“Do not go gently into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
– Dylan Thomas
Flyer created by Rachael (@alsorae)
“Mommy, how come I can’t go with you to the rally?” my son, Garvey, tearfully asked as he said in the back of his father’s car. I’d just explained that it might not be safe for him to come with me, given the country’s sociopolitical climate during his moment of askance.
“It’s not safe,” his father reiterated. “Let mommy do what she has to do.”
“Baby, please know I’m doing this for you,” I told him, trying to reassure him that everything would be OK and that mommy just had some work to do. He continued to cry, and I believe he understood as much as his 7 year-old mind would allow him to process in the moment of “I want my mommy.”
In recent months, there have been entirely too many accounts of police officers in cities around the country using excessive force against civilians in ways that have led to severe abuse and even death. The stories of Eric Garner, Pearlie Golden, John Crawford, Marlene Pinnock, Denise Stewart, and 18 year-old Michael Brown have ravaged our hearts and stirred our souls.
We are tired of living in this police state where human rights and due process are tossed out of the window by people employed to protect and serve us.
I’m a social worker. I wanted to help. As tensions rose and ideas began circulating, I was prompted to call for a National Moment of Silence. Read about how it came to be here. Special thanks to Larry Stafford, Jr. and Scott Roberts of Freedom Side (@FreedomSide), Rachael (@alsorae), and the over 100 organizers around the country who held vigils with as few as 5 people to as many as 2,000+.
Flyer created by Rachael (@alsorae)
Want to know what happened? With the help of volunteers (Laura, Anastacia, Amanda, Jay, and D.A.), I’ve compiled a list of over 100 news sources documenting the ways in which we, the American people, made history. Here is a downloadable list with hyperlinks embedded.
You can also go to Twitter and search “#NMOS14″ for more information and firsthand accounts of what happened. Despite attempts by “Anonymous” to co-opt the efforts and turn a Moment of Silence into a Day of Rage, the overwhelming majority of vigils remained peaceful and focused on expressing themselves and answering the call to service and to DO more in their communities. This was merely the first step in a long healing and community-building process.
Don’t forget to check out #NMOS14 on Instagram for over 10,000 photos from over 100 vigils in over 40 states.
It cannot be said that this is something “new” I’m taking on. This has been an issue I’ve been very passionate ever since a young college student in Washington D.C. was shot for not giving out her phone number. Soray Chemaly has a fantastic article about several incidents that made news where women were severely injured or killed because of street harassment, if you’re interested in reading more about how damaging this can be.
So one day I shared this story about how I intervened when a young mother was being harassed on the street. During this conversation, I called on everyone to just try it once…try to intervene when someone is being harassed, but in a way that won’t exacerbate the situation. @BlackGirlDanger on Twitter hashtagged my question “You ok, sis?” and so this discussion and movement came about.
Image courtesy of Terrell Starr via NewsOne.com
This isn’t the first time SH has been addressed.Stop Telling Women to Smile is a fantastic art-as-resistence project by #Nerdland foot soldier, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. She has been bringing awareness to this phenomenon and her art is being showcased around the globe. International Street Harassment Week is a real thing. Stop Street Harassment and Holla Back! have been fighting against SH for years now, each taking their own approaches and focusing on different issues. SSH conducted a national study on SH, the first of its kind, and the reports were indicative of what we’ve always known– most women have experienced SH and quite a few men have as well. I critiqued the study because I felt that it didn’t capture the experiences of the people I feel are most vulnerable to the harshest types of SH– Black women (cis and trans). I’m also coming from a sociology/social work/ research background so the methodology was terribly flawed, IMO. I get that it was a population study, but having more men in the study than women really startled me. Nevertheless, SSH has been doing a great job of documenting resistence to SH around the globe and it is worth looking through their archives and reading about how victims in various countries are fighting back.
Street harassment is a global problem. Period.
