The East Sider: Dr. Jodi Glass

Feminist Community Leader Walks the Walk

East Side Monthly Magazine ·

Rhode Island’s political and social landscape has improved since 1978 – when Dr. Jodi Glass arrived to work as an audiologist with Meeting Street School (now Meeting Street). Her professional and community contributions give voice to the voiceless. “Voice is everything,” said Glass, an accomplished initiator who builds community and praises her mentors – too numerous to name here.

Years ago, the General Assembly heard Glass, and removed gender-specific language from Rhode Island’s laws and expanded the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender and disability.

The Clothesline Project, founded in 1990 by women artists on Cape Cod, empowers women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating shirts and hanging them on clotheslines to promote awareness. To date, the RI Clothesline Project, which Glass founded in 1992, has more than 400 shirts. She also launched the RI Take Back the Night March, an annual march that speaks out symbolically against violence women face at home, in the workplace and on the streets, she explained. “We marched through Providence for close to 30 years; now marches take place on college and university campuses.”

For this lifelong music lover, some songs carry a political tune. Her RI Feminist Chorus sang about difficult issues – rape, incest, choice – for two decades. “It was very close to my heart,” said Glass. She founded and co-directs Grace Note Singers, a group of women who sing to individuals near death or receiving palliative care.

The longtime East Sider is a fascinating study in contrasts. Her parents had a long, loving marriage, yet she doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage for herself. “I think it’s very anti-women… built on slavery.” Nevertheless, she and her long-time partner, Ruthie, married in 2008, at the urging of Ruthie’s dying mother. Notwithstanding chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, Glass is busy: In addition to her part-time audiology practice, she continues as the program administrator at the RI Commission on Prejudice and Bias, providing hate crime training for Rhode Island police departments. Of this work addressing hate crimes, Glass added, “It’s who I am.” In her “spare time,” this committed feminist also seeks housing for LGBT seniors and participates with RPM Voices of Rhode Island, a diverse group that sings about the authentic African-American experience.

And her message for younger generations: “It was once legal to rape your wife [up until] the early ‘80s,” she said, and Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973, is challenged again and again. “Don’t have a false sense of complacency… we’re not near done.”
For more information, visit www.gracenotesingers.net and www.hatecrimeri.org.

Nancy Kirsch is an award-winning freelance writer in Providence. Contact her at writernancy@gmail.com

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