One Billion Rising: Why I’m Still Rising

Last Thursday was a Valentine’s Day for the history books. In a culture that emphasizes finding your one and only Valentine, I’m proud to say I had 1 billion Valentines.

As I shared previously, dance is a central love in my life so this year I gladly traded the overpriced dinner reservations, schmaltzy Hallmark slogans and slightly stale candy hearts for a day filled with dancing, celebrating, story-telling and public disruption, in honor of the One Billion Rising movement.

Not only did I have the privilege of engaging in one of my deepest passions, but I was also privileged to be invited into the stories and lives of my sisters who have lived through unimaginable violence.

From the first event I participated in – a flash mob at North Station while trains of people poured into Boston at the height of the morning commute – One Billion Rising very quickly became more than just amusing unsuspecting commuters and sharing startling statistics. Two survivors of domestic abuse who just happened to be in the station at that time came up to us afterwards, thanked us for making public an all too often silent issue, and shared their stories.

As I listened to the heart-breaking details of what these women experienced, and thankfully had overcome, it became even more crystal clear why I was rising. One Billion Rising is about creating and claiming a public space for the voices and stories of women who far too often are left voiceless and powerless. As Eve Ensler, the movement’s founder, so eloquently says, “One Billion Rising has broken taboos, lifted the veil of silence, and inspired a radical outpouring of support to reveal the worldwide system of patriarchy, which sustains the violence.”

It was indeed a radical day of collective movement – through flash mobs, public performances, and organic dance parties on the street, and collective movement building – with people in 207 countries rising up in shared outrage about the epidemic of violence against women and girls. In fact, it’s hard to find adequate words to express the feelings I experienced watching my sisters and brothers rising throughout the day across the globe, from Boston to New Delhi to Bukavu to Capetown, and thousands of cities in between.

“Pure raw unbridled joy” was the best I could summon on my Facebook wall as I went to bed Thursday night.

That is what I experienced on Thursday. But what’s more important perhaps to share is what I’ve experienced since Thursday. Coming together physically and virtually was deeply moving and motivating and achieved GREAT things for public awareness (see an awesome recap of outcomes here), but as the One Billion Rising organizers are quick to say, it was only the beginning.

It is not the end of a struggle but the escalation of it, and now the question becomes what next. V-Day is asking all of us who rose around the globe to take a simple pledge, to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women. It could be a simple action, or a monumental one; personal, or political; quiet or loud, but these actions – taken together – will create change.

I am pledging personally to continue to rise by finding more concrete ways over the next year to use my passion for dance as a tool for empowerment and healing.

As a company, Prosperity Candle pledges to use our platform in the international development and social enterprise spaces to further the discussion around how sustainable job opportunities allow women the freedom and economic independence to leave violent situations.

We also pledge to keep our Prosperity network informed about tangible actions they can take to continue to rise and keep the movement going.

One immediate action here in the US is to ensure the re-authorization of Violence Against Women Act – which provides funding and legislation to address domestic and sexual violence. In fact just in time for OBR, the Senate passed VAWA last week, and it is now being considered in the House. Contacting your elected officials and stating your support for VAWA is a simple and significant action step to take this week.

Did you rise up on Valentine’s Day? Did you make a pledge to take action? Share your experiences in the comments below and please post your photos and thoughts on our Facebook page!

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