by Purva Panday Cullman, Programs & Development Director
One Billion Rising was a unique experience for me. In the months leading up to it I was part of the team planning and executing some of the events and projects that helped build momentum for the campaign – from our Africa Summit in Nairobi to the NYC Break The Chains flashmob and video shoot, to helping to bring on diverse partners like the Guerrilla Girls and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. I also played a role I often do for the team – writing about V-Day’s vision for One Billion Rising and presenting our plans to our donor-partners. As 2012 came to a close and we got closer to the big day, however, I had to step away from the action for the birth of my first child – a V-girl who was born in December. Suddenly, I went from the micro to the macro, and was forced to see and witness V-Day from a whole new vantage point. While on maternity leave, I checked my email everyday and connected with colleagues weekly. I saw – with awe, but with no sense of surprise – how they worked around the clock to help support the dreams and plans of countless women and men across our global network. I saw how they made innovations each day, learning about new technologies and platforms to help our network grow, responding to requests in places we had to-date had no presence with a sensitivity and intelligence that only comes with time and practice, and always keeping a razor-sharp focus on what is the lifeblood of V-Day – the opportunity for survivors and allies to lead on a grassroots level and on their own terms. From India to the Philippines to cities in the US like Santa Fe and Chicago, my colleagues activated their communities with ingenuity, drive and a raucous sense of humor.
I could not stand not being at the Hammerstein Ballroom the night of February 14, 2013 for the OBR culminating event in NYC. It was, after all, the place where V-Day began 15 years ago and I wanted to be with my colleagues – like family – for the evening. So I left my precious baby girl with my husband and sister in Brooklyn and ventured out without her for the first time since she was born. Walking into the Hammerstein reinforced so much for me. For starters, it proved that V-Day is a vibrant, unique and unpredictable movement unlike any other in the world. On Valentine’s Day, in a city that is at times incredibly cynical, thousands of men and women had gathered to dance and take a stand against gender based violence. People from all walks of life, all ages, all socio-economic backgrounds. Who would have thunk it? Well, Eve Ensler, of course! And that’s the other thing that resonated for me that evening at the Hammerstein. Eve wasn’t there but V-Day was alive. People have often asked me if V-Day revolves around Eve. It’s a fair question (for an outsider looking in). But once you get to know the movement you can clearly see that while Eve’s vision and spirit gave birth to V-Day and guide it to this day, she leads V-Day, but does not possess it. V-Day does not revolve around Eve. Eve revolves her life around V-Day, serving it with a devotion that is breathtaking. Because Eve is intrinsically a generous person who is fully focused on the work of ending violence, V-Day is so much bigger than her. And that is by her design. In every way V-Day is a reflection of her values and dreams because it attracts people who are kind, giving, committed, smart, creative and innovative. Simply put: V-Day lives on a cellular level – in people’s hearts and minds. It gains force on a community level – in people’s actions. I saw it at the Hammerstein that night. All of us – colleagues, partners, families, longtime V-Day activists and new ones – felt that V-Day was ours that night. We felt that we had something to contribute to it, that it had something to give us, that our collective vision for the world was possible.