An open letter to the members of The Rhode Island Reproductive Freedom Coalition as well as the people of Rhode Island
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 10, 2020
(South Kingstown, RI) – Statement by The Womxn Project:
After due consideration, The Womxn Project’s Board of Directors has made the decision to discontinue our participation in the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom due to the coalition’s long standing inability to work in manners that are collaborative, fair, and in alignment with progressive and intersectional social and reproductive justice. We are committed to aligning all of our energy to justice centered ideals, which we feel are not prioritized by the coalition.
First, we would like to address the public nature of this statement. In advocating for reproductive health and bodily autonomy here in Rhode Island, we believe our work belongs to everyone. We hope this level of transparency inspires all others (individuals, leaders, and organizations) to approach us and this work in solidarity and unity with us. We seek to have public eyes on what we do whenever possible so that we may be guided by perspectives beyond our own. All work deepens and sharpens with accountability. We see our reproductive healthcare mission as a piece of the larger anti-racist, anti-white-supremacy work that must “call in” all people, and therefore we feel that transparency on a decision this serious is not only respectful to Rhode Islanders but is also absolutely fundamental to the mission.
We strive to be leaders, but we cannot do work this important and all encompassing alone. We, at The Womxn Project, firmly believe in the collective strength that comes from community and collaboration. We see it, we believe it, and we are intimately built from it. However, in order for collaboration to be fruitful and progressive, the players, the relationships, and the power dynamics within the community must be committed to respect, honesty, equity, and a willingness to do the difficult but necessary work, both internally and externally. We are making the decision and the pledge to commit our energy to partnerships that embody these attributes. This is the only way health and access shall be protected equitably.
The Womxn Project works to better Rhode Island and further advance reproductive healthcare rights and access to all. More than 40 years ago, alliances came together through coalitions and community groups to begin to take on the right to abortion. Those were the seeds that became the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. The goal then and the goal we should have now is to allow RI organizations who care about reproductive rights to enrich, uplift, clarify, and strengthen each other and each other’s work. However, we deem it to be too often true today that the decisions of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom do not align with the needs and perspectives of Rhode Island’s most marginalized community members. This is unacceptable to us, and we feel the most powerful move we have in this situation is to continue to do this work outside the coalition.
Although there have been conversations within the coalition attempting to address issues such as the internal structure, the decision making processes, the priorities of the coalition, and the lack of diversity among the organizations involved, ultimately not much has changed. The lack of substantive action to address these very real shortcomings is inexcusable.
While we firmly believe progressive societal change needs everyone at the table, we believe that to continue to sit where the discussion and objectives ignore the concerns of those not seated illustrates a complacent position of privilege. To be complacent about problematic and detrimental decisions robs our ability to push for progressive change and specifically it does not uplift the voices of leaders that need to be heard and trusted. Therefore, we are leaving the table and we will ensure that any future collaborations will be able to hold and move the scope and weight of an intersectional agenda.
Moving forward, The Womxn Project will require any collaboration to be real, respectful, and ultimately done in ways that are most useful to the people of this state. Below we have outlined the values that we uphold to be absolutely vital for any alliances or collaborations moving forward. The work we all do right now, and forever moving forward, must be done with a racial justice lens. The work must also actively and thoughtfully counter white supremacy, patriarchal systems and harmful cultural normatives that ignorantly exclude the existences of marginalized people.
- Intentional anti-racist work
- Actively dismantling white supremacy
- Inclusivity: no tokenism, real work gets done to address real issues
- Equity of voice: upholding and centering the voices of marginalized people. This also means asking who may be affected by an issue but isn’t currently a part of the discussion, and then creating intentional invitations and solid access channels to incorporate people in non-tokenizing ways.
- Collaboration: explicitly uplifting new leaders and youth
- Sharing Ideas
- Equal value for all players
- Appropriate transparency
- Accountability to the RI community, in a way that earnestly incorporates all of the concerns and voices of marginalized people
- A willingness to embrace discomfort & disrupt the status-quo for the sake of progress and change
- Frequent privilege checks and self audits to keep players accountable within themselves and aligned to the work
- Support and resource sharing to further the work and strengthen both individual members and the coalition as a whole
- Builds and supports public education for reproductive justice
- An approach that values all resources and tools, specifically non-traditional forms of activism that encourage public voice, education, and real participation (ie, artivism)
We welcome the opportunity for dialogue.
The Womxn Project Board:
Emily M. Boucher
Caroline Jackson Morgan
Janie Segui Rodriguez