“One Billion Rising” by Marissa Johnson

Published: 22 December 2013

We are thrilled to share this original poem by Marissa Johnson, V-Day activist and Simmons College student (class of 2015):

One Billion Rising

In Ohio, a teenage girl is raped by her classmates, peed on,
it’s uploaded across social media sites. In South Boston,
a woman is stabbed multiple times and found dead by a cyclist in Hyde Park.
In my college dorm, there are more stories, stories that are going to happen, stories
that have already happened, stories untold.

Will my friends, lovers, my mother, will I
become the next headline, or will anyone notice at all?

I know women who have birthed
whole worlds between their thighs, who have spit back
mouthfuls of dirt and still thank God for the ground beneath their
feet; women, who run their fingers on old scars, alphabet-long, writing
“I am enough”
with their memory thumbs, remembering over and over
the power of surviving, of crawling, standing, leaving, maybe not
leaving, of saying, “I am not what you think
I am”

Even when they try to shut us up, even
when they try to scare us into submission, because they know
fear is more a shackle than any man’s hands
can ever be, and don’t they want us to be afraid?
Don’t they want us to buckle, hide, memorize
the narrative until we recite it to ourselves, until
it becomes us, until it is the silent hand-on-back, saying “don’t
even think about it;”
a threat whole spine long just to shut us up.

Every time we taste blood, biting our lips closed, we
call on death like an old friend, like our mothers, our
grandmothers, women who are are all
quiet power and grit. They only know how to live by apologizing
for their right to breathe.

This year, one billion women in our world will have
experienced violence.

When will it be enough? They ask. When will it end, when
is somebody gonna stand up, and do something? We all
ask, waiting on someone else.

I am not waiting for the nightmare to get worse.
I am rising. I am rising now because women’s bodies
have become battlegrounds for men
who use fists like bombs, who invade our sex
like we’re another land to be conquered, who
shoot their words until our minds become prisoners of war.
I am rising and fighting back, fighting for my life.

I am rising because I still think it’s amazing, how
our hearts keep on beating even when
they’ve been beaten, loud as drums, all together
like a national anthem
that I refuse to stop singing.

I am a vagina warrior. I have survivor blood and hands
one billion women strong. I do not stand on the shoulders of giants,
I carry them with me on my back, singing songs of refusal
in every octave, home songs, I got out of bed today songs,
songs of living, songs of hoping, breathing, rising, surviving,
women still singing and carrying on,
if nothing else,
carrying on.