Building (and maintaining) a local Resist Hate RI group

by Bethany Foster

Right after the election in November 2016, I was fighting depression about the state of our nation and looking for a group of like-minded people to commiserate and work with. I was at the library in downtown Bristol, where I live, and their calendar of events listed an upcoming meeting of Resist Hate East Bay. I’d heard about Resist Hate RI, and their meetings in Providence, and thought I it about time I show up.

Since that first Resist Hate East Bay meeting, I’ve worked alongside Tracy Cooper Ramos to start and bolster the local group. Over the past several months, we’ve learned a few things about how to start a group and build power in communities. At the last Resist Hate RI meeting in June, Melissa Mangili of the Cranston Action Network and I shared what we learned, and in this blog post, I’ll provide a few tips that you might find useful if you want to start a local Resist Hate RI group.

The more local groups in Rhode Island, the more strength the progressive movement will have. The more we connect with activists around us, the more powerful we will feel and the more powerful we’ll be. If you interested in started a group in your area, let the steering committee know by emailing We can help out with contact information for people in your area, communication via our email blasts and Facebook page, and we can also come out and help you run your first meetings.



Are you just interested in working on issues in your town or city? At the State level? In Schools? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to decide where to put your time, but the broader you are, the broader and bigger your coalition is likely to be.

Resist Hate RI can always help to provide you with strategies and issues where your help is needed, but you’ll also likely find local-specific issues to work on as well with your group. Work on balancing between saying focused and being flexible.



Work with partners. Find someone in your area who is also interested in creating a group in your community and work together so you can split up the work. Everyone gets busy and partners can pick up the slack to keep the group going.



Use every available avenue to publicize the event. Those who are on Facebook forget: not everyone is on Facebook.

  • Put up signs in your local community: I went to my first Resist Hate East Bay meeting because I saw it on the calendar board at the library.
  • Call: Once you have people’s contact information, make direct calls to invite people to your events.
  • Ask your friends: Use your social connections: Tell your friends and theirs about your new group.
  • Emails: Send emails to those who have attended in the past. (If you pair with RHRI, you can also use the RHRI membership list to send out targeted emails to people who live in the area near you.)
  • Add it to the RHRI Facebook page: Publicize on the RHRI Facebook page. All events on the FB page may be included in Resist Hate RI’s email blasts to the entire mailing list.



Resist Hate RI is a large organization (we have 3500+ people on our mailing list and 8000+in our Facebook group). At the large Resist Hate RI meetings, there isn’t always time to make a personal connect with fellow activists (something we’re working on this summer by hosting House Parties around the state).

But at these local groups, you can take the time to get to know your neighbors, build a sense of community and foster loyalty to your group. Open every meeting by going around the room and having everyone introduce themselves. Some opening questions we’ve used:

  • What brought you to the meeting? (This is a great for first meetings or new folks)
  • What areas of interest are especially important to you?
  • What other groups are you working with and what are they working on?
  • How are you feeling? How are you coping? (This is an especially important question, especially after a tough few weeks – we asked this question of everyone a couple of weeks after the inauguration when it started to dawn on people that this presidency was going to be as bad as we’d feared.)



Inviting people to speak at meetings is a great way to provide both education on issues and give people a chance to talk about solutions and have their voice heard. Publicizing speakers who are coming to your event may also entice people to come to the meeting.

  • Invite State Senators and Representatives to speak to their constituents. (We have had many at the East Bay meetings.)
  • Local organizations are interested in coming out to speak to your group to talk about the work they do and where they need assistance or how you can help. Connect with groups in your community and the state. (All of these groups came to the East Bay meetings to speak: ACLU, Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, Mom’s Demand Action, RICAGV, Working Families Party)
  • Identify issues related to your locality and ask town officials to come speak about them



At your meetings, talk about the work you’re doing and organize for next steps. At each meeting, try to have an action. Some of the following might interest you:

  • Filling out postcards for government officials
  • Creating posters for marches
  • Writing letters to the editor

Your group can also campaign for candidates you believe in, show up to support an organization you care about, and get involved in local and state government.

