In October 2014, Hollaback! released a controversial video showing a racially ambiguous woman sexually harassed by Black and Latino men while walking the streets of NYC for 10 hours. The campaign was quickly denounced after reports surfaced that Rob Bliss Creative, the marketing firm hired for the project, deliberately edited out white men. The firm has a track record of racial insensitivity, which raised questions about why the anti-street harassment nonprofit used their services.
But Hollaback! finds itself in the middle of yet another controversy — one that exposes an alleged organizational structure built on and reinforced through abuse, violence, cultural appropriation, and racial erasure. So says Britni, a former affiliate and founder of the Boston Hollaback! chapter. In a Storify compilation, the brave whistleblower seeks to raise awareness about an institutional culture that uses tools of white supremacy to achieve its aims.
First, Britni shares the internal organizational structure.
Local hubs are run by site leaders. According to the Hollaback! website, site leaders are extremely diverse.
However, allegedly this labor is all free, while Executive Director Emily May and the NYC Mothership use such labor to receive salaries and funding.
Furthermore, local hubs are allegedly required to give a percentage of their donations to the Mothership.
The Mothership and local hubs are disconnected, while the central cohort pounce on high profile events.
And then there was the fallout from the infamous viral video.
And then there’s an alleged cultural appropriation of Black bodies, female ones in particular.
Overall, there’s an alleged neglect for oppressed bodies.
But through the pain, there’s partnerships, growth, and self-care.
Former local hubs are reorganizing with more peace and inclusivity in mind. The Philly branch is now Feminist Public Works, Winnipeg hub became Safer Spaces Winnipeg, Appalachian Ohio is People’s Justice League, and Boston is now Safe Hub Collective.
When asked to comment, Jae Cameron, Hollaback!’s Program Associate directed my attention to another set of tweets which seemingly refute the claims made by Britni and associates. In an email, Cameron wrote:
“I would like to direct your attention to the following tweets to include voices of women of color in the movement. These folks have critiqued Britni for excluding and silencing their voices while misrepresenting the movement and perpetuating false information.”
I found this move odd; the Mothership essentially tokenized women of color. Instead of speaking from experience and internal truth, I was given a handful of illegible tweets that do little to completely refute the long, documented, and cogent digital storytelling of Britni and others. I also found the move immature and unprofessional; as a paid employee with resources and access, why not speak fluently about the internal culture?
And how about downright weird? There were a lot of allegations made — from Emily May not contacting local hubs when she was in town, or that site leaders don’t get paid. But the only thing they commented on were women of color.
The idiosyncrasies of Hollaback! are well known. Hopefully, the anti-street harassment org will be more transparent about their internal practices, especially those that harm the very communities they claim to help.
*Feature Image Credit: www.oneequalworld.com