Boosting Our Capacity and Embracing New Directions

If you hadn’t noticed yet, CASS jumped full speed into a new direction last year, centering the experiences of queer and trans people of color and finding ways to ensure that all of our programming addresses not only incidents of harassment, but its root causes.

Recognizing the ways that state violence and gendered violence intersect, we released a factsheet and continue to cite this research in our work. We also partnered with Muslim-led groups and allies to form the DC Justice for Muslims Coalition to organize against state violence, and we’re working to identify opportunities for marginalized trans women of color to access supportive employment — potentially in bars and restaurants that we’ve already trained to build safe environments.

Now, I’m thrilled to announce some changes in our Board leadership with new directors who are excited to help us strengthen our commitment to intersectionality:

alicia sanchez gill:
alicia joins CASS’s Board after years of watching CASS grow and change. She currently works toward gender and racial equity as the director of research and program evaluation for YWCA USA where her work focuses on the experiences of women and girls of color. Among other things, alicia has managed crisis services at the DC Rape Crisis Center, volunteered on the outreach van at HIPS, and done grassroots grantmaking with the Diverse City Fund.

alicia is excited to join CASS in this moment as we’re bringing greater attention to the way that gendered harassment intersects with police harassment, and as we work to improve and measure the impact of our programs — we’re excited to have her expertise on our team.

“CASS, in its intention, has always meant to support and highlight the unique ways that femmes of color experience street harassment. I’m excited about CASS’s commitment to queer and trans folks of color,” said alicia. “Our experiences cannot be an afterthought.”

Cecilia Dos Santos:
Cecilia has been a volunteer on CASS’s workshops team for two years, facilitating trainings on responding to harassment and expanding our outreach efforts to the youth in her programs at the Latin American Youth Center. “I wanted to ensure that CASS was specifically reaching Spanish speaking audiences, immigrants, and young people,” said Cecilia.

Two years and many workshops later, Cecilia joins our Board of Directors with enthusiasm for CASS’s new direction. “I want to see CASS’s work move forward with raising awareness, changing behaviors, and building communities free from street harassment through a gendered and anti-racist lens.”


Emily Torruellas:
If you’re on our email list, you’ve been getting emails from Emmy already. For the second year in a row, she’s organizing our annual gala (have you bought your tickets?!), and she’s bringing her event planning and fundraising experience to the team.

In her role as a Major Gifts Officer at local poverty relief agency Bread for the City, she manages relationships with major donors and researches new funding sources. We’re eager to bring her new ideas to the table as we work to diversify our funding streams and make CASS’s work more sustainable.

And she’s personally invested in the cause: “I’ve been all too familiar with street harassment since I was in elementary school, and never knew how to address it or defend myself. When I first heard about CASS, I was thrilled to learn that there was a group of people out there trying to make our city safer for everyone, regardless of race, gender identity, or socioeconomic status.”

Welcome, new Board members! We’re so thrilled to have you as part of the CASS family under the new leadership of our fabulous Board Chair, Elizabeth Hague!

Liz joined CASS’s Board one year ago after volunteering with our fundraising and outreach efforts. Lawyer by day and accessibility advocate by night, Liz has pushed CASS to better incorporate the disability lens into our organizing and programming. “I bring a different perspective to the conversation on intersectionality,” said Liz, and she’s consistently proven this to be true.

When we discuss data that shows that black people are three times as likely to be killed as white people, Liz shares additional data showing that 50% of police brutality victims are people with disabilities. We’re grateful for her voice, her service, and her leadership on CASS’s Board!




Meet all of these fabulous new Board members and more awesome humans this Thursday at CASS’s annual party extravaganza, Safe Space Jam.

Local Breweries and Distilleries Stepping Up as Safe Bars

We are just two weeks away from our Safe Space Jam and we have a lot to celebrate this year! We’ve trained 27 Safe Bars, facilitated over 40 workshops, and launched a new program called Rethinking Masculinity. What a year!

Last week, we sat down with two awesome individuals who brought our Safe Bars program to their bars. The program trains and empowers staff at alcohol-serving establishments to recognize and respond to sexual harassment and assault.

Brandy Holder from New Columbia Distillers and Lizzie from DC Brau shared their experiences with the program with us—and why they think Safe Bars is a vital program for their communities.

Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS): How did you get involved with the Safe Bars program?

Brandy Holder (New Columbia Distillers): I thought it was important for our distillery to initiate the training and to become a safe bar. Personally, I have been an advocate of CASS for a few years, and when the distillery received the email a couple of years back to donate to its annual fundraiser, I was the person to set that into motion from the distillery’s standpoint. Since then, I have wanted to keep up-to-date with the organization and try to be a part of it in some way.

CASS: Why was it important for you and the staff at the distillery to take this course?

Lizzie Palumbo (DC Brau): I felt it was important for my team to receive this training because many of them haven’t worked in the service industry before and didn’t have experience in dealing with problematic customer behaviors.

