Venue, restaurant and bar Strange Matter opened its doors on Nov. 22 for a punk show to benefit the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP), a non-profit volunteer run organization that helps fight for reproductive justice and provide financial aid for people in need of abortions.
The event was put together by Strange Matter employee Chris Hensley, who had heard about RRFP’s grass root funding events and decided to fill a hole in the venue’s schedule with a benefit in the wake of a nasty election cycle.
“We had this gap in the schedule and it was right after the election which left a lot of people, especially in city, feeling pretty bleak about the incoming president. So some friends and I decided to throw a benefit,” Hensley said. “We (thought) it would be a nice little thing, people could get together, watch some bands and support a good cause in the face of impending doom.”
Hensley booked four bands for the show: Nosebleed, Memory Loss, Sinister Purpose and Bad Magic.
Bad Magic guitarist/vocalist Julie Karr said she volunteered to play the show because of the all the good RRFP does for those in need via financial and counseling support.
“The way they [RRFP] frame reproductive access and reproductive decision making is really something that’s based off privilege and disprivilege,” said Karr. “This is a decision that can have long term financial effects on people and I like how they frame it.”
Karr said she has performed in benefits for RRFP before at Strange Matter and elsewhere. She cites reproductive rights as an important issue to her, particularly in wake of the recent election cycle.
“It just seems like lately, with the election of Donald Trump, there’s this “oh shit” push where everyone is trying to get their ducks in a row and are getting the funds that they can now,” said Karr. “That way we can all be as prepared as we can for what I think we all see as a pretty tense four years ahead of us.”
All together the benefit raised 808 dollars and was attended by 125 people, a larger turnout than Hensley or Strange Matter had initially expected.
Ha Tran, a volunteer who has been with RRFP since 2013, said that abortion services have a large variation in cost and can range from as little as 200 dollars to as much as 10,000.
RRFP helped 235 people during fiscal year 2015 by providing a variety of services in addition to helping finance abortion procedures. This includes ultrasounds, counseling, lodging, transportation and referrals to organizations that help people who already have children. RRFP helps people from all across the state and often people from North Carolina who come to Virginia due to targeted regulations against abortion provider (TRAP) laws in their states.
As a non-profit RRFP’s funding comes from donations and fundraisers, not always coming in the form of punk shows.
“Fundraising looks like friends asking friends for donations, or sometimes house shows or craft shows, dinners or clothing drives – people can fundraise pretty much anyway they want,” Tran said. “Pretty much 100 percent of our funding comes from grassroots funding, so things like that are really important to us and show that the community really cares.”
RRFP also participates in the annual “Bowl-A-Thon” fundraiser which runs from February through April annually and is coordinated by the National Network of Abortion Funds. Information for that upcoming event can be found on their website. http://www.rrfp.net/bat
There will be an interest meeting for prospective RRFP volunteers on Sunday, December 11th. Registration is required to attend https://www.facebook.com/events/1221792427895725/
Donations can be made through the organization’s website. https://rrfp.nationbuilder.com/monthly_funders
Tyler Hammel, Contributing Writer
Craig Zirpolo, Staff Photographer