Photos: Paula Allen for V-Day

This week is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As the anniversary approaches – and a new storm is approaching the coast of Louisiana and Texas – we remember those we lost and those whose lives were changed fifteen years ago and we celebrate the activists in New Orleans and the Gulf South whose work to rebuild is ongoing, whose work to address the devastating impact of climate change continues.

We remember the 30,000 activists, survivors and artists who converged in New Orleans in 2008 for V-Day’s 10th anniversary celebration V TO THE TENTH including the premiere performance of SWIMMING UPSTREAM in the Superdome.

16 New Orleans women crafted Swimming Upstream – a powerful theatrical production that tells the raw and soulful stories of women who lived through Hurricanes Rita and Katrina with grace, rage and great resiliency, punctuated by a flair for storytelling, humor and music that comes from being New Orleanian.

The performance featured Troi Bechet, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Briceshanay Gresham, Karen-kaia Livers, and guest performers Shirley Knight, Anna Deavere Smith, and Kerry Washington. We honor Shirley Knight, who passed away this Spring. Shirley, a dear friend of the V-Day movement, lent her talents to many V-Day artistic productions over the years, in support of our work to end violence against all women and girls.

Written by Carol Bebelle, Troi Bechet, Reverend Lois Dejean, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Adella Gautier, Briceshanay Gresham, Herreast Harrison, Karen-kaia Livers, Tommye Myrick, Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Kathy Randels, Dollie Rivas, Dina Roudeze, Karel Sloane-Boekbinder, Carol Sutton. Created in a process facilitated by V-Day Founder/playwright/activist V (formerly Eve Ensler) and Carol Bebelle, (then) Executive Director and Co-founder of Ashé Cultural Arts Center, the play was produced by V-Day and Ashé Cultural Arts Center with Support from Open Society Foundation.

  • “If art is therapeutic, Swimming Upstream is a breakthrough.” – Times Picayune
  • “In many ways the work resembles an engaging church event – complete with gospel songs, testimonies and hand-clapping redemption.” – Variety
  • “Swimming UpStream …. is the poetic equivalent of a breached levee. What begins as a flood of raw human emotion becomes a source of healing, transcendence and new beginnings.” – The Atlanta Journal Constitution