tapped to participate in initiative to prepare leaders of color for positions of influence throughout RI

East Providence, RI -- The Rhode Island Foundation has selected four East Providence residents to participate in its Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). The goal is to build a pipeline of leaders of color for positions of influence throughout the state.

“The demographics of our state are changing quickly. Unfortunately, real opportunity for too many has not been keeping pace. Developing programs that raise up new voices is just one way the Foundation is ensuring the opportunity gap continues to close,” said David N. Cicilline, president and CEO of the Foundation.

Traci Adedeji, Robert Britto-Oliveira, Deborah Gonzalez and Felicia Salinas-Moniz were selected from more than 80 applicants. The 12-month leadership development initiative includes monthly group work sessions, regular one-to-one coaching sessions, and networking with high-level connections across sectors. 

Adedeji is a Vice President at JP West, a national, Black woman-owned insurance brokerage that specializes in risk management and insurance for public entities, businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is the 2023 President-Elect of the CPCU Society's Global Leadership Council, serves on the board of the Boston chapter of the National African-American Insurance Association and is interim board chair of New England Basecamp. A native of Newark, N.J., Traci attended Rutgers University and holds several insurance designations and certifications.

“Equity-driven leadership is leadership in action. It looks like advocating for people who are different than you are and whose voices may not be heard. It feels like compassion and authentic caring, and sounds like confident, fearless articulation of ideas, even if they are unpopular. There is an innate selflessness in equity-driven leadership that seeks to lift others. As a community, we are only as strong as the weakest among us,” said Adedeji.

Britto-Oliveira is Assistant Director of the University of Rhode Island’s Multicultural Student Services Center. He earned a B.A. in History, a B.S. in Secondary Education, an M.S in College Student Personnel at URI. In addition, he is co-chair of the URI Alumni of Color Network and the advisor for Brothers On a New Direction at URI.

“Equity-driven leadership is more than just a statement affiliated with the diversity-based initiatives written on an organization’s website. It looks and feels like a lived practice that incorporates the holistic well-being of the people while nurturing their lived experiences on a consistent basis,” he said. “I was born and raised in the Fox Point section of Providence and my communal upbringing in the old-Fox Point is something that I take great pride in.”

Gonzalez is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Immigration Clinic at Roger Williams University as well as a partner with Gonzalez Law Offices. She earned a B.S. in Justice Studies and a J.D. at Roger Williams University.

“An equity driven leader is one who understands that the inequity exists even though there may be policies that appear equitable. An agent for change is one that recognizes the inequity, speaks out against it to those who have power to make change and/or acts so that change can happen,” Gonzalez said.

Salinas-Moniz is Director of the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender at Brown University. Previously, she was a lecturer in the Department of History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences at the Rhode Island School of Design and was Director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of California, Riverside. Salinas-Moniz earned a B.A. in Creative Arts at San Jose State University and an M.A. and a Ph.D in American Studies at Brown University and is a Master of Library Science and Information Studies candidate at the University of Rhode Island.

“Equity-driven leaders take the time to get to know the people they work with, to see the strengths that individuals bring to a team and to guide areas for growth in an affirmative manner that allows people to make mistakes and learn from them. They are collaborative and creative, receptive to feedback and operate with both mind and heart,” Salinas-Moniz said.

Thirty-eight people were tapped to participate in the program. Selected from more than 80 applicants, they work in the public, nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Applicants must have identified as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial.

“We have the incredible privilege to offer this group of leaders the opportunity to be themselves, to respect their respective identities and to applaud their successes. We’re looking forward to developing pathways for them to achieve even more,” said Angie Ankoma, ELI’s executive director and a vice president at the Foundation.

The leadership program is just one facet of the Rhode Island Foundation’s core commitment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access in all its activities.

Recent work includes awarding nearly $2.2 million to help dismantle the fundamental causes of systemic racism in Rhode Island, awarding nearly $1.2 million to increase the number of teachers of color in urban school districts and creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $75 million and awarded $84 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit  www.rifoundation.org  


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