by Kate Fisher, Communications & Special Events Director
I’m not a dancer.
I’m not overly coordinated. I’m a little self-conscious, I’m not at all graceful, and my rhythm is suspect. So when ONE BILLION RISING was presented as our 15 year anniversary campaign a little over a year ago, the idea of me dancing, while also somehow convincing one billion other people across the planet to do the same was not only a profoundly daunting prospect, but me falling on my face (proverbially, literally) went from possibility to inevitability. I was scared, and that fear led to self-doubt.
However shortly after the campaign was developed, I attended the first graduating class of City of Joy in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. City of Joy is a healing and training center for women survivors of sexual violence, developed and run by amazing local activists, and sustained by V-Day. It is a special place. It’s a garden, a home, a source of light and energy for so many. In the midst of the chaos and war that has ravaged Eastern Congo and its women and girls for years, City of Joy is a beacon of hope and freedom. It is also a place where, amongst some of the strongest, most beautiful women and girls that I have ever met I came to realize that ONE BILLION RISING, one billion DANCING (even me), was exactly what this world needed. I wasn’t going to fall on my face, but rather I, and a billion more, would stand taller and be more grounded than ever before. We would use this campaign to gain the power and determination to take this movement to the next level.
Over the course of the following months our small core staff and the ONE BILLION RISING Regional Coordinators throughout the world worked day and night to spread the word, engage communities, create visual and audio resources, develop social and virtual platforms and tools, foster relationships, start new collaborations, document and archive and strategize, and ultimately produce day-of events.
When you work with global movement you’re a part of a seemingly never-ending day. You work in shifts that rotate with the time zones – Auckland to Mumbai to Nairobi to Sau Paulo to New York to Los Angeles to Honolulu and around again, overlapping sometimes, but more often passing on the torch to your colleague as the sun sets on your city and rises on theirs. In this way, ONE BILLION RISING has been an ongoing way of life for me since the campaign launched, and it will continue to be even now past February 14th.
Though far more rewarding then anything I’ve ever done before, ONE BILLION RISING has also been the most challenging experience of my life. Any time you are activating any great number of people–let alone a number as difficult to comprehend as “one billion,”–you often have to take a step back and concentrate on the day to day, the things you have control over. You have to trust in yourself, in your ideas, and in your colleagues. This can be difficult when you’ve long passed the threshold of mere multi-tasking–being a part of a small core staff coordinating a worldwide action; being one of the lead producers in one of the largest cities in the world; somehow fulfilling day-to-day responsibilities, none of which have diminished–and operating under the pressure of society’s call for deliverables, quantifiable numbers, statistics, results. However through everything – sleepless nights, missed meals, checking email while in the shower, taking phone calls while at the doctors office, sorting through over 100,000 emails while celebrating your birthday — it became vital to limit the distractions and to have as much faith in ourselves and our own ability as we have in our fellow activists. For me, my confidence in my own abilities was directly derived from the confidence that others had in me, and for that I am forever grateful to those with whom I worked so closely.
Finally, February 14th arrived. We were going to celebrate the most important campaign of our lives (to date) in the city where it all began, in the venue that kicked off a movement. We were back in the home of the very first V-Day event in 1998, the Hammerstein Ballroom, for RISE NYC, the ONE BILLION RISING finale event in New York where actors, singers, dancers, DJ’s and poets would come together with over 3,000 activists of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, religions, orientations, and backgrounds to celebrate, dance, and of course RISE.
The dancing had already started. Live feeds were streaming online, and the first time zones to greet the day were already in full celebration. With the confidence instilled in me from my co-workers, my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and all the brave women around the world shouting, singing, and dancing to be seen and heard, to show themselves being present and unafraid, the self-doubt and fear I experienced a year earlier seemed far behind me, so small, so insignificant. What I was witnessing, what I had worked so hard to help bring about and experience…it was happening. And it was beautiful. When the sun finally set on ONE BILLION RISING NYC, and singer Maya Azucena brought the crowed together for one last moment on February 14th, 2013 with her campaign anthem “Dance Revolution,” we passed the torch on to the West, in this ongoing, never ending day of solidarity and unity with our sisters and brothers around the world.
Many people have asked me if I believe it’s possible to end violence against women and girls, and of course my answer is always “yes”. I believe that ONE BILLION RISING is the beginning of the path towards that goal. On February 14th, two hundred and seven countries took their first steps. Across borders and cultures, they did it together. And they did it to music.
I was there. I danced. And I didn’t fall down.