Men: You can do better. We want to help.

Last Monday, a 16-year-old Black girl from Ward 8 confronted her harassers — men who serve food in her community — and told them clearly, calmly, and repeatedly: “No matter what I’m wearing, I deserve to walk down the street without being harassed.” Their response? They contorted their faces in disbelief of the radical idea that women and girls deserve to feel safe in public spaces.

Blaming women for the harassment they experience while navigating public spaces is unacceptable. Yet, men continue to blame women — or their attitudes or their profession or their clothes — for their actions. We need to rethink this common refrain. We need to rethink masculinity.

Are you or someone you know ready to commit to working to construct a new understanding of masculinity? If so, apply by August 23rd to join the second cohort of Rethink Masculinity, which runs from mid-September to early November!

ReThink Masculinity, a partnership between Collective Action for SafeSpaces, ReThink, and DC Rape Crisis Center, is a consciousness building group, for and by men, to construct healthier masculinities.

The program is a two-month long consciousness building group focused on equipping men with the skills and community to rethink how they express their identity. Rethink Masculinity is committed to being intersectional, to centering queer and trans people, and to building a culture of accountability and trust. Applications are open to all men, regardless of assigned gender. People of color, queer and/or trans men, and DC natives are encouraged to apply.

Questions? Want to learn more? Join us for an informational happy hour next Monday at Nellies or email daniel@collectiveactiondc.org or stephen@collectiveactiondc.org.

Want to take action in solidarity with the girls harassed in Ward 8? Come out on August 23rd from 5-9pm for “Reclaiming My Body,” a speakout and food table where people can still get the food they need and feel safe.

to my mans:

Editor’s note: This is part of a series from our Rethink Masculinity program with ReThink and DC Rape Crisis Center. The author, Stephen Hicks, is co-director of the Rethink Masculinity program and stylistically decided to not use capitalization.

“young black males, like all boys in patriarchal culture, learn early that manhood is synonymous with the domination and control over others, that simply by being male they are in a position of authority that gives them the right to assert their will over others, to use coercion and/or violence to gain and maintain power” (c) bell hooks, we real cool

true indeed.

i guess this is a fine time to declare #NotAllMen or a similar tone at the outset, for painting with broad strokes may be inaccurate. for the moment, i choose not to. many of us — specifically cisgender, heterosexual black men — are in need of healing; however, the resources aren’t widely promoted or readily available or not started yet. in this void of healing, our toxic masculinity thrives, threatens, and tortures us. and without fail, this toxicity directly affects our partners, families, friends, and communities. our thirst for power has afflicted more than comforted.

black cishet (in twitter speak):

race, gender identity, and sexual orientation are important to name because each facet provides context to our dilemma. slavery was not an isolated incident and its legacy birthed many ills which we are grappling with today. i hope we continue to grapple with them and move to a space of reconciliation and healing. i, myself, am in need of healing and want to support others in their journeys. in the rethink masculinity course, i was compelled to re-examine and revisit what i’ve deemed as normal, default masculinity. it was mostly healthy (i guess, sorta. nah). yet, i also recognized and still recognize much of what is considered normal is still us settling for our own mediocrity. maybe the normal and default is still steeped in toxicity.

then i thought about normal, default masculinity within the black american experience. there are levels to this.

a possible conundrum: toxic masculinity won’t allow us to be labeled victims — violated by white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. and toxic masculinity won’t allow us to see how these systems have hurt us and how we’ve internalized this oppression and used it to hurt other black people: other cishet black men, black women, black queer folks, black trans* folks, and black children. our eagerness for some semblance of power has caused much damage and it’s high time we acknowledge this and make amends.

unhealthy and toxic masculinity within my black american experience has looked like:

  • my former colleague, a black queer man, not feeling comfortable in the barbershop because of the homophobic comments he’s heard when the shop is packed on saturday mornings.
  • my friend who was molested as a child not afforded the trust of his adult caretakers to believe him and to confront his abuser. instead, those adults dismissed my friend’s accusations and continue to heap praise on the abuser for being a model citizen
  • thinking and acting as if it’s okay for men to comment on people’s bodies and what sexual desires they have for them. Them, being perfect strangers on the street, in the office, or on the metro platform
  • my former partner being silenced by my need to hog up the space and my sense of entitlement that called for her to do my emotional labor
  • going to a church where the women do everything but can’t hold the title of key figurehead due to biblical interpretation
  • when my most urgent concern of the weekend is where the hoes at?
  • not speaking up when my friend uses the t-word in a group email

i don’t believe in a magical fix. this work of undoing toxic behavior will take time and may be a lifelong practice. we can start now. i think we are worth it. i believe we will move closer to healing by looking at our toxic masculinity.

i no longer assert myself as the know-it-all, but i want to offer some suggestions:

  • hold other black men accountable. as i often say, “he ain’t ya mans if he doesn’t say anything while you bask in mediocrity.”
  • be critical of rape culture and how you’ve operated in this paradigm.
  • read black women writers. black women have sustained the black american family and community and so often get relegated to second tier. i started with audre lorde and bell hooks and found myself reading all of the archived blogs on crunk feminist collective. some of the most hard-hitting thought leaders are on twitter and tumblr too.
  • read black queer writers. black queer writers and black women writers are not mutually exclusive identities. black queer folks live at so many intersections of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. there’s richness in delving into those many, many perspectives. check out janet mock, alice walker, and james baldwin.
  • contact Collective Action for Safe Spaces about their next cycle of rethink masculinity 8-week course. applications are now open for the fall 2017 session and close on august 23rd. if you’re out of the DMV area, look into similar programs in your area.

