Yesterday night was fantastic! Considering the rain, we had a great turnout of supporters of this new venture. Although our private balcony at Cafe Citron was lovely, it was loud. Therefore, we weren’t able to give our ten minute speech we prepared, but we promised to put it up on the blog.
“Thank you all for coming to today’s launch party. Holla Back DC is a website dedicated to highlighting street harassment in America’s capital by empowering Washingtonians to speak out against gender based public sexual harassment. We are a broad coalition effort of straight, gay, trans alliance of concerned citizens who are vulnerable due to their gender and/or apparent lack of gender on the streets, public transportation, and venues in the greater DC area.
“As you know, several things fall under the umbrella of gender based public sexual harassment, like vulgar remarks, heckling, insults, innuendo, stalking, leering, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of public humiliation. We are very excited to be part of the international, national, and local communities working on similar issues. We started Holla Back DC! because we were collecting stories from friends and family who were being harassed in DC. We saw there wasn’t a forum addressing these issues and giving a platform for people to share their every day stories of street harassment.
“I (Shannon) moved from Atlanta to DC to work in the women’s movement in 2007. I have worked on sexual harassment and assault issues for the last five years. For the last two years, I have been working on several grassroots initiatives that address sexual assault and through this recognized that street harassment is a huge but silent problem in DC and that there really was not a project in DC that specifically works to raise awareness on street harassment. Chai and I sat down in January of this year and started discussing the problem, contacted one of the founders of Holla Back NYC, and decided this was something we had to do. We are completely blown away by the both the success of the blog and the amount of community support we’ve received in just the last month, which speaks to the need of Holla Back DC. Our goal is to really build a movement of individuals invested in creating a community free of gender-based public sexual harassment.
“So, I (Chai) left NYC, where I was working for a politician on domestic violence—and broadly women’s issues. While in NYC, I authored a report on widespread nature of sexual harassment and assault on NYC subways, which garnered a lot of global, national, and city-wide attention. The report generated a transportation campaign in Boston and NYC to address this particular issue of harassment on the public transportation system. In that report, DC is one of the few places I modeled my recommendations on. After moving to DC, on my first WMATA Metro ride, man exposed his penis to me. When I acted like I didn’t take notice, he got up and moved to the next train car. I was paralyzed with anger and humiliation that I didn’t stand up. When I was ready to share, I realized that there was no outlet here for me to send my story, like there was in NYC. From relaying that incident to my DC friends, I found that several of them had been harassed on the streets, buses, and metro. Through pure luck, Shannon and I came together to work on several different projects related to sexual violence, and thought we could succeed in launching Holla Back DC!
“The website works through people submitting their stories to via email. However, with the help of our tech guruess, Nikki, we now have an online form on our site. And, we have a street harassment map where we will document where the harassment is occurring in DC. Both features went LIVE today!!
“We really can’t do this website without folks like you empowering yourself and others to not take street harassment lightly. Although for some of us it is normalized our daily interactions of walking to work or taking the metro to the Mall, it isn’t for all us and it shouldn’t be.
“This idea would only be an idea if it hadn’t been for the support of the following people:
Nikki Minard who helped with all things technical, like our form and map, and answering basic website questions.
Jason Muckle of Run a Muck graphics for designing our logo and event advertisement.
Marty Langelan, the activist who taught us to fight back against street harassment.
Holly Kearl for supporting us via Twittering, facebook…and in person!
Dienna for being a kick ass supporter and our PR person.
And for tonight, the small business owners of Rhonda Cupcakery, Creatuitive Coaching, Yong Studios, and Defend Yourself! along with Café Citron for the space.
And finally, we have to give it up to our partners for their continued support and love…
“Thank you for your continued dedication to Holler Back DC!, sending us encouraging notes and emails, and allowing us to guilt you into coming tonight. Now, on to the prizes!”