  • Phone banking: Pair with an organization
  • Going door to door.
  • Manning a table at a community event.
  • Attend a town or city council meeting, or a state house committee hearing



Some of your meetings will be big, some will be small. At some you’ll get a lot of work done, at others you may not. Don’t mistake small for ineffective – a few people can still enact change. Keep your energy up, keep on acting, big and small, and keep the connections between your members strong.


The more local groups in Rhode Island, the more strength the progressive movement will have. The more we connect with activists around us, the more powerful we will feel and the more powerful we’ll be. If you interested in started a group in your area, let the steering committee know by emailing We can help out with contact information for people in your area, communication via our email blasts and Facebook page, and we can also come out and help you run your first meetings.


Confusing Rollout for Pawtucket’s Free Summer Meals Program

by Jessica Stensrud

The Free Summer Meals Program is state-wide, federally-funded program that takes place all across Rhode Island, providing children 18 and younger with breakfast and lunch (and sometimes snack) at no cost. In RI, the program is supposed to provide an average of 450,000 meals over the course of the summer.

In Pawtucket, however, the rollout has been confusing and disjointed. On Friday, June 23 at Slater Park, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien introduced the Free Summer Meals Program, while at the same time tweeting calendars with the menu items for breakfast and lunch. These calendars noted the program would start on June 26 at all open meal sites, which include libraries, schools, and parks.

But on June 26, when I and fellow activists visited the sites, what we found surprised us and left us frustrated and disheartened: every school site was empty of children and no food was being served or was set up to be served. Staff we could find on site hadn’t heard of the program.

We decided to head to the Pawtucket School Department, eventually getting a meeting with the Assistant Superintendent Secretary Sue Lozy, who explained that the actual start date for many of the sites was July 5, not June 26. She acknowledged that the schedule tweeted by the Mayor had been confusing, and that she would create an updated, more accurate schedule, which has now been posted to the Pawtucket city website and to the Pawtucket School Department’s website.

Lozy also promised that information banners would be put up at all schools and robo-calls in relevant languages would go out across the community.

On July 5, we visited the various sites again, and this time were pleased to see that the schools we visited were set up and serving food. It did still seem like not many children were showing up. We aren’t sure if Lozy or the School Department or the schools themselves are doing the appropriate outreach to let families in the area know that there is free food available to them.

We need to make sure every family in Pawtucket worried about putting food on the table is aware of the program, and make sure that we roll it out better and in a more organized way.

Please call, email, write and/or fax Mayor Donald Grebien’s office, as well as the two Assistant Superintendents and their secretary (all contact information is below) and say:

  • “I want to ask that the [Mayor, Superintendent, etc] appoint someone to make sure the Free Summer Meals Program is operating in an organized way, to ensure that the benefits of the program as being seen by the impoverished children in Pawtucket who depend on it.
  • I want to ask that more is done to inform the people in the neighborhood of the program, so that their children are able to eat the free food available.  What effort is being made to ensure people know about the program?

Mayor Grebien
Address: Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, 2nd Floor Room 200, Pawtucket, RI 02860
City Hall Main Number: (401) 728-0500, ext. 281
Mayor’s Office Fax: (401) 723-8620

Sue Lozy (secretary to the assistant superintendent)
Phone: 401-729-6328
Note: We were told Lozy is due to retire soon so we’re not sure how long she can be reached.

Assistant Superintendent Lee Rabbit
Phone: 401-729-6328
Fax: 401-727-1641

Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Suriani
Phone: 401-729-6328
Fax: 401-727-1641

Jessica Stensrud is a social justice activist and advocate. She is a co-coordinator for the [Anti-Bullying] Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill and has been active in fighting lunch shaming issue in Pawtucket.

How To Be An Ally to Sex Workers

by Bella Robinson

1) Don’t Assume. Don’t assume you know why a person is in the sex industry.  Most people make a choice to enter the sex industry because it is the best option for them.  Many sex workers only have to work a few hours a week because sex work pays a lot more than the majority of other jobs in the US.  Sex work allows sex workers a flexible schedule so they can attend college or pick their kids up at the bus stop after school.  Sex work allows sex workers to pay their rent and to put food on the table for their families.

