A Goodbye Message from CASS’s co-founder, Chai Shenoy!

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At this year’s Lights, Camera, CollectiveAction, I looked around the event venue. In that room was a world that felt true to me: inter-generational, racially & ethnically diverse, women/men/3rdgender, artists, lawyers, start-up geeks, and multi-lingual folks all gathering together. I saw my friends and family. I saw strangers with warm smiles. I saw acquaintances that I only see at LCCA. And, I knew then, as I know now, that Collective Action for Safe Spaces has a mission that affects all.

I’m honored to have spent the last 6+ years creating a space where our community can talk about public sexual harassment and assault. I started this organization because someone exposed himself to me on the Metro (Red line going from Silver Spring to Takoma) and it made me angry. That anger shifted into action and the birth of an online forum.

wmata sexual harassment dc metro3The organization has truly sprouted now.  We’ve worked to get bars and restaurants to be part of the anti-sexual assault movement; met with the Metropolitan Police Department to review their trainings for cadets;kicked it with youth from different youth-serving organizations and high schools; and generally spoken up and spoken out with wheatpastes, at rallies and bike rides. Who knew that 6 years later, on the Metro line where a man exposed himself to me, I would look up to see an ad by WMATA with CASS’s logo on it that addresses harassment. Best of all, through a partnership with Zipcar, we’ve created a free, alternative transportation option for women and LGBTQ individuals called RightRides DC. collective action for safe spaces street harassment dcIt’s been so exciting to watch this growth. We hired our first and only full time staff member two years ago — Executive Director Zosia Sztykowski — and brought on a team of passionate, committed volunteers. Less than a year ago, we hired a part time Fellow to help us launch RightRides DC. These young women are poised to continue their work to nurture CASS into even greater impact and sustainability. We’re still growing — and yet we remain incredibly indebted to our generous donors and volunteers who make everything we do possible.

Yes, we did this. Not me. Not you. But we.

As I leave to pursue more time with my family and other dreams, I am so grateful to you. Thank you for helping CASS become something. Thanks for believing that a city can thrive without public sexual harassment and assault. And through that, thanks for believing in me.

With bows of gratitude and solidarity,
Chai Shenoy
Collective Action for Safe Spaces