932 PROVIDENCE – National education equity leader Warren Simmons characterized the annual Black History Month observance as simultaneously absurd but necessary, in keynote remarks at the Rhode Island General Assembly’s 6th Annual Joint Legislative Black History Month celebration on February 25.

“Black History Month is both an absurdity and a necessity,” said the East Harlem native and the executive director of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR). “It’s absurd because this country’s history is intertwined with the history of African Americans – politically, socially and culturally – and vice versa. But it’s necessary to remind us that there are twin goals in our nation: equality, meaning that everyone should succeed, and equity, meaning that various groups should get the supports they need to succeed in ways that they aspire to.”

Staged in the Senate Chambers of the State House, the event, themed “Love, Healing, and Restoration,” was co-sponsored by the General Assembly and the Rhode Island Black and Latino Caucus. 

“We must be mindful that achievement gaps don’t reflect innate differences in ability,” added Simmons. “They reflect real, fundamental opportunity gaps, and when you close opportunity gaps, achievement gaps dissipate.”

In addition to guiding AISR, whose mission is to improve outcomes and practices in urban schools – especially those serving economically disadvantaged students – Simmons has served as a member of the board of the College Crusade of Rhode Island and was chair of the Rhode Island Urban Education Task Force. He is also a trustee at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I.

To listen to Simmons’s remarks, advance to 34:25