2)  Don’t Judge. Know your own prejudices and realize that not everyone shares the same opinions as you. Whether you think sex work is a dangerous and exploitative profession or not is irrelevant compared to the actual experiences of the person who works in the industry. It’s not your place to pass judgment on how another person earns the money they need to survive.

3) Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address.  In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex more than their peers and get tested regularly.

4) Respect that Sex Work is Real Work. There’s a set of professional skills involved and it’s not necessarily an industry that everyone can enter into. Don’t tell someone to get a “real job” when they already have one that suits them just fine.

5) Don’t Play Rescuer. Most sex workers are not trying to get out of the industry or in need of help.  Many sex workers have reported that rescue attempts which usually includes them being arrested,  traumatizes them and leaves them further displaced.  Most rescue efforts do not include offering sex workers any real services like child care, subsidized housing, or jobs that pay a living wage.  Sex workers have been rating these experiences at

6)  Remember “Our Lives Are Not Your Fundraising Material” Many trafficking and rescue organizations exploit sex workers who have been arrested.  They highlight the few rare horrific stories of abuse and exploitation for their fundraising campaigns. They stigmatize sex workers which is known to increase violence towards sex workers.  They create hysteria about phantom pimps and traffickers that rarely exist,  while they profit off the criminalization of sex workers.  Trafficking NGOs are being funded at over 600 million a year just to create awareness about sex trafficking.  Yet 80% of human trafficking takes place in other labor sectors.

7) Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes about rape and dead hookers is not acceptable.  Calling sexworkers derogatory names is not acceptable,  However some sex workers have “taken back” these phrases to show the world that they are proud sex workers who will not be shamed; thus helping to help reduce stigma and change social perception.  (whore, ho, hooker)

8) Do Your Own Research. Most mainstream media is biased against sex workers and the statistics you read in the news about the sex industry are usually false.  Be critical of what you read or hear as most of it won’t be based on evidence based research.  If you want to learn about sex workers, contact your local sex worker rights organization and ask them to provide you or your organization with a free training.

9) Be Discreet and Respect Personal Boundaries. If you know a sex worker, it’s OK to engage in conversation in dialogue with them in private, but respect their privacy surrounding their work in public settings.  Don’t ask personal questions such as “does your family know what you do?” If a sex worker is not “out” to their friends, family, or co-workers, it’s not your place to tell everyone what they do.

10) Show Respect. Realize that sex work transcends ‘visible’ notions of race, gender, class, sexuality, education, and identities; sex workers are your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, and friends. Respect them!

11) Be Supportive and Share Resources. If you know of someone who is new to the industry or in an abusive situation with an employer, by all means offer advice and support without being condescending. Some people do enter into the sex industry without educating themselves about what they are getting into and may need help. Despite the situation, calling the police is usually never a good option. Try to find other sex worker led organizations that are sensitive to the needs of sex workers.

12) Stand Up. As you learn the above things, stand up for sex workers when conversations happen.  Don’t let the stigma, bigotry and shame around sex work continue.  Remember it’s important that sex workers be allowed to speak for themselves and for allies to not speak them.   If you want to help be an ally to sex workers, please consider donating or volunteering with your local sex worker rights organization.

Bella Robinson is the founder and executive director of Coyote RI.  

Coyote RI provides support to sex workers and trafficking victims, to include providing non judgmental and compassionate crisis management services.  Coyote provides support services to incarcerated sex workers and we provide case managers to help sex workers access reentry services upon their release.

Coyote strives to provide adequate resource referrals to sex workers.  We have documented the discrimination that sex workers endure when trying to access public services.   We continue to educate services providers and government officials about the best way to help connect  “people involved in the sex industry” to services.

Starting in August 2017 Coyote RI will be providing free HIV & Hep C testing, and condom distribution to sex workers and to the general public.

Coyote strives to reduce stigma and violence against sex workers and we lobby for policies that promote the health and safety of sex workers.  We acknowledge that sex work is acceptable form of labor.   We recognize that the criminalization of prostitution is a form of state sponsored violence and systemic oppression against a highly marginalized population.

