Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus
RIDP Women’s Caucus-Supported Elected Official
by Betsy Alper and Linda Pederson for the RIDPWC
Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, a Progressive Democrat from House District 5 in Providence, is currently in her second term as a state representative. Born and raised in Jamaica, Representative Ranglin-Vassell is the first Jamaican-American to serve in the Rhode Island State legislature. She is also the first Jamaican to serve in elected office in Rhode Island. In addition to her work as a legislator, she is also a special education teacher in Providence, a wife, and a mom of four adult children. Rep. Ranglin-Vassell was motivated to run for office in June of 2016, after a 21-year-old young father, who had been on her son’s basketball team, was shot and killed. This tragedy caused Rep. Ranglin-Vassell to reflect on the number of students of hers who had died from gun violence during her 16 years of teaching. The young man’s death was the catalyst that convinced Rep Ranglin-Vassell to declare her candidacy for House District 5.
During her tenure as a state representative, Rep. Ranglin-Vassell has brought the voices of the poor and those often left out to the House Chamber. She has sponsored, co-sponsored, and supported a great number of legislative initiatives, many of which are now state law. Some key ones include: raising the minimum wage to $15, supporting a $250 million dollar school infrastructure bond, allowing earned sick time for families, reinstating the RIPTA bus pass, increasing bed capacity in nursing homes, banning bump stocks, and creating both the Red Flag law and the Carbon Pricing bill to protect the environment.
In her neighborhood she has secured $30,000 for the DaVinci Youth Program, got funding for new tables and chairs at Wanskuck Library and for a Pergola for outside learning at E-Cubed Academy, and has hosted annual holiday gift giving for neighborhood children. This year, she has introduced legislation to require all public elementary and secondary schools provide a free lunch to all students--no questions asked--to end the practice of lunch-shaming, which singles out children who cannot afford to purchase a hot nutritious lunch.
For the 2019 legislative session Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell submitted legislation to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid. This bill is intended to achieve healthier outcomes for women and babies, particularly for black women, who, according to the Centers for Disease Control, experience 3-4 times higher rates of death or injury than white women during childbirth.
“Doulas have been shown to make real, measurable improvements in the health outcomes for women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth, preventing complications, reducing the cesarean and preterm rates. They are cost-effective, ultimately saving Medicaid dollars because patients who have access to doulas require less medical intervention overall,” Rep. Ranglin-Vassell noted.
Rep. Ranglin-Vassell’s work as a legislator has not been easy, and she did not expect it to be. Her motto has served her in dealing with the challenges of her position: “I have no obstacles in my life, I turn all of them into stepping stones.” Rep. Ranglin-Vassell observed that some colleagues she encounters, primarily white male legislators and legislators who may not have grown up in poverty, often do not understand the struggles of poor people and people who do not have access to wealth--but she does believe that is changing, albeit slowly. “They are learning about our issues, our values, and they are learning about us.”
When asked what advice she had for other women, Rep. Ranglin-Vassell offered this: “Don’t be afraid, and persist in what you believe.” She uses what she experiences in her own life as a woman who grew up in poverty to inform the work that she does for her constituents and for Rhode Islanders. “My being in the General Assembly sends a strong signal to Black, African-American, women of color, and poor white women that you can run for elected office. Not only can you run, but you can win.”
Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell holds a Diploma in Education from St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College in Kingston, Jamaica, a Bachelor’s in Community Health Education from Rhode Island College, and a Masters in Education from Providence College.
Read our series on the Elected Officials Supported by the RIDP Women’s Caucus here.
Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus