On the days leading up to the event, anxiety built over anticipation as rain was predicted for Saturday April 13th, 2013. With rain, the Anti-Street Harassment Chalk Walk may have been postponed and the efforts of multiple activist groups would have come to naught. One of these main collaborators, Hollaback! was determined to hold a necessary rally in Washington Square Park to mark the end of International Anti-Street Harassment Week.
Preparation began at the beginning of the week on Monday, April 8th with NYU's own Feminist Society holding a postermaking session. President Catherine Brown had been anticipating this event since the beginning of the semester when Emily May, Director of Hollaback!, contacted them with the idea of the Chalk Walk. "The idea was to create a bold, visual statement to reclaim the streets where so many people are harassed everyday in New York. As more co-sponsors became involved we decided to have a rally beforehand as well," Brown commented on the progression of the event.
All their hard work paid off as Saturday came without a cloud in the sky and an estimated of 300 people swarmed around the speakers and supporters. Speaker after speaker shared their own experience with sexual harassment, or why they were supporting the cause. On the floor around, and leading to Washington Square Park, words of support were chalked, like " My name is not Hey Baby," and "My clothes are not an excuse for harassment." The event was sponsored by Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Hollaback!, UN Women, the Feminist Society at NYU, STEPS to End Family Violence, “Let your Voice be Heard” radio, Stop Street Harassment, Catcalled, Center for Anti-Violence Education, to name a few. When the 2-hour rally was over, the supporters went to the streets to spread their message against street harassment. ""The event was mainly inspired by each of our lived experiences, of not being able to walk through the streets of New York, not even being able to make it to class, without being catcalled. The constant bombardment of harassment feels disempowering, so the opportunity to reclaim some of that agency and take an active stand against it was very important." Brown explains.
As the rally ended with a social celebration at The Half Pint, their message is as vital as ever, especially when New York City is in midst of their Council Member elections. Politician Vito Lopez is under fire as he runs for City Council despite the sexual harassment charges that caused him to lose his committee chairmanship last year. Supporters of his opponent, Mr. Antonio Reynoso the chief of staff to Councilwoman Diana Reyna, have been promoting to keep the Council a "Molester-Free Zone." If we hope to keep our streets free of sexual harassment, we should also take into consideration our government, our offices, our homes.
After the rally, Brown expressed, "The rally was an amazing experience for me. To see so many people coming together to stand against street harassment was great, especially as the experience of street harassment is frequently such an isolating one." Well, hopefully not for long at NYU. During the rally, the Feminist Society was promoting their change.org petition to create a rape crisis center at NYU, in hopes to pressure the university to provide one. Despite having a Health & Wellness Center already at NYU, a Rape Crisis Center will allow for a a safe space for victims who are afraid to speak about their experience and get the necessary and specific help they need. Please check out their petition at the end of this article.
As the Chalk Walk advocated on Saturday, this does not end when the chalk has been washed away. We must continue to create a change in how women are treated day-to-day.
For more information on getting involved, check out the Hollaback! NYU website.
Or attend the next meeting of the NYU Feminist Society on April 22, to discuss how the Affordable Care Act affects women's health (hint: a lot!) and having awesome food!
And don't forget to show your support for a Rape Crises Center at NYU by signing the petition here.