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On Saturday, August 24th I attended The Goddess Walk that was held at Fulton Park in Brooklyn, NY. After getting an invite on Facebook in July on the Hollaback! Boston wall, I was immediately interested in attending. The amazing woman who organized the event, Sweet Lorraine (Producer of Shades of Burlesque) was so warm and inviting. As a black queer woman living in Brooklyn, her experiences with street harassment have ranged from homophobic slurs, threats of violence, “Hey baby,” to being physically attacked. She specifically held The Goddess Walk to be for Black & LGBTQ folks and allies to have a safe space to feel comfortable with who they are, how they present, and to come together knowing that they all share these experiences. Her interview with Essence Revealed lets you know exactly why she chose to hold an anti-street harassment rally and march: she was fed up and wanted to take back her power on the streets.
The trip from Boston to Brooklyn went by remarkably fast; a friend of mine came with me and it helped getting up so early on a Saturday bearable. I had never been to NYC, so I was a bit nervous, but also quite excited to experience it for the first time!
When we arrived around 1:00 there weren’t too many people there, so we decided to walk around and explore the neighborhood a bit. After some time had passed we returned, chatted with some of the ladies that started to arrive, and got down to one of my favorite anti-street harassment activities: a chalk walk!
While writing empowering messages on the sidewalk many people walked by, reading and talking out loud to their friends/partners/etc. about what they thought about the slogans. Many approving nods from women, and a few men who looked confused as to why I was writing, “Women don’t owe you their time or attention” on the path. A few men even stopped to ask what it meant, seeming to think that yelling, “Hey ma, you looking sexy today” is average and acceptable behavior to project on women in the street.
While chalk walking, “Respect women and girls,” a man and his young daughter were walking down the path, stopped and looked at it once I had finished. What the dad did next brought me close to tears: he said to his daughter, “Do you know what that says?! Respect women and girls.” He looked at her and then me, gave me the brightest smile I have seen in a long time from a complete stranger and told me, “It is amazing what you are doing here, thank you.” He picked up his daughter and her stroller, put her on his shoulders and continued on their way.
After writing a few more slogans—”A skirt is not an invitation” and “Hello my name is not: baby, honey, pssssst, ma, mami”—we were ready to take a few pictures with photographer Stas Pix. Sweet Lorraine led the march, dropping rose pedals as we headed out of the park and down Fulton Street.
Our chants (“Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no!”), boombox and bubble gun brought a lot of attention. People got up from their benches to look over the fence, stepped out of businesses and stopped their cars to see what was going on. We made our way down Fulton street, with our heads held high, wearing what made us feel like a Goddess, with signs that said, “Respect in the streets,” and proper ways of saying hello to a woman. We had a boombox that played Jill Scott’s song “A Long Walk,” which was a perfect anthem for the walk. We crossed streets, waited for lights, and a few women stopped what they were doing and jokingly joined for a couple blocks, chanting )”R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I’m just walking let me be”). While walking, we saw a wheat pasting from Stop Telling Women To Smile that got us all really hyped!
At one point during the march we were heckled by a random voice in an apartment building. They told us to “Shut up!”—naturally we responded by basically yelling our slogans as loud as we could (“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!”, “What do we want? Respect! When do we want it? Now!”), because we can’t stop/won’t stop the fight against street harassment! After drowning out the negativity we continued on our way and crossed paths with a couple of young men, who had smiled and nodded at our group, which was awesome! After about 30 minutes of marching and spreading anti-street harassment awareness in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn, NYC we made our way back to Fulton Park.
When we got back to the park, we had our closing circle. Lorraine asked us all to reach out to our friends who joined us, to say out loud positive messages, and send out healing energy to the person standing in the middle. We each took turns, thanking them for being there, for their strength, their courage, their beauty, their compassion, and to wish them safe travels in public space; from work, to work, from school, to school, nights out on the town with their friends, with their partners, to the grocery store and where ever they may go.
After the closing circle, we had a discussion about different types of street harassment that we had encountered, and the way it effects us daily. How we are unable to leave our houses without a man thinking that we owe them attention, a smile, or our number. It was a great supportive space where we could all share our emotions on harassment without being judged or shamed. The stereotypes we must overcome as women of color, queer women and gender non-conforming individuals who dare exist in public. The danger we face by standing up for ourselves and the power we take back when we say enough is enough. One woman shared her story about being at the club, dancing with her friends, and being bothered by a guy who would not leave her alone. He eventually got in her space and was very aggressive so she pushed him, and he retaliated by punching her in the face.
We also talked about a young boy who came over and pointed to the sign that gave an acceptable greeting (“Good Morning”) and not acceptable greetings (“Hey sexy,” “Come Here”), and told us that he tries to tell his day to say “This one” (pointing to good morning) “instead of the other ones,” which really struck a chord with everyone, that a 7-year-old boy knew his dad was disrespecting women at such a young age. It made us concerned for the young boy, since his father didn’t really see it as an issue. Also, it gave us hope that his generation might be listening to women, who are standing up against street harassment and gender-based violence in public space.
All in all it was a great experience, I met some wonderful womyn whom I connected with via Twitter and Facebook who are active members of the anti-street harassment movement! Thank you to all who participated, shared their stories, held signs, and made their presence known!
It was truly an honor and inspiration to be with so many strong LGBTQ women of color as part of the 2nd annual Goddess Walk in Brooklyn!
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