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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hollaback!: The Streets Are For Everyone


Activist Matt Hall discusses an upcoming fundraiser for Hollaback! Plattsburgh while displaying the poster promoting the event.

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 3/14/14

Street harassment?  Is that really a problem in Plattsburgh?

Yes, it is, replies Matt Hall when he hears that comment.

"I know personally it happens on a regular basis," says Matt.  "There's a lot of people who feel they can't go out downtown, they don't feel safe.  They're sick of being harassed: verbally, physically or sexually."

The harassers can pick from a variety of aspects to target someone: appearance, race, gender, sexual orientation, or class.  In Plattsburgh, Matt notes, it's not just one demographic that suffers most of the harassment.

So why is the community-at-large unaware of the problem?

"I've talked to people," Matt explains, "who feel the harassment is so frequent and so ingrained in the culture that it's not worth reporting."

Occasionally a major incident is covered in the media, he adds, but that doesn't indicate the true scope of the problem.

Responding to the local situation Matt is working with Hollaback!, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment.

According to the Hollaback! website, www.ihollaback.org, the non-profit is "powered by local activists in 71 cities and 24 countries."  Among its goals: start conversations about street harassment, give victims an outlet to share their stories, and develop strategies to deal with the problem.  One strategy has been utilizing mobile technology, cell phones, to document and share incidents.

"By holla’ing back," explains the site, "you are transforming an experience that is lonely and isolating into one that is sharable."

Matt is being trained by Hollaback through web seminars, learning about the organization's strategies and goals, to set up a Plattsburgh group.  He's also working on a local website still under construction.  Once the site is live it will offer a forum for those reporting street harassment.

One major goal is to raise awareness, he says, so that more people can deal with the problem.  Hollaback! empowers victims to speak out, empowers others to help them.

As part of raising awareness Matt has organized a music event/fundraiser at the Koffee Kat, 104 Margaret Street, on Saturday, March 22, at 7 PM.  Performers will be Sarah Munday, Taylor LaValley, and Dandersen, all volunteers.  Volunteerism, explains Matt, is a key feature to Hollaback!'s success.  He plans to form a Plattsburgh Hollaback! team with each volunteer handling a particular duty.

Fundraiser donations will be applied towards with the start-up costs for Hollaback! Plattsburgh such as creating a banner and posters.

For more information about Hollaback! Plattsburgh you can email Matt Hall - plattsburgh@ihollaback.org  - or call (518) 310-0659.

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