Along with all of the other forms of oppression that a world without access to abortion brings, a particularly stark example of the violence that women face in the patriarchy occurred here in Rhode Island recently. Jennifer Rourke, who is part of the Rhode Island Cooperative, an alliance of progressive democratic candidates running for state office, was punched repeatedly by her opponent in the Senate race, Jeann Lugo.
Jennifer Rourke was speaking at a rally to protest the end of Roe V. Wade in Providence. After speaking, she was standing in the audience with friends. According to Matt Brown, candidate for Governor in Rhode Island and co-founder of the Rhode Island Co-op, three right-wing counter-protesters showed up. Jennifer, as one of the leaders there, approached the situation to try to de-escalate and defuse any possible conflict or disruption to the event. But moments later, Lugo, who is a Providence police officer and was off-duty, punched her in the face. The incident was caught on video by Bill Bartholomew.
The incident is a shocking representation of just what kind of hostility women of color face when they run for public office. As US Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said in response on Twitter, “No one should live in fear of violence. Not while protesting. Not while advocating for abortion rights. Not anywhere. This is unacceptable and there must be accountability.” I agree. This behavior is completely unacceptable, and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The good news is that following the incident, Jeann Lugo dropped out of the race against Jennifer Rourke. Jeann Lugo was also charged with Simple Assault and Disorderly Conduct. He turned himself in and was released on his own recognizance. He was also put on leave by the police department. The police department also made a public statement saying that Lugo he will be charged internally for not upholding the police code of conduct.
The even better news is that the longtime incumbent that Jennifer Rourke would face in a primary, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, also dropped out following the incident, clearing the way for Jennifer Rourke to be the front-running Democratic candidate for the seat. But there’s a big problem: the Rhode Island State Democratic party, which is known for its favoritism of insider candidates, will not endorse her. So, before you do anything else, sign the petition for started by the Rhode Island Cooperate urging the RI Democratic party to endorse Jennifer Rourke. Even if you are out of state, you can still sign. Let’s show Rhode Island that the world is watching as the insider Democrats try to deny Jennifer Rourke her due place on their endorsement list.
And now, on to this week’s Feminist Giving News!
1: New Film Funder, Safe Space, Launches with Timely Abortion Documentary
Safe Space Pictures Foundation is a new funding entity that launched just last week and is focused on empowering women and other underrepresented storytellers, producing stories that can make a positive difference.
Safe Space provides substantial funding (ranging from $250,000 to 2 million) from development to production and beyond, and they also fund impact campaigns to drive advocacy. Tribeca reproductive rights film Battleground is their banner documentary project and Sofia Coppola-produced Fairyland is their first, upcoming, narrative film.
Safe Space is co-founded by philanthropist Jeff Sobrato (who also acts as Board Chair), along with film producer Nicole Shipley (A Private War, Trial of the Chicago 7) who is the CEO. Safe Space comes out of the gate with an upcoming slate of ten fiction and non-fiction projects that educate, inspire, and empower audiences. More information here.
2: UKG Partners with Grantmakers for Girls of Color to Make 8 New Grants
Grantmakers for Girls of Color has been selected as one of four grant recipients for UKG’s Close the Gap Initiative – a campaign to drive awareness and action to resolve pay disparities between men, women and underrepresented groups. This partnership enables is supporting 8 organizations working to increase girls’ and women’s access to economic prosperity. UKG has partnerships with Grantmakers for Girls of Color, LeanIn.org, Reboot Representation, and 9to5. More information here.
3. Emily Nielsen Jones and Imago Dei Fund Opening Up Conversation on Sex Trafficking versus Sex Work
The issue of how to approach sex work is one that is still in contention in terms of a straightforward sense of unity on the issue in feminism. In collaboration with Alliance Magazine (whom we have a partnership with!) Emily is starting a conversation about “navigating the challenges of funding in and around the global commercial sex industry.” There will be a series of articles on the topic coming out over the next few weeks, so you might want to check it out.
4. WomenStrong Launches New Resource for Girls, First Release in Ghana and Kenya
WomenStrong International, a global consortium that catalyzes the eradication of extreme urban poverty through the empowerment of women and girls, announces the launch of Strong Girls Make Strong Women: A Practical Handbook to Creating and Leading a Girls’ Club. With one in three women
experiencing gender-based violence in her lifetime and 50 percent of sexual assaults occurring under the age of 16, this powerful resource helps equip girls with critical intersecting skills and knowledge about their rights, health and economic future. For more information on the handbook, visit Womenstrong.
5. World Bank Funds New Project to Improve Lives of Women and Girls in Liberia
The World Bank Board has approved a financing package to improve economic livelihoods and access to social services for women and girls in targeted communities in Liberia. The money will be used to “foster positive social norms, and strengthen the government’s capacity to advance women and girls’ empowerment.” The Liberia Women Empowerment Project will receive $44.60 million ($17.80 million grant and $26.80 million concessional credit), financed by the International Development Association. More information here.