But this time, I wanted to center the experiences of ALL Black women and discuss how our experiences are oftentimes very different from what others go through. In tweeting about it, Terrell Starr from NewsOne decided he wanted to cover the story and make a video. This really helped take the discussion to a broader platform, but also opened it to attacks. I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about the trolling because 1. it’s been covered in a number of pieces and 2. it isn’t worth the attention. Simply put: a man seeking to promote his latest movie and make money off of the marks that blindly follow him generated a bunch of false equivalencies and lies to have a controversy to get attention and market his products. The charlatan tried it. Failed, but tried it. His mindless minions are still trolling the hashtag, but when you hate Black women (and are stunted in the areas of intelligence, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning), it’s hard to resist opportunities to attack and abuse women with the most ridiculous and illogical statements imaginable. So be it. *shrug* (Warning: A lot of the trolling contains really harsh racial slurs, sexist slurs, and is loaded with disgusting misogyny. Avoid if possible)
Here are some of the resources that I believe are essential to understanding what #YouOKSis is about. I hope they can help you out.
The video as it appears on Upworthy, which was a huge signal boost, thanks to Erica William Simon. This invited a lot more people to the conversation and spread awareness of how we can all do more for each other, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual identity, or class.
The Compilation of Tweets From the Actual #YouOKSis Chat (courtesy of Trudy from GradientLair.com). She also adds other informative links, particularly to her own writing about it. This includes how we define street harassment, the types of exderpiences we have had, and some solutions on how to safely intervene as bystanders.
My interview with The Atlantic on the genesis of #YouOKSis and why we need to center Black women’s voices.
Article on amNY that highlights #YouOKSis as an important anti-SH campaign
As more come to my attention, I will share more resources.
Overall, we’ve received super positive feedback and support from people who feel like they now have a better idea of how they can help people who are victims of SH. Many people said they were unsure of what to do or if they could do anything but now they feel empowered to do more. That’s all I wanted, really. Come up with solutions and give Black women the opportunity to share THEIR stories. The tag is universal and everyone can weigh in. We welcome the support and want to continue to build with other movements to fight street harassment.
Added 7/24/14: One of my followers put me onto this song “Notice” by an artist named Deniro Farrar. He addresses street harassment and the challenges Black women face day in and day out. I thought it added context to this discussion.
Black men are often vilified as being perpetually absent in their children’s lives. People use statistics about Black children being born out-of-wedlock and/or being raised in homes with only one parent living there (usually the mother) to suggest that Black men are, by default, absent fathers.
This is a narrative we need to change because it is simply not true.
The truth is, the Black Family structure has faced unique challenges ever since Africans were kidnapped, traded, and sold into American slavery. Slavery forced Black people to adapt to new family structures and create family in the best ways they could. Yes, there has been a lot of pain and hurt– there’s absolutely no denying that. We also cannot deny that the measures used to critique our families often vilify both Black fathers and Black mothers.
I want to do something to help.
I’m creating “Don’t Believe The Absentee Hype” as a photo essay on Tumblr, a work-in-progress. As I did with Men In Suits and The Hoodie Revolution, I hope to project positive images of Black manhood, through the lens of someone who adores them greatly. I hope to encourage more support and understanding of the challenges facing Black fathers and use their images to change the narrative.
I need your help. My ex-husband and our son, Garvey
While I plan to capture my own photos, I cannot be everywhere at once. I would LOVE to receive photo submissions of Black men with their children. It can be you, your brother, your husband, your son, your father, your best friend.
Photos should be Hi-Res (No Instagram photos. No filters)
Include the Father’s first name, age, and the children’s first names and ages. If you’re uncomfortable revealing the children’s names, you can provide initials.
I had the honor of being invited to participate in this wonderful show with Issa Rae, Rene Syler, and Erin Jackson (with other guests Tracey Ellis Ross, Sahar Simmons, and Kimberle Crenshaw). It was a wonderful discussion and I’m so glad to bring the message of sex-positive feminism to the entire country.
I hope you enjoy!
Video was recorded by me, but all rights are reserved by Aspire Network and Exhale TV show
Check out official promo clips ONE and TWO courtesy of Exhale TV Show and Aspire Network
I don’t want to hear another person say that suicide is “selfish”.