BH: The drive for me wanting to establish New Columbia Distillers as a safe bar was to make Ivy City known as a safe space and to experience the training with not only our distillery crew, but the majority of Ivy City alcohol-makers. New Columbia Distillery has never had any incident of harassment, assault, or any unsafe behavior from any of our patrons and we have been very fortunate with this. Our limited hours and use of space in our distillery definitely works to our advantage for combating that. But personally, as a woman, I experience sexual harassment/catcalling daily and it is disgraceful and uncomfortable.

When I can see an opportunity to make men (and people in general) aware of how much it actually happens, I try to show them. This training was a great way to gather some of the men from not only our distillery, but the other businesses as well, and have everyone talk about it, raise awareness, and learn new ways to notice signs and take action when we see something happening.

Safe Bars training at DC Brau


CASS: Brandy, you were able to bring a few other companies together for the training as well. What was that experience like?

BH: I was happy to coordinate and bring together One Eight, Jos A. Magnus, Republic Restoratives, and Atlas BrewWorks together for this training. I find it an honor that our industry folks — the people who are making the booze that you drink and who run the establishments in which you imbibe and have fun — want nothing but the best for their patrons. And the best means safe, welcoming, and inclusive attitudes and businesses. 

CASS: What outcomes did you see as a result of the program?

BH: I am very fortunate to have wonderful co-workers and the knowledge that all the other distillery/brewery crew are on the same side and will all work together. As a mixed group, we were able to have a great discussion and share our experiences with each other. Some even admitted that stepping up to harassment was harder for them because they do not handle confrontation well, but the training gave us many different ways of handling it, which I think was helpful to everyone. We learned so different ways to intervene: take folks out of the situation without being obvious, and know when to take it to the next step. The training allowed folks to stop and think about it and bring awareness to situations to which they may have previously not given any more than just a fleeting thought. 

Ivy City safe bars training
Ivy City distilleries training


LP: The training was really useful in establishing what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. It also was a great way to get everyone on the same page as far as how to handle difficult situations that may arise.

Several members of my team have let me know that they have already successfully implemented strategies they learned in the training. I think we all felt empowered by the class. We strive to make DC Brau a safe and inclusive space for everyone who visits, and the Safe Bars training and certification really drives that point home. Being a certified safe bar is a big point of pride for everyone in our company.

Both New Columbia Distillery and DC Brau will be helping to stock the open bar at the Safe Space Jam, and New Columbia is providing a gift basket for the silent auction, too!

We’ll be awarding the BARstander of the Year award at our annual event. Vote for the Safe Bar you think is doing the most to cultivate a safe environment, and get your tickets today!

Editor’s Note: These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Why You Should Get Your Ticket for Safe Space Jam Right. Now.

Our annual celebration is on Thursday, April 27th and oh, are we pumped! We’re pulling out all the stops: beers from DC Brau, gin from Green Hat, noms from Corcoran Catering and Insomnia Cookies and more! We’ll also have a bunch of fun activities including a photobooth and a silent auction with offerings from awesome local businesses — as well as author Roxane Gay! We’ll even have a mini bystander intervention training (it’ll be fun, we promise).

We have a new awesome name for our gala and some surprises in store, but the cause is the same: supporting work to make our fine city safer and more accessible for *everyone.* We worked hard in 2016 to build a better DC for all — and this is an especially important year for us to double down on our efforts to create communities rooted in dignity, respect, and justice.

We’re so grateful to the supportive organizations that have contributed to make this event great, including The Bird, Compass Coffee, Dan Carter Yoga, District Karaoke, Freed Bodyworks, Julie Ann Art, Potter’s House, [solidcore], SoulCycle, Summit to Soul, Tabletop, the Washington Nationals, Woolly Mammoth, Yoga District, Zengo Cycle, and more!

Still not totally convinced why you need to stop everything and get a ticket right now? Here are some reasons why folks are PUMPED to attend this year.

  1. “Every year, it is an uplifting experience to know that you are not alone. To know that people care and want to change society.”
  2. “The best part of our annual party is getting to meet interesting, passionate people from our community who support CASS. Oh, and the open bar.”
  3. “Somehow I consistently wind up in these awesome conversations where I’m one of the last to leave.”
  4. “The open bar speaks for itself, but my favorite part of the annual gala is the silent auction. Outbidding friends and snagging cool stuff from local businesses, all while supporting CASS with a drink in your hand — what’s not to love?”
  5. “I’m super excited to land a bunch of cool stuff at the silent auction – like spin classes, massages and theatre tickets, going 100% to a good cause!”
  6. “I’m excited for the photo booth. Obviously. Facebook memories reminded me of photos from the CASS gala I attended back in 2013 and I took photos with new friends. Realizing those friendships have totally blossomed over the past few years with our shared passion for safe spaces? Priceless.”
  7. “The massage chair last year was a wonderful addition for activists because we often forget to prioritize self-care.”

Excited?! Get your tickets now!

See you April 27th!