“People who care about human rights can’t sit back and trust it’ll work out.” 
Rushelle Frazier | Worcester

Growing up black and queer in Worcester, Rushelle Frazier’s first forays into advocacy were shaped by a community that didn’t always understand or accept them. 

Now, Rushelle’s journey as an activist has led to their position as a field organizer with Freedom for All Massachusetts—and to Rushelle being named the Co-Grand Marshal of this year’s Worcester Pride parade.

“I was so surprised to get nominated. I’m so happy to do this work I learned down South and bring it back to my hometown, to have my work amplify this campaign and the people who love and support me.”

Rushelle was inducted into the world of LGBT rights work when they helped start a gay-straight alliance in their high school. But it was slam poetry, Rushelle says, that cracked open the door to the wider range of work they’ve done as an activist. 

“That was my first vehicle to express myself, to get new ideas from people outside of my family, outside of the school system,” Rushelle says, looking back from their current position as a judge at the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival and a slammaster of nationally-recognized Seven Hills Poetry Slam. 

“I started questioning the world around me in a big way, and exploring ways I could best learn from others in the fight for justice and equality.” 

That questioning drove Rushelle to move to Savannah GA and later Chattanooga TN, where they honed their organizing chops by focusing on food justice, police accountability, affordable housing with Concerned Citizens for Justice and doing support work with veterans protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of her work with Civilian-Soldier Alliance. 

“This is no time to say the system doesn’t work, or that Massachusetts is such a liberal state that everything will magically work out. We get to vote this year on what matters and have a decision, in a way we don’t get to in larger elections. People who care about human rights can’t sit back and trust it’ll work out.” 

Then a friend told Rushelle what was going on in Massachusetts—that their home state’s law protecting transgender people could be repealed—and sent Rushelle a job description for an organizing position in Worcester with Freedom for All Massachusetts. 

Rushelle knew immediately they had to put their organizing experience to work protecting their transgender friends and neighbors—and themselves. Rushelle doesn’t identify as transgender, but as a gender nonconforming person, they knew that failing to uphold the law could open them up to discrimination too. 

“I understand that some of my experience is privileged, and I’m using what privilege I have in an effective way to help my community.”

However, Rushelle says the economic and social toll from failing to uphold these protections in Massachusetts will reach far beyond the transgender community.

“They’re going after transgender people here and now, and ultimately the most harmed are going to be communities of color, especially low income people of color. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.” 

Repealing protections for transgender people also threatens Massachusetts’ and Worcester’s reputation as a welcoming place. That really hurts Rushelle, as someone with so much hometown pride. 

“Worcester is the sort of place where you have to make your own fun, and that can frustrate a lot of people. But at the same time, nobody is going to stop you from doing something. If you have an idea, you can make it happen—it just might take a while until people get on the bandwagon.” 

Rushelle says Worcester’s reputation as a working class city, situated near two cosmopolitan hubs like Boston and Providence, has helped foster that great DIY culture—something they hope won’t change soon.

“Even though we have all these colleges and businesses, Worcester is still very much a working class city. Even as Worcester gets better public transportation and services, I hope it maintains that integrity.”

But all of that progress, and Worcester’s very character, is threatened Rushelle says if voters don’t vote Yes on 3 to uphold non-discrimination protections for our transgender friends and neighbors on November 6. 

“This is no time to say the system doesn’t work, or that Massachusetts is such a liberal state that everything will magically work out. We get to vote this year on what matters and have a decision, in a way we don’t get to in larger elections. People who care about human rights can’t sit back and trust it’ll work out.” 


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