Coyote is also one of the 6 local organizations that created the AMOR network, which is a coalition of directly affected people and “people of color” led organizations, building a Rapid Resistance Network to protect our community. 

Want to learn more about the systemic oppression of US sex workers?  Visit

Resistance House Parties: Summer 2017

With everything going on in Washington, this isn’t an easy time for those of us who value equality, justice, and fairness. Here at home, state leaders put politics over people by abruptly adjourning the legislative session with critical bills – from guaranteeing earned sick time, to disarming domestic abusers, to raising the minimum wage – unresolved.

At this critical time, it is more important than ever for communities like ours to make our voices heard here in Rhode Island. But getting involved shouldn’t just be about marches and phone calls. Let’s take a moment this summer to regroup and connect with those who live near us. Come to a HOUSE PARTY!

Resist Hate RI is joining with Working Families Party, Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood to host house parties all around the state. These parties will be hosted by your neighbors and your friends in your community. (We’re still looking for more hosts. Email if you can open your home to a small group of folks this summer.)

At these house parties, we’ll talk politics, we’ll plan for the future, and — and this is important — we’ll also have a great time! We’ll drink, eat, and meet each other to keep our work of standing up for our community and our state going strong.

We have several house parties planned, but here are some coming up:

Thursday, July 20 at 7 PM
Where: 143 Bradford St, Bristol, RI 02809
Who: RHRI steering committee member Laufton Ascencao-Longo

Saturday, July 29 at 5 PM
Where: 176 Lafayette Street, Pawtucket, RI 06860
Who: RHRI steering committee member Jane Tucker

Thursday, August 10 at 6PM
Where: 161 Emeline Street, Providence, RI 02906
Who: RHRI member Kaki A.

Click here to search for a house party near you or sign up to host your own!

See you this summer,
Resist Hate Rhode Island Steering Committee

Demand Climate Action From the Nation’s Governors, in Providence July 15

Next week, Providence will be hosting 30+ U.S. governors, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, and business celebrities Elon Musk and Steve Ballmer for the National Governors Association meeting. Time for the resistance to swing into action! On July 15, join us outside the Rhode Island Convention Center for a midday rally. We will demand that, given the absence of leadership or scientific integrity from our federal government, our nation’s governors must take urgent action to curtail carbon emissions. Our future literally depends on it.

We’ll have music, speeches, and the famous “Sea Level Rise 2100” 11-foot float. Bring your signs, your voice, maybe a trombone or drum if you have one… we’re gonna deliver our message loud and clear!

Please RSVP and Share using the Facebook link below, and/or share this link by email: .

Act Now to Modernize RI’s Criminal Justice System

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative “is a series of bills aimed at modernizing Rhode Island’s criminal justice system while reducing the cost on taxpayers. Proposed changes include reducing the period of probation for many criminal offenses, expanding pretrial service programs, and authorizing the superior court to create a diversion program — a program that affords worthy, first time offenders the opportunity to avoid a conviction in exchange for community service and substance abuse and mental health counseling. It also allows courts to impose alternative sentences in limited cases.”

(Read this ProJo article for an excellent summary of the what the JRI is and where it presently stands.)

The JRI has widespread support from both the left and the right. Supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union, the public defender, the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the AFL-CIO, the Rhode Island State Police, the Providence Police, the Department of Corrections, the Rhode Island state judiciary, the American Conservative Union, and the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. This legislative package is by no means a solution to the greater prison-industrial complex crisis, but it works to curtail the 11% growth in prison population by 2025 projected by the RI Dept of Corrections, and it would save taxpayers $3.8 million in the process.

The JRI has been supported by Governor Raimondo and the RI Senate. However, there is a major roadblock towards a House floor vote right now from Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The Attorney General feels that the JRI would take power away from his office and hand it to the courts. His concerns are invalid and inappropriate in comparison to the positive changes that the JRI would bring.

