Despite the extreme winter weather and enormous piles of snow everywhere, Hudson Valley Rising’s 2nd Annual One Billion Rising event at SUNY New Paltz was a success last Friday, February 14, with over 250 people in attendance – women, men, teenagers, children, SUNY students and staff, community activists, mothers and daughters, families, coworkers, artists, teachers, dancers, healers, visionaries for a new world.
In the large Multipurpose Room at Student Union Building, a DJ played popular tunes as the crowd milled and danced and exchanged smiles and hugs. Co-organizer Mary Goggin, a local W&P participant who was inspired by Eve Ensler’s public announcement of One Bilion Rising at W&P 2012, welcomed the attendees with enthusiasm. Assistant District Attorney of Ulster County XX spoke about the predicament that women and children facing domestic violence are in, and how difficult it is to seek help. The OBR video was then played, depicting women from around the globe suffering and then rising in collective survival and triumph. This was immediately followed by the flashmob of Break the Chain, OBR’s anthem. Students and community members of all ages, led by SUNY Residence Life Director and OBR dance teacher Corinna Caracci, danced side by side in this exhilarating dance sequence, singing along “this is my body, my body’s holy. No more excuses. No more abuses.” I looked around at the faces of my fellow dancers, smiling… moving… breathing in unison – young and old, racially diverse, all different kinds of bodies and skill levels – and inhaled the collective beauty of this movement for change that is vital to our world.
After this joyful sequence, there was more dancing, including Drew’s Energy Dancers from Kingston that taught a few group dances. Toward the very end, Hudson River Playback Theatre offered a brief performance, inviting OBR attendees to express what the experience had meant to them. There were stories of the thrill of the flash mob; the acknowledgment of those suffering from violence; the hope and power of children participating; the relief and joy to rise together in community. Co-organizer Johanna Longbotham noted that this second year, the event had taken root in the community. “There were boys and men here. I feel the impact deepening, right in our community.” Eve Ensler who launched this worldwide action, would agree that it’s all about the local community events.
For myself, I feel so moved to be part of it, as an OWLC representative, a dancer, a supporter, a performer with HRPT. RISING feels different than fighting, or protesting. All of these actions are important, but there is something about framing this as RISING that makes my heart sing, lifting me out of the sorrow and rage, and letting my spirit soar.