RIOT RI is a volunteer-based non-profit that uses music creation, critical thinking and collaborative relationships to foster collective empowerment and the development of healthy identities in girls, women, trans, and gender-expansive youth and adults.
We start from a basis of mutual respect. We envision a world in which our identities are assets, not limitations, and where we are able to actively claim and develop our own strengths and expertise to create a world of our own design.
Music as a Force for Change
We focus on music’s ability to mobilize, unify, and invigorate people to create social change. Music is a powerful tool that connects individual expression to collective thoughts, emotions, and actions. Creating music within a band requires not only collaboration, respect, and support, but also individual effort, skill building, and expression. Our goal is to use music’s unifying force to empower individuals and communities to band together and create positive change for themselves and for society as a whole.
Respect and Communication
We start from a basis of mutual respect. Each individual’s unique qualities and perspectives are valuable and shape our community. We also recognize that our experiences and perspectives may differ and we believe that open dialogue and direct communication can lead us to common ground and deeper collaboration and a stronger community.
We encourage critical analysis of intersecting systems of oppression, particularly when manifested in media, popular culture and our day to day lives. Creating this dialogue provides us with the tools we need to take positive action against these systems.
Fighting Gender-Based Oppression
We support cis and trans women and girls, non binary and gender non-conforming individuals. We also explicitly support trans men and transmasculine individuals. We reject a culture that values individuals for their appearance and sexuality rather than their character, we all need support to create a strong sense of identity and self. We are committed to expanding traditional conceptions of and conversations about gender.
We believe in a do-it-yourself spirit that empowers individuals to act and create on their own and we also recognize that we are stronger together. A collective process of creation and self-expression develops individual and community resilience. We share skills and learn from each other in a supportive environment in which experimentation, critical engagement, and feedback are valued.
Learning and Leading
We encourage learning and leadership at all levels: program participants, volunteers, board and staff. We strive to listen to each other openly and actively to make intentional decisions together.
Staff & Board
- Lipou Laliemthavisay
- Reba Mitchell, Chair
- Abeer Khatana
- Aloe Russell
- Monse Segura
- Yasmine Hassan
- Tatiana Dossantos
- Christine Dechichio
Lipou [lee-pu, she/her/hers] was born and raised in Providence, RI. While growing up, she always thought she would be an ambassador and allow all visa applications that came in. However, life took a different path. Coming from an immigrant family, she had a deep desire to work with and for marginalized communities, which then grew into a passion for indigent defense. Aside from being a public defender, she is a proud parent of two pitbulls, Kenya & Penny, and teaches criminal law & procedure part-time. She loves going on walks/hikes with the dogs and listening to music to de-stress. She is glad she was invited to join the board in December 2018, though regretful she did not join the organization sooner. She recently began taking virtual drum classes @ RIOT and looks forward to bangin’ out Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade!
Reba Mitchell is a current board member who has volunteered since 2009 as a vocal instructor, band coach, workshop leader, and GRIT coordinator. She spends most of her time in a 3x5 iso booth as an audiobook narrator (having recorded over 200 titles and receiving a coveted Earphones Award), and, in order to escape the box and remain part of society, at Flipp Salon as a hairdresser. She holds degrees in Women’s Studies and Cosmetology. Yes, her hairstyle is specifically engineered to accommodate wearing headphones six hour a day.
Abeer Khatana (she/her) joined the RIOT RI board in 2019 and currently serves as the chair of the Anti-Oppression Committee. She has volunteered as a workshop facilitator and has been a (very enthusiastic!!!) participant in RIOT RI’s drum lessons for beginners. She has a background in community organizing, development, facilitation, and policy analysis. Abeer is deeply committed to genuine, intentional relationship building. Her superpower is connecting every conversation to the evils of capitalism.
Aloe (she/her) has been working with RIOT! RI since 2016, first as a volunteer and then also teaching lessons. She’s a musician, music teacher, community college student, and she does IT for AS220. Aloe is new to the board in 2020 and super psyched about deepening her relationship with this awesome organization!
Bio coming soon!
Yasmine Hassan [she/her] is an interdisciplinary artist (mechanical engineer by training, youth design/build educator by trade, musician by passion) who has lived in Providence since 2013, despite spending her childhood calling many different places home. Though she was born in Brooklyn, NY, she spent years of her childhood just outside of Philadelphia and Richmond, VA, before her family eventually settled in Columbus, OH. Having grown up visiting family in Pawtucket, though, she was no stranger to Rhode Island when she moved here for undergrad. She comes from a working-class, “tri-cultural” household of African & Arab immigrants–her father is Sudanese and her mother is Sierra Leonean-born Lebanese. Her values and teaching practice are deeply informed by this identity and upbringing, but she also draws inspiration from a fascination with music of ALL sorts, Black pop culture history, cartoons and anime, old Nintendo games, magical realism, and a fiercely DIY work ethic. She’s been involved with RIOT since 2018 as an Adult Rock Camp participant, through drum and bass individual lessons, and through her full-time job at a nearby peer youth arts nonprofit
Bio coming soon!
Christine Dechichio (she/her) is our most recent board member who has volunteered since 2013 in so many different roles from fundraising to gear roadie. She also has participated in several ladies rock camps & is a two time winner of our annual Battle of the Patriarchy! She’s a full time creative consultant based out of Providence where she was born & raised. Christine works part time as a social media media manager & live music videographer, for a local live music venue & various Providence based artists. You can typically find her out at a vegan restaurant, combing the beach for treasures like a good pisces would, or travelling the country with her friends going to music festivals and following their favorite bands on tour.
