THE U.S. ELECTION PERIOD has been a trying time for citizens and non-citizens, residents and non-residents alike. Televisions, newsfeeds, and timelines have been full of politically divisive rhetoric, vitriol, and fear-mongering. On Tuesday, November 9, the beginning of what, for many, feels like a nightmare unfolded, and the collective cry of marginalized communities reverberates all around us. In the midst of trauma, fear, and confusion, people have already started organizing, taking action, and providing care to the people who need it most. Hollaback! — known for its work to end street harassment — launched #MomentOfTruth2016 within hours of the results to give people a safe space to share their experiences.
“The election is over, but its impact is not. We’re left feeling anxious, exhausted, and deeply unsafe. If you are experiencing a rise in hate or violence as a result of this election, or you’ve helped out someone who has, share your story. It is only through seeing what is wrong that we can even begin to see where we need to go next.”
Hollaback!, from its inception, has emphasized the importance of storytelling to making change. Its movement to end street harassment started with a blog where people could share their stories of harassment, talk about how they felt, and get support from the community. In a world where perpetrators benefit from the silence of shame or survivors, storytelling is a form of resistance. People regain power when they have control of their own narratives, and their feelings are validated when similar stories are shared and other let them know they’ve got their back.
Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May explains how sharing their stories benefits survivors: “When people share their stories, they remember that they aren’t alone, that their experiences exist within the broader context of our sexist, racist, and otherwise flawed world, and that although the harassment, was targeted at them, it wasn’t actually about them. It was about the bigger, more messed up world that we live in.”
Why a new platform?
#MomentOfTruth2016 builds on Hollaback!’s story-sharing framework while recognizing that what people face post-election is not synonymous with street harassment. It is a distinct, hate-fueled phenomenon enabled by the white supremacist system that controlled the outcome on election day.
From a story shared on the site: “Yesterday morning i walked to my car with my bookbag which has a Clinton pin on it. I am standing facing the car so my bookbag is facing the street. I hear a car pull up beside me and when i turn around someone yells “liberal slut!” and then they speed away.”
What prompted this action?
The Hollaback! team struggled as they watched hate spewed for months. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Hollaback! is “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Everyone at the organization was surprised by the election results, but recognized the need for action, especially after Trump’s sexist “locker room” talk was exposed towards the end of the election cycle. Watching as things escalated, again and again, the team began to mobilize, knowing something had to be done.
“When Tamar, our program assistant, sent me an article about a black church being burned with “vote Trump” written on the side of it, I knew what we had to do,” shares Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May. She continues: “We had to do what we do best: give people a space to document hate, harassment, and abuse. We prepared to launch the morning after the election.”
#MomentOfTruth2016 is one step in a larger process. It acknowledges that these experience are not normal, people experiencing post-election harassment are not alone, and their feelings are valid. It also documents these experiences, exposes truths, and gives organizers evidence of impact which can lead to much-needed resources and support. The collected stories have to be at the center, guiding the work we undertake, and determining next steps will take time.
For now, #MomentOfTruth2016 is giving us space to talk about our experiences, and organizations like Hollaback! are offering bystander intervention workshops to equip potential allies with the tools they need to do the work. As always, opportunities abound to support the work of nonprofit organizations and grassroots movements.
Emily May speaks about future plans for Hollaback! and #MomentOfTruth2016: “We want to dramatically expand our work training young women and LGBTQ+ people of color on how to lead the movement against hate and harassment across the US, but we can’t do that without additional funding, so we’re working on that now.”
From another story shared on the site: And I have to think that we will figure it out. I have to believe in the power of people, in collective action. The foundations of democracy are, in fact, not the leaders we elect or the Government. The true foundations are in the everyday interactions of people, communities, and the ongoing struggle to create a better world. It will take courage. It will mean pushing through fear. It will mean sacrifice. But I believe in the resilience of the American people.
What Can You Do?
Hollaback! invites you to share your stories of post-election harassment and violence, learn to be a good bystander, and support its work. Reading your story could give someone else assurance that they are not alone, and that it’s okay to be upset about what is happening. Talking to your family members, friends, and colleagues could bring new perspectives and change minds. At this time, and at all times, it is important for us to stand together, support one another, and make it clear that harassment and violence will not be tolerated.