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SISTA Fire RI: Healing and Joy as Resistance



Our masks cover our mouths, but not our eyes. We see not only injustice but possibility. We see a Rhode Island where our communities are strong and vibrant and all of our beauty gets to shine. We see ourselves—Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans, Immigrant, and all Womxn of Color—living not in the shadows but in the sun.

On Saturday evening SISTA Fire RI built a public altar in Providence’s Dexter Park to “honor Black, Indigenous womxn and girls and our Trans and non-binary siblings impacted and lost to state-sanctioned violence.” Around 100 people participated in the event, which was both somber and joyful, as well as deeply spiritual.

During the ceremony, which was guided by storyteller Valerie Tutson, a recent statement from SISTA Fire RI was read, which is presented below in its entirety.

SISTA Fire RI is a “small and growing network of women of color from across Rhode Island… on a journey to create a space where we can build foundations for deep solidarity across differences, strengthen community connections, and create change in our lives and communities.”

“As you all know there’s a crisis going on in terms of Black maternal health, in terms of state-based violence, gender-based violence. We definitely need to come together and heal, and that’s what this night is for.”

A land acknowledgment:

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Ditra Edwards is one of the cofounders of SISTA Fire RI, along with Chanravy Proeung.

“We have spent the last three and a half years trying to build in relationship with our community,” said Edwards. “We think of ourselves as learners, as women who are evolving, who are trying to build power collectively. We work hard to, and we continue to, extend our hearts to our trans sisters and trans siblings in this process, but we’re still working towards that. It’s important that we stand in accountability, that SISTA Fire is in that place, and that we, with all our hearts, continue to deepen our relationships and our connections with our folks in this place.”

Valerie Tutson:

April Brown called on libations to the ancestors:

Here’s the text of the recent statement, followed by the video of the statement being read to those in attendance. Those in solidarity with its message are encouraged to sign on via this link.

An Open Letter to Womxn of Color in Rhode Island

We see you, our sister.
We know your name, or maybe we don’t.
You are a member of SISTA Fire, or a friend told you about us.
You look like our mom, our abuela, our sibling, our neighbor.
We meet you in Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, or Woonsocket.
We are on your ancestral lands, or in your neighborhood, or maybe home is still far away.
We move at the pace of trust because we know what it’s like not to be trusted.
We see you. You are not a client. You are a person. You are someone’s mother or daughter or auntie or sister-in-law. You are related by blood or chosen as family.
We know they call you an “essential worker” when the only thing they find essential about you is the work. We know that your work takes you away from the people who know you’re an essential person—your kids, your partner, your parents, your aunt who you translate for.
And we know not working is not an option. We too worry about our rent and bills.
We respect your whole self, your language(s), your gender identity, your complexities, and your raw beauty.
We also have experienced the everyday trauma of racism, the triggering of old wounds in new tensions, and now THIS.
Here we are AGAIN. We have all been here before.
We know sisters dying at the hands of the police.
We know sisters dying at the hands of the medical industrial complex.
We know sisters dying in our prisons and ICE detention centers.
And we know sisters dying from the economic violence that comes from the lack of affordable housing, the lack of jobs with living wages, and the lack of health care.
But you know what else we know?
We know speeches won’t solve this. Kneeling won’t solve this. Minor reforms won’t solve this. Meetings won’t solve this. Tokenizing won’t solve this. $600 a week won’t solve this. Empty gestures and words won’t solve this.
“Solutions” that keep power in the same hands as always won’t solve this.“Solutions” that pour money into the same hands won’t solve this. “Solutions” that reinforce white supremacy won’t solve this. “Solutions” that come from people who have minimal respect for our communities, our families and our leadership will never solve this.
As mothers, daughters, sisters, and essential workers, we demand:
Community Leadership:
We demand solutions that CENTER THOSE MOST IMPACTED. We need to be present for the discussions and decisions that directly impact our lives. That means ensuring the leadership, knowledge, and lived experiences of Black womxn, Indigenous womxn, trans-womxn and womxn of color are at the center of all efforts to make or change policies and practices that impact our quality of life.
Community Investment:
We demand that $358 million of the CARES dollars be invested in communities with the greatest levels of poverty and racial disparities in our state’s core cities Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket. We demand that these funds be invested in the long-term infrastructure and sustainability of these communities and that community leadership help decide where this money is invested.
Community Health:
We demand divestment from state and local police and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections! We demand reinvestment in the health of our communities!
Our masks cover our mouths, but not our eyes. We see not only injustice but possibility. We see a Rhode Island where our communities are strong and vibrant and all of our beauty gets to shine. We see ourselves—Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans, Immigrant, and all Womxn of Color—living not in the shadows but in the sun.
We see living in what is real for us: walking down the streets without fear, living in affordable spaces that give us room to breathe, free to choose a doula or midwife when we give birth, confident that our children will be able to thrive and have the best education, understanding and honoring each other in all our complexities, without limits, boxes and gender binaries. Let’s stand together, our collective power is our strength.
And we will exercise our collective power to change Rhode Island.
We ask you to STAND WITH Womxn of Color by signing on to this statement.
In solidarity,

The building of the altar:

There were names and images placed around the altar, names and pictures of people of womxn of color who lost their lives, as well as specifically Black trans lives who died in 2019 and 2020.

Wrapping up:

The hardest working news organization in Rhode Island! Uprise RI was founded in 2017 by Steve Ahlquist, and focuses on civil liberties, social justice, and human rights.