Kai Van Vlack
Programs and Operations Co-Coordinator
Kai (She/Her) started at RIOT RI as a guitar instructor before joining the administrative team. While her professional experience is in the biological sciences and university administration, most of her adult life has been devoted to radical organizing within the arts, with a specific emphasis on using DIY punk as a platform for activism and community building. She believes in the profound transformative effect of shared cathartic experiences around music, particularly for marginalized young people. Kai is an artist in residence at the Dirt Palace and a member of the bands Trophy Hunt and Maafa. Her spare time is spent hiking, eating burritos, and reading sci-fi.
Denise (she/her) is a bilingual educator who fiercely advocates for youth. She has a strong administrative background and experience as a Spanish interpreter/translator and has used her skills in roles within schools in Providence and Central Falls, the RI Disability Law Center, and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Denise is also a community yoga instructor who has volunteered teaching yoga and participating in body image workshops at Girls Rock Camps and Ladies Rock Camps with a focus on intersectionality, body positivity and restorative healing practices. Denise is a Latinx feminista who loves tacos and flan. She is a self-taught vocalist who dabbles in the harmonica and ukulele with her band Tall and has diverse musical influences from Selena and Buffy Sainte Marie to the Grateful Dead.
Bio Coming Soon!
YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD
The Loud Youth Leadership Advisory Council is a youth-led council formed to amplify the voices of young people within RIOT RI. As a youth-serving organization, RIOT RI recognizes the importance in having the input of the young people we serve.
We believe in supporting the creation of leadership opportunities for girls, trans and nonbinary youth in our community. The goal of the youth advisory board is for its members to collaborate with each other, as well as staff and board, to acquire leadership skills and to have a space where they can express themselves affecting change within the organization and their community.
Passing the mic to youth leaders allows RIOT RI to have a relevant perspective of the issues affecting the young people we serve through our programs and work as a collective to come up with innovative ideas.
The 5 key components of the youth advisory board: youth-led, consistent engagement, community agreements, creating a space for youth where youth can be themselves, taking active part in different organizational projects.
LYLAC meets once every other week and their involvement has been key in moving the organization forward by taking part in different project such as:
- New Name Initiative
- Program Empowerment Evaluations
- Rethinking Leadership
- Curriculum Evaluation
- Community Engagement
In its mission, Girls Rock! Rhode Island (GRR!) made a commitment to help foster the development of healthy identities of girls, women, trans and non-binary individuals. It has become apparent that the very name under which the organization functioned is no longer empowering to our LGBTQ participants, staff, and volunteers.
When the name of GRR! was originally imagined 10 years ago, the word “Girl” carried very different connotations than it does now. When the organization was formed in 2009, the Riot Grrl movement of the 1990s and early ‘00s still carried weight in the cultural zeitgeist as a symbol of inclusive, underground feminism in the music scene. As language has evolved and expanded over the past decade, that word “Girl” as it appears in our name now means something very different.
Over the course of the past two years, GRR! began to focus on internal anti-oppression practices. With support from the Equity Action Fund, GRR! now has the opportunity to make profound and sustaining change to the organization.
Based on data from 2018, 40% of our volunteer base identifies as LGBTQ. 16% of our middle school participants and 23% of our high school participants identify as LGBTQ as well. According to PEW Research Center data, the median age for LGBT individuals to come out is 20 years old, so we can safely predict this number to be underreported. The YRBS reports that 8% of high school age youth identify as LGBTQ—that number is nearly tripled in attendees of GRR!’s high school camp. With this in mind, GRR! has a responsibility to be a leader in organizational inclusivity.
2019-2020 has been a year of transition – new leadership, new space, and even some new programs. It’s important to know, however, that this name change has been in the works since well before it became publicly visible. For years we have been saying “We’re not just for girls, and we don’t just play rock!” If you have to specify that every time you say it, something isn’t working.
HOW WE CHOSE IT
Conversations around changing the name have been circulating for many years, but the process officially started in January 2019, when the organization began to seek funding to support the switch. The organization was granted support by the Equity Action Fund, which allowed the organization to, fittingly, take action towards organizational equity.
In April 2019, the organization began a strategic planning process which highlighted the importance of inclusivity and accessibility as a main pillar. The strategic planning process continued into early 2020, and informed decision making about the new name.
In September 2019, the organization released a community survey, gathering information about what the new name should include in order to reflect its current participants and stakeholders.
With the survey results as the north star, the Board of Directors began brainstorming names. In November, the organization passed all of the information it had garnered to the youth advisory board. The youth were asked to make a final decision about the new name, guided by the community survey, and Board guidelines. The youth chose a name by December 29th 2019, and it was officially released to the public on December 31 2019.
In December 2019, the organization also chose to hire a new logo designer to reflect the new name. After reviewing the work of hundreds of illustrations, the organization elected to hire Melita Tirado to design the new brand.
From January to April, the organization has worked with Mx. Tirado to finalize the logo, branding, and assets. The official name and logo, along with the new website and social media handles will be released on March 30, 2020.
WHAT IT MEANS
RIOT RI stands for Revolution in our Times Rhode Island. By keeping the word RIOT in the name, the organization nods to the roots of Girls Rock! Rhode Island, which was grown from the Riot Grrl movement. The full name nods to the social justice oriented mission of the organization, and the organization’s commitment to challenge power structures along with empowering individuals.
Quotes From Our Youth
“The organization is part of a bigger community. It’s like when a friend comes out and you have to use new pronouns, at first it can be difficult but you just have to keep doing it and it [becomes] normal cause you care about them”
“It’s a positive thing, this is still a space for everyone and now it’s broader space where everyone can feel comfortable, even if you don’t feel comfortable with the label of girl.”
“I love it, one summer my mom signed up for camp and I didn’t wanna go because I don’t want to be identified as a girl, so the name change made me feel really happy.”
“This organization isn’t to single out just girls but all folks who have not been supported in the music industry… that goes far beyond girls.”