Take action now to see that the JRI is passed during the current legislative session:

For further information and for reference, the package includes the following pieces of legislation:

Continue reading

End the Practice of Sentencing Children to Life in Prison Without Parole

H5183, the Act Relating to Criminals – Correctional Institutions – Parole, is sponsored by Reps Blazejewski, Barros, Ajello, Amore, and Ranglin- Vassell. It would require children sentenced to life in prison to have the opportunity for parole after (a maximum) of 15 years. The Senate passed the companion bill, S0237, and now it’s time to pressure the House to make this bill law.

In January, the house recommended measure be held for further study in the Judiciary Committee  The members on the committee must be contacted and told to bring the bill to a vote.

If your rep is on the committee, CALL THEM and tell them to vote H5183 out of committee. (Find their contact information here.)

Script if your rep is on the committee: I’m (name) and I live in your district at (address). I’m calling to tell Rep. (name) that I expect them to help bring H5183 to the floor for a vote. Children should not be sentenced to life in prison without parole, and this bill will ensure that they are given a chance at a true life outside prison walls. Rep. (name) should stand up for children, and vote to pass this bill.

If your rep is not on the committee, CALL THEM and tell them to pressure their colleagues to bring it to the floor, and to vote for it once it arrives. (Find their contact information here.)

Script if your rep is not on the committee: I’m (name) and I live in your district at (address). I’m calling to tell Rep. (name) that I expect them to vote H5183 out of committee and to the House floor for a vote. Children should not be sentenced to life in prison without parole, and this bill will ensure that they are given a chance at a true life outside prison walls. Rep. (name) should stand up for children, and vote to pass this bill.

The United States stands (almost) alone

International law prohibits sentencing children to death in prison. Yet the majority of states in the US, including Rhode Island, continue to allow the sentence of life in prison without parole for children of any age. The United States was the only country of 197 countries that did not sign on as a “State Party” to a the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which made the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without parole forbidden.

Sentencing minors to life terms sends an unequivocal message to young people that they are beyond redemption, but research on a child’s developmental and emotional state has proven this false. The US Supreme Court has used research on children in overturning cruel and unusual sentences, noting that adolescence is marked by “transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences.”

Under the proposed legislation, H5183, juveniles who are sentenced as adults would automatically come before the parole board after a maximum of fifteen years, regardless of the length of their sentence, giving these young adults the chance to prove their fitness to return to society.

Many children who have been sentenced to die in prison for crimes come from violent and dysfunctional backgrounds. Research has shown that juveniles subjected to trauma, abuse, and neglect suffer from cognitive underdevelopment, lack of maturity, decreased ability to restrain impulses, and susceptibility to outside influences greater even than those suffered by normal teenagers.

The Campaign for Fair Sentencing for Youth, Rhode Island Parole Board Chairwoman Laura A. Pisaturo, and representatives of the Diocese of Providence and the American Civil Liberties Union all testified in support of the bill. Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski, D-Providence, is sponsoring companion legislation (2017-H 5183) in the House.

Learn more about juvenile justice, and children sentenced to life without parole in the video below, featuring Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.


Deep Dive: Immigration in Rhode Island

Over at the White House, they’re talking about how dangerous immigrants are, how the election was rigged because of millions of undocumented people casting votes, and how we need to bar refugees and immigrants from our country. The NYT reports that President Trump’s proposed budget doubles down on these themes, targeting undocumented immigrants.

Here in Rhode Island, undocumented folks, immigrants and refugees are just trying to go to work and take care of their families. Instead, they are facing daily fear on a multitude of fronts: fear of deportation, fear of losing their jobs, fear of being separated from their families. The fears are multiplying.

Just last week at the “What does it really mean to be a Sanctuary City?” panel, Raul Figueroa of Fuerza Laboral (and a Resist Hate RI steering committee member) reported that some employees are going without pay after their bosses refused to pay them, reminding them instead how easy it would be to report them to ICE. Another man decided not to file a police report after being beat up in front of their family, for fear that ICE would be able to find them more easily. Many are scared to drive to work, for fear of being pulled over and then deported. Others are choosing to forego health care appointments, instead staying in their homes, where they can refuse to open the door to ICE officials.

There is real fear out there, and there is reason for it. The rules of who to deport have been expanded: the priority is no longer to only focus on criminals. The situation is dire.

