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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jocelyn Foye

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jocelyn Foye.

Hi Jocelyn, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am an artist by training, an activist by calling and all that I do is inspired and informed by being a mother and my sense of purpose to create a better and more just world for my kids. The organization I co-founded, The Womxn Project, came out of the 2016 elections and the very real threat of a Trump presidency. I sat at the kitchen table with a few fellow moms from different backgrounds who decided to come together to push back on the undermining of all we stand for and believe in and push for the kind of changes our state needs. We wanted to figure out how to bring people together to shift power and change how things had always been done – a system where our voices were not being heard and power was hoarded among old, white guys who were way out of touch with the values of most people in our state. We wanted to do things differently to center those most impacted by the status quo way of doing things and harness creativity to shift the conversation. We wanted to make it clear that we all have a role to play – and can bring our skills and lived experiences to make a difference.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Changing the status quo is never going to be easy – and it sure has not been a smooth road. We decided our first goal was to take on the lack of protections for the right to abortion in Rhode Island. A set of bills had been introduced and languished for decades. We needed to make it clear that the time was now and that voters would not accept anything less than a win. It was about making the case for the need for the bill and showing up in force. We had to find new and different ways to make it easier and more accessible for people to engage. We needed to be innovative and shake things up. The same old, same old was not going to get it done. By providing trainings and lots of options for how to be part of our work, we made it so people could find a way to help that fit them. Since many of us are moms and some of us who started it are artists, we made sure that there would be flexibility and also included both messaging around how abortion rights is linked to birth equity, healthcare access and stronger communities while also events and organizing opportunities where kids would be welcome and families could come together were creative. We continue to build on the victory to protect our rights and make sure that we can all plan our families and futures and to do so in a way that is as much about community and movement building as any policy goal.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
One of the ways that The Womxn Project tries to change the traditional model of organizing, invite different ways of shaping policy and shift the conversation is through ARTivism. Artivism is the idea of combining art and activism. I fundamentally believe that art is inherently political so we use traditional mediums like creating beautiful presentations for our messages or graphics in our digital organizing to catch people’s attention, but we have also done large scale projections from the RI State House to the US Supreme Court, Community Quilt Petitions, and theatrical performances in the State House Library. Additionally, we have organized dancing and musical presentations in the rotunda and spoken word in front of the General Assembly to nail home the idea that the State House is the People’s House and we all should feel welcome to engage in it.

Last year, as part of our commitment to advancing racial justice and dismantling white supremacy, we organized a series of art events to reckon with the history of the slave trade in Rhode Island and digging in on what it would look like and what is needed to dismantle white supremacy and advance true justice. We combined projections of art, facts and literary excerpts with live readings and spoken word. Given that we were still in the height of the pandemic, we shared the events through pictures, video, and live streaming. This series received a lot of attention and (at the time) frustration but importantly, it got the issues into the public again and called into question the leadership of our State when they claimed Rhode Island might never have had enslaved people. In fact, Rhode Islad was the one of the main ports that brought enslaved people into the country.

What matters most to you?
WOW, this is a big question. As a parent first, my partner and I work hard to have healthy and happy children, but my artivist/activist work within that means I want them to live in a world where we can all be healthy and thrive and to also see themselves as being responsible for contributing to that world. I want to see our state and country move beyond the white supremeist foundation it is sitting on, to give people the option of equal personal dignity where we can grow mentally and feel safety in that life. It takes work to get there and each voice involved, however the style, is one moving the dial just a little closer to that goal.

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Image Credits
These photos were taken by members of our team.

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