I Won’t #TakeaKnee Until the Movement Against Police Brutality Centers Women of Color

Editor’s note: TW for domestic violence.

I’ve been hesitant to #TakeaKnee.

I am of course always inspired and energized by new advocates joining the movement for the first time. We all started somewhere. We are all on a journey. Our political analysis evolves over time with exposure, experience, and community accountability. I am grateful to Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee and for being outspoken about white supremacy and state violence. And I am grateful that NFL players are kneeling in solidarity.

But I’m tired of gendered violence taking a back seat.

Amid the headlines and national outrage this weekend, people seem to have forgotten — or conveniently erased — the experiences of Black women and women of color as victims and survivors of state violence. Because yes, state violence affects women of color, too. Today, Paris Knox is in court in Chicago, appealing her 40-year sentence for defending herself against her partner when he showed up at her home.

Police brutality doesn’t necessarily manifest the same way for women and femmes of color as it does for men. In many cases, women’s experiences with state violence are tied to their experiences with domestic violence. Fifty percent of women’s homicides are by a partner, and Black women have the highest intimate partner homicide rates. And yet in the cases when Black women fight to survive, they often face incarceration, perceived as having no selves to defend like Paris Knox and Bresha Meadows. Women are even held accountable for the violence of their abusers with “failure to protect” laws. In 2014, a Buzzfeed News investigation found 73 cases of mothers who were sentenced to 10 or more years in prison between 2004 and 2014; 38% of these mothers were domestic violence survivors. Just last year, Danielle Whyte was charged with manslaughter when her boyfriend strangled her infant son to death and then threatened to kill her if she called police.

With state violence against women of color so frequently tied to our experiences with domestic violence, it is difficult for me, as a woman of color and as a domestic violence survivor once jailed for self-defense, to kneel with NFL players, many of whom have been accused of domestic violence or sexual assault.

And the NFL’s gendered violence problem is surpassed still by law enforcement officers. Between 24 and 40 percent of police officer families have experienced domestic violence, up to four times as a high as the rate of the general population. Police sexual assault is also the second most common form of police brutality, with a police officer caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days, and this data doesn’t include the officers who never got caught. It also doesn’t include most incidents of police sexually assaulting sex workers, which in some states police assert is their right.

Too frequently, these narratives are missing from the larger conversation about police brutality, an omission that Andrea Ritchie works to highlight in her new book Invisible No More.

For women of color to be included, state violence and gendered violence must be tackled simultaneously.

When I think about the divisions in this movement, I also think about my own experience in an abusive relationship: how shocked I was when he hit me. It was surreal to me that this betrayal would come from someone so close to me — my own partner who I loved and shared a home with. I saw the barriers he was facing to becoming sober and nonviolent, and I was invested in his progress: I believed that his success was my success was our success. He always made me believe that he was fighting for me, for us. I believed that we were in that fight together.

I spent years focusing on his needs, believing that if we could solve the problems that he was facing then eventually that work would pay off and end his violence against me. But instead it kept getting worse, as abusive relationships often do. The violence escalated, and I could have lost my life in that relationship.

Too often, anti-violence movements feel like abusive relationships themselves. Black women and women of color are consistently asked and expected to fall in line. We are told that we must prioritize the needs of Black men in the movement against state violence and the needs of white women in the movement against gendered violence. We are shamed, silenced, and gaslighted when we ask if our needs will also be addressed and included in this fight. We are called “divisive” for asking to be included.

I’m hesitant to put my life on the line again for men who tell me that we’re in this fight toward liberation together when we’re not.

It should not take away from your needs to also acknowledge my needs. If you can’t say that my needs are just as important as yours, if you don’t speak out against gendered state violence, if you believe that somehow seeing and speaking up about my needs takes away from your cause or your movement, then you’ve already thrown me under the bus to drive forward without me.

And I’m tired of fighting for men who aren’t fighting for me.

If you believe that this message is divisive, that it takes away somehow from the masses who connected to Kaepernick, remember that you are dividing two issues and two movements that for me are completely intertwined.

Image credit: loveandprotect.org

Help Us Staff Up!

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Our team here at CASS gets a lot done: we’ve posted ads across DC’s public transit system to address sexual harassment, and we’ve built partnerships with nearly 40 local bars and restaurants working to prevent sexual and hate-based violence.

None of this would be possible without the help of our more than 30 volunteers…buuut this team is still only staffed by one full-time paid queer woman of color and one part-time trans woman of color.

In an era when protecting each other takes on new urgency, we need your help to ensure CASS’s work survives — and thrives.

We need to staff up to sustain this work; that’s where you come in! You can help sustain our work — and become a proud member of our Collective Action Circle — with a monthly gift of $15!

Your monthly gift will help us budget for a new staff position in October, so we can invest greater resources in awesome programs like the Safe Bar Collective. Boosted staff capacity will also help us apply for more grants, so we don’t have to keep coming back to generous donors like you every time.