I am absolutely fed up and done with this idea that because someone took his or her own life, that someone acted selfishly and without consideration of the feelings of others and the impact such an act would have on the lives of others. Many of us were heartbroken after learning that Karyn Washington, blogger and founder of For Brown Girls, passed away in what appears to have been suicide. Those who were close acknowledged that she battled depression and was having some personal struggles. None of us will ever truly know what pain she was in, however, and that is why no one should refer to what she did as “selfish”. As a Black woman, I understand a lot of the unique burdens that we bear and have had to carry for generations. I have written about how we absorb so much pain, silently, because we’re expected to be “strong” and to endure everything and be the sources of strength for everyone.
I’m participating in the Good Neighbor Walk to help raise money for formerly homeless people living in NYC.
Every single dollar raised during this walk will go toward providing services for people working on achieving their hopes and dreams as they remain on the path to recovery. This agency provides safe, affordable housing, on-site services by experienced social service workers, psychiatric and nursing services, community engagement support, art therapy, pet therapy, and a host of other supportive services.
Celebrating our 40th episode with special guest Felonious Monk
Family Dollar Pregnancy Tests
The Consequences of Sending Unsolicited Nudes
The Worst Things Data Says About Sex
Men’s Role in Sexual Liberation
and How and When Do You Express You Kink
We’re also seeking a NEW THEME SONG!!
We’re offering a $250 gift card to any independent artist who can make us a 90 second introduction theme. We’re seeking sex-positive lyrics, sexy music, and we welcome ALL types of artists. We especially would love women, LGBTQ, and people of color to submit their work.
Please complete THIS FORM and follow the directions to submit your work now!
Submissions must be in by October 31, 2014 11:59pm EST
Here is my workshop on Sex Positive Messages in 40 Years of Hip-Hop Culture. It’s highly interactive and I had a really fun time. It was standing room only, which was pretty awesome. I was honored to be able to present at the Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit this year
I like to use my blog to show love and support to women who making moves and building businesses that focus on challenging and changing narratives. I was on Twitter one day and saw someone tweet about “We Read Too!” app, developed by a young Black woman with a mission to showcase the diversity in literature. I was so happy to see this that I reached out to her and offered to feature it on this blog. This is an amazing idea and I truly hope all of my readers support!
Via email, Kaya Thomas shared the following with me:
I’ve always loved reading. I would grab any and every book I could get my hands on. I loved getting books as gifts and visiting Barnes & Nobles was like a trip to heaven. As the years went by I realized that none of the protagonists in the books I was finding were like me. Every time a character was described with ‘blonde hair’ or ‘blue-eyes’ or ‘pale skin’ I would feel so disappointed, but I continued to read these books because they were in the popular displays and on the ‘Best Seller Lists’. By the time I got to high school I was completely fed up so I came up with the idea for We Read Too. I wanted to create an app that showcased all the wonderful books written by people of color that weren’t getting any spotlight in book store displays or popular online book lists. At the time I just didn’t know where to start. Fast forward of , I am now a college student studying computer science because I want to gain the technical skills to create what I see a need for in my community. This summer I worked extremely hard to bring my idea for We Read Too to life. After months of finding all the books, building and designing the application, it is finally available for free in the iTunes Store.
I designed the app icon after myself when I was a little girl. It is so important to me that kids and teenagers of color feel more represented in the world around them. I hope this app can play a part in helping kids of color feel more represented.
We Read Too currently showcases over 300 Children’s and YA books written by people of color featuring characters of color.
You can browse, search, view the details of every book, as well as suggest books that should be added to the application. I hope that with the suggestions feature the app will continually grow as a resource. I want to expand the genres and books the app includes with the help of you, the user! You can download the app here http://bit.ly/1mUfe2F! Follow on Twitter @WeReadTooApp and like the Facebook page at facebook.com/WeReadTooApp for updates and various posts related to the importance of diverse literature. You can follow me, the creator of We Read Too, Kaya Thomas, on twitter @kthomas901 and find out more about me and my work at kmt901.github.io.
