How many times have you heard “Hey baby” or “Smile beautiful”? Had the words “faggot” or “dyke” pierce your ears while embracing your partner in public? Or feared for your safety when you ignored or challenged someone’s advances? I’ve lost count. Feeling safe in our communities is not a privilege; it is our right. One way we can work towards securing it is by learning concrete tools to address violence.
Individuals and businesses will have that opportunity on Saturday, April 16 at the 3rd Annual Safe Neighborhood Summit, a campaign that promotes creative community-based alternatives to homophobic and transphobic violence. The Safe OUTside the System (SOS) Collective, an anti-violence program of the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), sponsors the Summit, which will take place at Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY.
SOS program coordinator, Chelsea Johnson-Long shared some useful advice on how we can get involved and combat harassment.
1. Know your neighborhood.
“I don’t appreciate getting harassed as a woman, as a queer woman, as a Black woman,” Johnson-Long explains. “But at the same time building relationships with people, having people know your name, even if those are the same people that are like, ‘Hey ma, what’s up?’ can be the difference between someone intervening and not intervening in something that they see happening.”
The SOS program coordinator suggests introducing yourself to neighbors and getting to know the people who work at the bodega near you. “Those things, even though they don’t seem like violence prevention, they are,” she adds. “At the end of the day, I want to know that the people in my community have my back and that they have an investment in my safety because I have an investment in theirs.”
2. Get trained.
In a program called “Training for Trainers,” the Audre Lorde Project prepares people to become trainers of safe spaces. “While they’re getting that training, they’re also learning what it means to safety-plan with their friends in the area and what it means to have an idea of what their rights are with the cops,” explains Johnson-Long.
3. Join a support group.
There is power in numbers. ALP as a whole has different support groups. One of the programs that they recently launched is called Third Space. It’s a support space where community members can go for resources and support around things like housing needs, violence or basic self-defense. In addition, they have safety squads—people who live near each other are teamed up and are able to talk through what support means to them and what are instances where they might need support from a person that lives near them. To learn more, contact Chelsea Johnson-Long at (718) 596-0342 ext. 11 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Join the discussion.
5. Get involved with the Safe Neighborhood Summit!
You can become a day-of volunteer, ask your business or organization to endorse the summit or be a part of the planning process. Register here!