Need more reasons to give? Check out why these recent additions to our Collective Action Circle decided to join:

“I decided to support CASS financially because I am incredibly excited by the groundbreaking work they are doing here in DC. From the Safe Bar Collective, to the Street Harassment Prevention Act, to Rethink Masculinity, to the best happy hour fundraisers around, CASS is working tirelessly to build a community of safety that actively resists sexism, racism, transphobia, and so much more . Resistance is a bit of a buzzword right now, but I chose to support CASS because they embody what resistance looks like and they also show me what is possible for us to accomplish together. I also feel like it’s important for me, as a man, to put my resources behind a community like CASS. I’ve benefited immensely from the countless hours of unpaid emotional support I have received in my lifetime and this is one of many ways I can honor my mom, my sister, my friends, and my co-workers.”  — Daniel D.

“Everyone deserves to exist safely in public spaces and to be respected in those spaces. But not everyone can, because of persistent imbalances in power that enable harassment and violence. As a donor, few groups besides CASS are addressing these imbalances in such a holistic way, and in the every day places where they play out: in parks, restaurants, public transit. This work is crucial, and it doesn’t have an end date—it’s lifelong. CASS needs to be able to plan, budget and build capacity for that. Sustaining donors make that possible.” Melissa Y.

P.S. Plus, if you become a monthly donor of $15 or more by September 22nd and we’ll thank you with a small gift!

Sustain the Resistance!

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CASS has made a big impact over the past five years. We’ve been working to create a DC where the seemingly impossible is possible: where bartenders readily intervene to stop harassers, where men teach each other the importance of emotional labor, where communities create safety for each other.

But did you know that we’re operating with only 1.5 staff members?! We’ve been grateful to have the amazing support of the DC community, which has tripled our budget in the past two years, and now we’re able to invest in another full-time staff position.

We’re kicking off our September campaign, and we need your DOLLARS. Your $15 a month ensures that we have the budget to keep up our radical organizing for safe spaces. That includes advocacy to pass legislation supporting those with intersecting identities, organizing to #FreeGiGi from state violence, and building safety in nightlife with training for bar staff and supportive employment for trans bartenders.

If you join our Collective Action Circle of loyal supporters by September 22nd, we’ll give you a small token of our appreciation! For:

$15/month: You’ll receive a sticker and 5 cards against harassment.
$30/month: You’ll receive the above, and you’ll be able to nominate one bar for a free Safe Bar Collective training.
$50/month: You’ll receive all of the above and receive free admission to our annual gala.
$75/month: You’ll receive all of the above and we’ll provide you and your organization with a free bystander intervention training.

Questions? Contact our Development Director Michela Masson at michela@collectiveactiondc.org.

Black women and girls speak out against street harassment following attack in Southwest DC

Tonight women from Ward 8 will organize Reclaiming Our Bodies, a food table and speakout to tell their community that women and girls deserve to feel safe from harassment in public spaces. Organized in response to an incident where a 16-year-old girl was harassed, followed, and threatened at a monthly food table in Ward 8, the speakout will give community members an opportunity to share their personal experiences with harassment and demonstrate support for non-criminal, community-based solutions to street harassment on a citywide level.

“Society will try to make women and girls believe that it is normal to be harassed in the street by men. We are told to cover up, watch where we go, watch what we do, and not be comfortable in our own skin. On the 23rd, we say NO to this culture,” said Schyla Pondexter-Moore, organizer of the speakout and mother of the attacked teen. “We have a right to wear what we want! We shouldn’t be telling women and girls to not get raped and harassed. We need to tell men not to rape and harass.”

According to a 2014 study by Stop Street Harassment, 65% of women will experience street harassment, a problem that disproportionately impacts women of color and LGBTQGNC people. Another study by the Black Women’s Blueprint shows that 60% of Black girls will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18, and a 2017 CDC report showed that Black women are twice as likely to be murdered than women of any other racial identity.

In D.C., pending legislation entitled the Street Harassment Prevention Act seeks to address gendered violence using a three-pronged approach, including citywide data collection, an awareness campaign offering support and resources to those targeted, and training for government employees on how to prevent and interrupt incidents of harassment. The bill will help to prevent incidents of violence against women with a non-punitive, non-criminal approach.

Press is invited to attend the speakout, which will take place at 3900 South Capitol Street Southwest on Wednesday, August 23rd from 5 to 9 PM.

Hate and Violence Will Not Be Tolerated in Our Community. 

Here at CASS, we’re all still reeling from the blatant racist events led by white supremacists last weekend in Charlottesville. We took to the streets last night in DC to show that hate and violence will not be tolerated.


We *all* deserve to feel safe — white supremacy and terrorism have no place here, Charlottesville, or anywhere. But just yesterday in our own DC community, a man with a swastika tattoo harassed people at the Ramsey pool in Eastern Market and called a young Black lifeguard the n-word.

With the significant increase in hate violence in the District since Trump’s election — including white supremacist posters in Bloomingdale, it’s critical that we speak out against hate, but also stay strong and take care of ourselves.

Don’t forget to:

  1. Hydrate.
  2. Surround yourself with supportive people and loved ones.
  3. Unplug. It’s important to stay vigilant with the news, but it’s also important to step away from the AP alerts sometimes.
  4. Sleep.
  5. Breathe.

Together, we believe we can create a community that is safe for *everyone.*

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