I’m offered asked to appear on shows, give interviews, opine on issues, and such. I cannot do everything, so I occasionally have to decline. Most people are gracious and understanding of the demands on my times. There are times, however, when some people simply cannot accept “No” for an answer.
I’m posting this because I’m calling attention to the ways that some of us are often treated online and in person. When I talk about #YouOKSis and street harassment, it applies to online harassment, work harassment, etc.– any place where the motivation behind the aggressors words and actions is the inability to accept “No” for an answer.
I’m tired of this and it happens so often that I’m completely disgusted by the inability to respect my personal boundaries and those of SO many women.
Here’s one example of how one man simply cannot accept “No” from me and attempts to goad me into doing what he asked by guilting me with fictive racial kinship. He HAD to have the last word. This shit is disrespectful and abusive and it happens so often, to so many women.
——– Original message ——–
Date:08/07/2014 3:07 PM (GMT-05:00)
Subject: Greetings, Introduction, Proposal
Hello Ms. Jones, Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is O—-, and I am a Black male blogger specializing on Sexual Politics issues from the male side of the ball, so to speak. I’m from Philly, and in a previous life was a union card carrying Blue Collar Brotha. After my career ended some years ago, I traded in my union card for a keyboard – and never looked back.
I’ve been around the block – my handiwork can be seen in places such the Good Men Project, the Spearhead, the Urban Politico, and I’m known to hangout at a place called Very Smart Brothas. I started a small personal blog called The Obsidian Files some years back, and more recently, I cofounded the Men’s Issues blog collective known as Just Four Guys.
I’ve known about you for sometime, and as your name keeps coming up on my radar screen, I felt that at some point we should chat – we seem to have both a good bit in common, and at the same time have so much that is not. I thought it would be a good idea to see if it was possible if we could talk a bit with a view toward an interview if you’re so inclined.
Something tells me that like me, you too are interested in the kinds of issues that, until now, have really been in the realm of White Folk Who Matter(TM) – you know what I mean, the HuffPo/Salon/Atlantic crowd – and that, like me, you want to move the ball over the Black side of things. That’s good!–and much needed discussion and debate should ensue. For there is much to discuss, and indeed debate.
I’ve listened to a bit of your podcasts and have read a goodly bit about your blog, as well as kept a bit abreast of your activities with the MSM; I’m afraid I’m a bit more underground, but I try to keep up with things. Very interesting, and at times, a bit controversial stuff you’ve been putting out. Perhaps you may think the same (or worse!) of my own papertrail.
At any rate, please let me know if you’re interested in chopping it up a bit further; it ain’t often that we Black social media types get to bust it up because let’s face it, there ain’t that many of us to begin with, right? Even if we wind up disagreeing – and something tells me we’re quite likely to do a bit of it before it’s said and done – that’s no reason not to even talk to each other. After all, White folk do it all the time.
Looking forward to hearing back from you. I gotta admit, you are quite impressive.
Thank you for the elaborate email and compliments. I respectfully decline your invitation, but certainly wish you the best in your endeavors.
Sent on a Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® III
On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 10:23 AM, O—- <[email withheld]> wrote:
Good morning Ms. Jones,
Replies as follows:
“Thank you for the elaborate email and compliments.”
O: Oh, not at all! The pleasure is all mine.
“I respectfully decline your invitation, but certainly wish you the best in your endeavors.”
O: Thank you! I accept.
As a parting shot, you should be advised that at J4G right now is a recent conversation I had with Ms. Lindsey, who runs the website “Cards Against Harassment”:
I bring this to your attention because your name came up over the course of our conversation; as I said before, your name keeps coming up on my radar of late.