Join Us to #PassSHPA!

For far too many of us, street harassment is a fact of daily life. Street harassment, however, is more than just catcalling on the street. Someone might be targeted by a harasser for any number of reasons, including actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, and housing status. With a significant increase in hate violence in the District since Trump’s election — including white supremacist posters in Bloomingdale just last week — CASS is more committed than ever to addressing all types of street harassment in our city. That’s why we partnered with D.C. City Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau to introduce the Street Harassment Prevention Act of 2017

The Street Harassment Prevention Act, which we affectionately call SHPA, will broaden the definition of street harassment to include our most marginalized communities. And the SHPA will create mechanisms of data collection and training requirements to make sure that everyone’s experience of street harassment is recognized and addressed.

CASS and our partner organizations know that we need holistic solutions to the problem of street harassment that rely on community-based initiatives rather than law enforcement.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Tweet. Join CASS for a Twitter Town Hall on June 29th at 8 p.m. to discuss street harassment in DC and #PassSHPA.
  2. Organize. Before the Twitter Town Hall tonight, join CASS and CM Nadeau at Sudhouse at 6 p.m. to learn how you can plug in to advocacy work.
  3. Testify. Share your story of harassment with the DC Council on Wednesday, July 12th.
  4. Amplify. Join our Thunderclap to share your support of the SHPA. 
  5. Share all of the above with your friends!

This is the perfect opportunity to engage in local activism and protect your friends and neighbors. Let’s #PassSHPA!

We Did It! #DoMore24 Wrap-Up

Wow! Thanks to amazing supporters like you, we were able to #RaisetheBar! Because you gave, because you drank with us at happy hour, because you tweeted and took selfies, because you shared our campaign, Collective Action for Safe Spaces raised more than $9,500 through our #DoMore24 campaign to launch the Safe Bar Collective!

Your support will provide CJ, Kiki, Cassandra, and Maria with access to safe and supportive employment in our partner bars and restaurants this summer!

But our work is not done yet — there’s still so much we have to do to make bars a safe space for ALL, and here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate to the Safe Bar Collective. Missed the campaign but still want to support trans folks of color in DC? Give here!
  2. Patron our Safe Bars. The full list of all our trained bars can be found here.
  3. Share the Safe Bar Collective with your networks. We need everyone on board to make bars a safe space for all, especially trans folks of color. Share our campaign on Twitter and Facebook today!

Also, we need people to testify in support of the Street Harassment Prevention Act on Wednesday, July 12th.

Introduced in February, the Street Harassment Prevention Act is one of the first of its kind to establish a comprehensive framework to address street harassment in our community through non-criminal solutions.

Now we need YOU to share your stories of harassment in the District to show the Council how important this act is to community safety. Sign up to testify or submit written testimony here, and we’ll be in contact with resources and support!

From all of us at CASS, thank you.

Let’s Make DC Nightlife Safer for *Everyone* This #DoMore24

Trans people face tremendous hurdles — like wage inequity, lack of legal protections, and implicit bias — when it comes to securing stable unemployment. In DC alone, 36% of trans men and women have faced unemployment during their lives. But for Black trans people, this statistic increases significantly to a staggering 55%.

Chronic unemployment stemming from literal and figurative discrimination leads to housing instability, lack of health insurance, and poverty — all things that no person should have to face in one of the wealthiest cities in America.

With feedback from our widely popular Safe Bar program, CASS is stepping up our commitment to making bars safer for *everyone* with the new Safe Bar Collective!

If you haven’t heard already, the Safe Bar Collective will provide four trans people of color with access to safe and supportive employment in our partner bars and restaurants. By providing job training, hygiene kits, and transportation stipends, we aim to support people like Cassandra (who started transitioning after she moved to DC) and CJ (who was fired when he asked for sick time) not only get a job, but with the resources they need to keep it.

“I moved to DC because I wanted to be in a city where I could succeed and be myself,” says Cassandra. “I knew I could be myself here.” Cassandra’s job in the Safe Bar Collective will be her first job since she transitioned. Let’s show Cassandra the support she needs and deserves.

Safe Bar Collective can make real impact on real people’s lives, but we can’t do it without you. Today is #DoMore24, our 24-hour giving challenge. We need to raise $13,000 to launch the Safe Bar Collective and we hope you can help us reach our goal. Here’s what you can do:

Donate $48 — today only, your donations will be matched, which makes your $48 automatically $96! With this funding, we can supply our pilot program participants CJ, Kiki, Maria, and Cassandra with the resources and training they need to succeed!

Take a selfie — Tweet a selfie of yourself with this sign and some Tweet that says why you’re supporting our #DoMore24 campaign. Don’t forget to use the #RaisetheBar and #DoMore24 hashtags to help CASS win bonus cash from United Way, the organizers of #DoMore24.

Spread the word — Follow our campaign on social media today and spread the word with your friends, coworkers, paramours, and anyone else you know! Need some ideas to make your own posts? Check out our social media toolkit.

Let’s show Cassandra and CJ they support they need and deserve — and make DC safer for *everyone.*

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