But, here in RI there are several bills and campaigns in the works that will directly impact and help the 30,000 undocumented immigrants living in our state. If this issue matters to you, step up and plug in where you can help: at the state level or in your city or town.


There are three main issues that are currently in the state legislature:

  • Licenses and Permits: Would provide driving privilege licenses and permits to undocumented immigrants (House Bill 5686/Senate Bill 183)
  • Trust Act: Would affect how Rhode Island police officers handle detainers and holds (House BIll 5515)
  • Tuition Equity: Would give a way for undocumented immigrants to get in-state college tuition (House Bill 5237/Senate Bill 446)

Take STATEWIDE Action:

  • Call your senators: Call your senators and tell them you expect their support for Senate Bill 446 (Tuition) and Senate Bill 183 (Driving Privileges). Not sure who your senator is? Check here.
  • Call your reps: Call your reps and tell them you expect their support for House Bill 5686 (Driving Privileges), House Bill 5515 (Trust Act) and House Bill 5237 (Tuition). Not sure who your rep is? Check here.


It’s not known whether the Trust Act will pass (especially if the 8,000 of you throw your weight around at the state house!), but while the Trust Act works through the State House, another initiative is underway: turning Rhode Island into a “sanctuary state,” city by city.

In late March, the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU created a model ordinance concerning immigration, which they sent to every municipality in the state. The draft ordinance sent by the ACLU today to Rhode Island’s mayors, police chiefs and city councils includes such provisions as requiring judicial warrants before honoring ICE detainers; assisting crime victims who may be eligible for special immigration status; rejecting participation in a program, known as 287(g), that essentially deputizes local police to serve as immigration agents; and avoiding other forms of engagement in immigration enforcement that can adversely affect public safety and undermine good police-community relations.

Since then, people and organizations have mobilized. Near the center of these efforts is the Unitarian church network here in Rhode Island. They are starting to work to connect with people in each municipality to raise awareness of and support for this ordinance.

Take Action:

If you want to push your city toward passing this ordinance, contact your mayor and chief of police and tell them you want this ordinance adopted.

This handy website includes letters you can print and mail. Also on the website you’ll find the contact information (address and phone number) for all the mayors and police chiefs in the state.


In Providence, the STEP UP Coalition continues to work on passing the Community Safety Act, which includes provisions related to immigration (as well as a swath of much-needed fair policing and anti-racial profiling provisions):

  1. Police may not inquire about an individual’s immigration status, and any identification issued by a government outside the U.S. like a consular ID, foreign driver’s license, or passport, will be accepted the same as an ID from a U.S. government agency.
  2. The Providence Police Department will not honor requests by ICE to arrest or detain any individual.

In Providence, the City Council needs to vote in favor of an ordinance twice for it to pass. The CSA passed the first vote in April unanimously, but in May, the CSA was tabled for further study. The second vote is now said to be scheduled for Thursday, June 1 (however, an agenda has not yet been posted confirming this).

Take Action:

  • Thursday, June 1 at Providence City Hall, Third Floor City Council Chambers at 7 p.m.: This is when city councilors have said there will be a vote, though an agenda has not yet been posted confirming the vote. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Show up early if you want to ensure you have a seat. Bring a sign that shows your support.
  • Every day until June 1: If you live in Providence, you can express your support and insist on the June 1 vote for the CSA by visiting (best!), calling (great!) or emailing (still good!) your city councilor. Not sure who your city councilor is or how to get ahold of them? Find out here by entering your address or check the Community Safety Act website for contact info and messaging tips.
  • Canvassing: There may be an opportunity to canvass this weekend and next weekend, knocking on doors to tell people about the CSA and garner their support and action. Keep an eye on the Resist Hate RI events page for updates!

What organizations in RI are working on immigration issues?

There are a multitude of organizations who work with immigrants and refugees and who would love your support and assistance:

Do you know of immigration-relation work being done in your town that wasn’t described here? Do you know of an organization helping immigrants that was not listed here? Let us know at If you know of an event related to immigration (or other progressive actions), post them to our Facebook page!