Welcome to The Artistic Rising to all of you in this room and to all watching around the world. Tonight we launch the 3rd year of our campaign, One Billion Rising — the first year we danced and moved our bodies in the streets, we reclaimed public space, we built new coalitions, released trauma. We catalyzed a world energy that demanded a platform, response and attention for violence against women. The second year we rose for justice. We rose with our bodies for specific demands: creating and implementing laws, demanding an end to impunity and custom change, mindset change. We’ve seen real transformation and massive movement building, but we still have a long way to go. This year we are going further towards Revolution, to escalate tectonic global change.
It is stunning to see how the call for revolution has resonated around the world. Never have we seen such diversity — children, men, older people, trans, LGTBQI, religious leaders, presidents and prime ministers, NGOs and farmers and workers, and never have we seen such creativity. Revolution exists on many levels — revolution of our hearts, mindset, against the state, revolution of our beliefs, consciousness. We all know its time for a major change. We all feel inspired by the urgency of the demand and we can feel there is a place and role for everyone. We know almost every county of the world is rising, and many inside each country, all 34 provinces in Afghanistan, 200 risings in the Philippines, all of India, Taiwan, 22 states in Mexico, most of Germany, Italy. Many countries are rising for months and months. Some are releasing water canons and burning effigies, some releasing sky lanterns and balloons.
Some places are rising to oust their president, some our rising to end abuse in families, some are rising for the power of love not the love of power, some are rising to save their rivers, some their mountains, some are rising to demand wage increases for restaurant workers who are paid 2.13 an hour and because of their reliance on tips must tolerate sexual harassment which is the highest in that industry than any other. Domestic workers are rising to end modern day slavery, workers everywhere are rising for long term jobs and benefits, women are rising outside prisons to demand justice, Pakistan is rising for peace, VETs are risings across America for an end the rape in the military, there is a red light rising in Calcutta, millions are rising to end poverty, racism and imperialism, in Zimbabwe they are rising with local chiefs to continue the commitment to make ending violence a priority, people are rising for enactment of bills, formation of bills, men are rising everywhere to put their bodies on the line with women, in the Balkans they’re rising for redress impunity over war crimes committed during the Bosnian war, in Somalia and Sudan and Iran they are risking their lives, rising to say what happens to women’s bodies matters, in Kenya and Gambia they are rising to end the genital cut.
From Mexico to Miami they are rising to end sex trafficking, women bikers are rising in Geneva, disabled women are rising online, Native American women are rising in the Bakken oil fields to end fracking and the direct connection to sex trafficking and abuse, Transwomen are rising to end the murders and violence, there is a rock dance revolution in Vegas, and tango revolution in Italy, in UK they are rising against the grooming of young girls to be sex slaves, drummers are rising for the one earth, one heart drum event that begins in the morning on the 14th and follows the sun across the planet. They are rising at the pyramids in Mexico, in malls in Japan, on college squares, in churches, outside corporations, inside city halls.
What we know now is that all these stories are connected and as we rise we are weaving a larger tapestry, a larger story, a story that knows that any economic system where one percent owns half the wealth — 85 people make the same as 3.5 billion, any system that blames the poor, the raped, the marginalized, the orphaned, the hungry, the oppressed and abused for their suffering, any system which tells us that if we all were smarter, or not lazy, or worked harder we would succeed, is a system that is perpetuating lies, cruelty and brutality. It’s the system that has failed us, the system that values success over solidarity, profits over people, greed over sustainability. For me the revolution is the evolution of the new system. It’s refusing to accept this story as the given. I read the other day that the Koch brothers — who I believe could be the single two people who might unite all our issues as they are against unions, minimum wage, women, Black folks, the earth — have designed their whole program to destroy collectivism. They are investing millions and millions and dollars in candidates, colleges, elections, cultural centers, think tanks to openly and without shame to destroy the WE.
So my revolution is to stand firmly in the WE, to say what happens to you matters as much as what happens to me, to say your struggle is my struggle, to say tonight American individualism is dead and global solidarity is alive and on the rise.
Tonight let us make our WE. Let’s defy the oligarchs and the patriarchs, their strategies of theft, war, racism, Islamaphobia, surveillance, drone strikes, ongoing invasions. Occupations, deregualtions, destruction of women’s reproductive rights, racist police killings, divisions and oppressions. Let us make a covenant that we are in this for each other, that we sing each others song, hear and heal and regard each others hurts, end each others isolation and separation.
The only way they will ever win is if we turn on each other, our separation is their elevation.
Our movement has always been led by art, theater, music, dancing, poetry, drumming because that is where the revolution lives in our spirits and our hearts. Tonight we have extraordinary local and international activists with us. I am so moved that my sisters are here from Manilla, Narok, Kenya, Kabul, Bukavu, DRC, Joahnessburg. Please welcome them. Tonight we have poets, actors, spoken word artists, singers, extreme action dancers, drummers who are here with you to call up the world revolution. Lets go!