February 1, 2021 – The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities announced grants to seven non-profit organizations across the state through the XIX: Shall Not Be Denied: Why It Matters Initiative. The supported projects serve Rhode Island communities facing historic and current barriers to democratic participation. The XIX: Shall Not Be Denied: Why It Matters Initiative is part of the nationwide “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Elizabeth Francis, Executive Director of the Humanities Council, said “In December 2019, in concert with many partners across the state, the Humanities Council and the Secretary of State’s Office launched XIX: Shall Not Be Denied to bring together and to promote programs and projects marking the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. Everyone involved saw this anniversary as part of an ongoing struggle for access and equality. This struggle is even more acute with the pandemic and the movement for racial justice. The opportunity to support projects that will expose the barriers to and possibilities of democracy for more people is an important way to build these efforts. We are grateful to the organizations who answered this call and for the funding support to catalyze their work.”
Why It Matters grant funded projects include the following – visit: shallnotbedenied.org for more details:
Dorcas International, Welcoming Rhode Island, $5,000
Welcoming Rhode Island is developing civic engagement lessons and activities in the adult education curriculum, as well as voter registration. The goal of this project is to increase RI immigrants’ individual civic participation and engagement. Dorcas International has worked to empower refugees and immigrants for nearly 100 years.
Mixed Magic Theatre & Cultural Events, We, They, and the People, $5,000
We, They, and the People includes three 45-minute programs that will be filmed at Mixed Magic Theatre then streamed to the public for free. The project explores how the Black American experience has been shaped through the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions. The series will end with a virtual panel of community activists, scholars and political leaders who will respond to audience questions and comments.
Providence Community Library, What Now: Empowering Youth with Passion to Action, $5,000
What Now: Empowering Youth with Passion to Action includes three virtual public panels for Rhode Island high school-aged students that will educate and inspire them to become democratically active citizens. Panels consist of local freshmen legislators and speakers from RI-based youth-led organizations that have engaged local youth in social action-based movements.
Refugee Dream Center, Your Voice, Your Vote, $5,000
Your Voice, Your Vote is a four-week virtual and paper-based series for first-time refugee and asylee voters which will include information about democratic participation, voter registration, election types, and a ballot breakdown. Materials will simplify voting in the United States, answer questions about the voting process, and debunk myths around voting eligibility as well as increase the number of registered voters among the refugee and asylee community.
RI Coalition for the Homeless, Blocked at the Ballot: How Homelessness Creates Barriers to Civic Participation, $5,000
Blocked at the Ballot includes a two-part virtual, interactive forum that is designed and led by those with lived experience with homelessness and/or housing insecurity. This online discussion series focuses on building broader awareness of the needs of this vulnerable and often disenfranchised population and their abilities to meaningfully participate in our democracy and access civic education, voting, and other opportunities.
Stages of Freedom, Voting in the Age of Breonna, $5,000
Voting in the Age of Breonna includes a two-part virtual civics lesson in democracy, voting rights and political literacy featuring local and national legislators. It consists of a specially commissioned video, two dramatic presentations of historic political courage, and a discussion of two case studies of Black civic engagement and. The project will draw on Stages of Freedom’s voter website, “Voting While Black,” and encourage participants’ engagement in the political process.
Thundermist Health Center, Trans Vote RI, $5,000
The Trans Vote RI project will offer voting resources for trans and gender-diverse people through a specially developed website. The project will also partner with the Providence Board of Canvassers to create a short educational video about how to vote and host a virtual website “launch party” with a facilitated dialogue about voting.
As part of the Why It Matters Initiative, the Rhode Island Department of State also received $5,000 to support the creation of a new traveling exhibit Votes for Women – Inspiring Change, which celebrates the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment. The exhibit highlights Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill and Lulu Mowry Schlesinger for their important contributions to laws in Rhode Island that directly affect the lives of women and children. English and Spanish versions of the exhibit will travel around the state and be viewable in local libraries, city and town halls, and other public venues. To learn where the exhibits are currently located, follow @RISecState or @XIXShallNotBeDenied on Instagram. To host the exhibit at your organization, contact Lane Sparkman, Associate Director of Education & Public Programs at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of State will also be hosting a panel discussion on February 23, 2021 which will focus on innovative approaches to voter outreach and engagement. Panelists include Pastor Justin Lester of the Congdon Street Baptist Church, Councilman Franklin Solano (Central Falls), David Dvorchak of AS220, and interdisciplinary artist Nafis White. Registration details will be available soon at: shallnotbedenied.org.
“The evolution of our democracy shows that each of us has the power to shape our communities through our votes, our voices and our actions,” said Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. “Candid discussions about the suffrage movement are an important opportunity to increase civic literacy and engagement throughout our state. Thank you to the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and our panelists for your work in expanding voter participation and strengthening our democracy.”
About XIX: Shall Not Be Denied:
Developed with input from leaders of cultural, educational, and service organizations across the state, XIX: Shall Not Be Denied is a web portal launched in December 2019 that provides branding, educational resources, and social media promotion for events, exhibitions, salons and lectures, panels, digital projects, performances, and research on a wide array of topics inspired by the centennial of the 19th Amendment, relevant to diverse audiences, and connected to contemporary issues. XIX: Shall Not Be Denied is guided by core values that include accessibility, relevance, inclusivity, empowerment and diversity. More at www.shallnotbedenied.org.
About the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities:
The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. As an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Council has provided over $8 million in grants to support more than 650 organizations throughout the state of Rhode Island, as well as independent researchers, filmmakers, scholars, and oral historians, since its founding in 1973.
For more information, contact Rachael Jeffers at email@example.com or (401) 273-2250.