Sacramento One Billion Rising
Dancing to End Violence Against Women and Girls
I never really imagined myself dancing in a flash mob. I'm nearly 50 years old, have two left feet, haven't attempted to learn a dance since grade school, and am fairly introverted... not exactly flash mob material!
But when an opportunity arose to dance on Valentine's Day with the One Billion Rising, I suddenly found myself obsessed with the idea of participating in the world's largest demonstration to protest violence against women and girls. Here's the story of how I ended up dancing in public at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.
(Photo copyright Lisa Howard)
Where the Hell is Matt? 2012
What The Hell Was I Thinking?
As I mentioned, I'm no dancer. My 8th grade gym teacher summed up my dancing skills with a note on my report card that said, "The dance was hard for Lisa, but she tried."
Yep, that about covers it - I can't dance, but at least I try.
So what in the world made me want to join a dance flash mob? The main reason was because I wanted to stand up and raise awareness for the issue of violence against women and girls. But I probably wouldn't have had the courage to dance in public if it weren't for Matt Harding of "Where the Hell is Matt?" fame. If you aren't familiar with Matt, he's a self-proclaimed "bad dancer" who became a viral Internet sensation by dancing badly but joyously all over the world.
So after seeing Matt and other "bad" dancers having so much fun around the globe, I decided that dancing badly might not be such a bad idea if done under the right circumstances. One Billion Rising provided those circumstances.
"Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It's dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It's free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It's contagious and it spreads quickly. It's of the body. It's transcendent."
- One Billion Rising.org
One Billion Rising
Strike! Dance! Rise!
At the end of January 2013, I saw a video called "Man Prayer" posted on Facebook. The video touched me because I have a son. So when the end credits said it was created by One Billion Rising.org, I clicked through to the site.
I'd never heard of One Billion Rising. When I got to their website, I discovered it was a global campaign started by V-Day. I'd never heard of V-Day either, which is a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. I learned V-Day was created 15 years ago by Eve Ensler, the activist and playwright best known for her play "The Vagina Monologues." Well, THAT I had heard of.
I wasn't surprised to read on the One Billion Rising website that United Nations statistics indicate one out of three women is beaten or raped in her lifetime. That means well over one billion women on the planet will be impacted by violence in her lifetime.
I know too many women who have lived that statistic. I know too many women who have been raped. I know too many women who have been abused. I know too many women who have never seen justice brought against the men who hurt them.
So when I read that One Billion Rising was inviting people around the world to strike, dance and rise up on February 14, 2013 to demand an end to this violence, I decided to push aside all thoughts of my 8th grade dance failure, take inspiration from Matt's "bad" dancing, and join women and men around the globe to dance for change.
"To use dance as a weapon against rape and violence is a genius idea. Dance is used to express joy, life, vitality – everything a rape victim is robbed of following the crime."
- Katy Brand, Telegraph.co.uk
Learning to Dance
If I Can Do It, Anyone Can!
Once I decided to participate, I was determined to learn the dance.
I had two weeks to do it. Just two weeks to learn the first dance I'd even attempted in over 30 years.
One Billion Rising enlisted Debbie Allen, the famed choreographer, to create the choreography for the song "Break the Chain," the catchy OBR anthem written by Tena Clark.
If anyone could teach me to dance, I was sure it would be Debbie Allen!
I clicked on her instructional YouTube video with high hopes. Within minutes, I knew Debbie had a challenge. I couldn't get my feet and my hands to move at the same time or in the same direction. Despite being able to pat my head and rub my belly at the same time with no problem whatsoever, getting my arms and legs to synchronize to the music didn't look promising! I was sweating and stumbling. But I kept at it.
Fortunately, I got a lot of encouragement when I posted my struggles on Facebook. My Squidoo pal Comfortdoc assured me, "If you dance from your heart, it won't really matter what your feet are doing." I also wrote an article about One Billion Rising here on Squidoo and got cheered on by my fellow lensmasters such as crosscreations, and CCGAL. I appreciated their support!
One of my uncles also made me laugh with a Facebook post that encouraged me with the following words: "As long as there is no pole involved in your dancing, we'll be proud of you." Well, THAT was a promise I could keep!
So I kept practicing. Every. Single. Day.
And to my amazement, I started learning the steps. On the first day, I couldn't even do the most basic moves. I had to stop the video and watch it over and over. But after the first week, it was starting to sink in. I still looked like a robot while dancing (as evidenced by my partner who told me I needed to loosen up!), but I could at least follow the mechanics.
So I kept practicing. Every. Single. Day.
By the end of the second week, I was able to do the dance without watching the instructional video and my partner had stopped laughing at my feeble attempts. By February 14, I was ready to rise!
(Photo by Cayne Howard)
"One Billion Rising has also shown that violence against women is not a national, tribal, ethnic, religious issue but a global phenomena, and the rising will give survivors the confidence of knowing that violence is not their fault or their country's fault or their families fault." - Eve Ensler
Sacramento One Billion Rising - Flash mob time!
Sacramento's One Billion Rising event was held at the California State Capitol. My partner, our good friend Cindy and I arrived an hour early for the event and claimed a spot right in front of the Capitol steps. We were, in fact, right on top of the state seal that is inlaid in the concrete. I had two video cameras with me because if I was going to dance for the first time in more than three decades, I wanted it on film!
Several speakers got up and talked before the dancing. Linda Long of the California National Organization for Women read Eve Ensler's work "Over It." State Senators and Assembly members highlighted new legislation. And then Tracie Stafford of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence gave an incredibly heartfelt and moving speech about growing up in a household where her father regularly beat her mother and how she ultimately ended up in a violent marriage of her own. But when her daughter was three years old and told her daddy he had to leave, she found the courage to take her child and find a better life for them both. I know I wasn't the only one crying during her speech.
Then it was time to dance! Watch the video below to see us "rising" in Sacramento!
(Thanks to Troya on Freelancer.com for creating this amazing video!)
Get Help in Sacramento
If you need help in the Sacramento area, contact:
WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment)
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide - An inspirational DVD about women around the globe
Looking at statistics on the status of women around the world can be depressing. But there is hope! We can dance, we can rally, we can get political! Here's a great DVD to inspire everyone.
HALF THE SKY: TURNING OPPRESSION INTO OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN WORLDWIDE is a DVD inspired by a book of the same name. It gives viewers a close-up look at the lives of women and girls around the world with stories of transformation, outrage, hope and courage. It's an intimate view of the oppression of women and girls around the world in the 21st century. It will inspire you with the resilience of the human spirit and the capabilities of women and girls to realize their staggering potential.
Three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner each day in America.
- Bureau of Justice/California Partnership to End Domestic Violence