As I said to Ms. Lindsey, and as I think it important for you to know, I find it equal parts interesting and deeply ironic, that “Sista Feminists” such as yourself are so unwilling to even talk to the very people so many of you hold out as “offenders”, yet seem more than eager to talk to anyone in the Cathedral who will lend a sympathetic ear – you know, the Atlantic, XOJane, and so forth. While they certainly feel good and grant laurels, they do nothing in terms of actual change, which is what so many on your side of the aisle claim to want. Meanwhile, while Ms. Lindsey and others like her (read: White Feminists) and I don’t have any love lost, she/they are at the very least willing to, to some extent, talk.
Amid the clamor that passes for “conversation” in our time when it comes to concerns such as Sexual Politics, one voice that is curiously absent is the Brotha on the Block – the working class guys who are so often talked about, usually in wholly unflattering ways, but rarely if ever actually talked to – it is why I started blogging to begin with. Getting up in the MSM and crying on the shoulders of Good Black Men(TM), again, while gratifying to some extent, won’t make much of a difference in the overall scheme of things; talking to guys like me on the hand, will. Of course, guys like me have quite a bit to say – and quite a few questions of our own to ask.
I declined because of the response you just sent. You’re accusatory and attempting to guilt me into some fictive kinship obligatory engagement.
My first mainstream column was for a BLACK publication, Ebony magazine. I provided over 60 articles of content to that BLACK organization, so your nonsensical accusations that I only care about this so-called “Cathedral” is insulting and dead wrong. If you’re going to cite the publications, you’d be wise to list the correct ones (i.e. referring to XOJane, when I’ve not written for or spoken to them directly).
I really do not care that you spoke with a woman whose idea jeopardizes the health and safety of Black women and has been wholeheartedly rejected by any people associated with #YouOKSis. Kudos to you for interviewing someone irrelevant to our cause. Should I feel obligated to speak to you because you spoke with a White woman who doesn’t speak for me? No.
I don’t do well with this type of goading and I certainly will not be coerced into doing anything with you because you feel like I owe you.
I don’t owe you anything.
So as I respectfully declined the first time, and you had a hard time accepting my decline of your invitation (not unlike street harassers), I am going to reiterate that I am not interested in working with you and I appreciate you not contacting me anymore. I have no obligation to respond to or engage you in any conversation you think “needs” to happen.
Best wishes in all of you endeavors.
Leave me alone.
On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 1:34 PM, O—- <[email address withheld> wrote:
Hello Ms. Jones, Sure, I’ll do as you request; just so that we’re clear though, let’s get a few things straight:
Like Ms. Lindsey and the other umpteen “warriors” out there, you have yet to offer any smoking gun evidence that supports your claims – and I know quite a bit more about your work than you do mine.
Second, the Cathedral is very much a very real thing – just ask Mr. Stephen A. Smith for starters. Max Kellerman, too. And I just happen to know quite a few people who work for Ebony; they would agree with me that they’re not the kind of Black Folk Who Matter(TM) that I’m talking about – we’re talking about those Brothas on the Block who are supposedly threatening the health and wellbeing of the Sistahood, right?
Third, it was you and yours that started this whole thing – you all have claimed to want a “conversation” when nothing could be further from the truth. What you want is for Men, particularly those you find problematic, to simply bow their heads and do as they’re told.
If we’re going to have a conversation, it will be on the terms such a concept is actually understood – where both sides get not only to listen, but to be heard. You don’t get to set the terms of the conversation, or tell those whom you talk about how they are to conduct themselves. The Berlin Wall has fallen quite some time back and last time I checked, the United States isn’t shot through with reeducation camps, I’m afraid.
Guilt? LOL, only in your own mind, madam. And actually, I think some of what you do is a good thing, although a bit redundant in our time, since Black Women are hands down the most sexually liberated group of Women in the entire country, with all manner of evidence to support that contention. There are however, other Sexual Politics-related concerns that Black America could do well to discuss; here’s an example:
[website again withheld]
Sadly, Whites seem more interested in such things than Black folks. Funny, that.
Like I said, there are many things that cry out for addressing along Sexual Politics lines in Black America. How unfortunate that you and your erstwhile “Sistas” aren’t feeling up to the job.