Bay Area Rising rallies against gender violence
on February 16, 2015
Frank Ogawa Plaza was filled with over 100 people wearing pink clothing or pink ribbons on Friday in support of ending violence against women. The rally was led by Bay Area Rising, an all-volunteer team dedicated to feminist principles and ending violence against women all over the world.
A branch of the 1 Billion Rising campaign, the biggest mass action to end violence against women, Bay Area Rising has led a rally on February 13 and a celebration on February 14 for the last three years in celebration of what the campaign calls “V-Day,” a reference to raising funds and awareness on Valentines Day about ending violence against women and girls. V-Day was created by 1 Billion Rising in 2012. It began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic stated by Eve Ensler, the playwright, activist and founder of 1 Billion Rising, that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.
Last year’s events took place in over 200 countries with the message of gaining justice for all survivors of gender violence. The term “gender violence” refers to violent acts based on the victim’s gender, but 1 Billion Rising particularly focuses on domestic violence, sexual abuses, sex trafficking, and other abuses against women and children. Organizers have also initiated Men Rising to get men and boys involved.
“It’s prevalent in this world and right here on the city streets of Oakland. One of our speakers from MISSSEY just talked about sex trafficking and how there’s slavery in Oakland today. It’s tragic what’s going on in the world and right here in Oakland, in the Bay Area against women and girls,” said Bay Area Rising organizer Jodi Selene, referring to a speaker from the group Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. “What we stand for is ending that violence and we are doing that in a unique way.”
According to their mission statement, the group embodies feminist principles of “individual empowerment, loving community, valuing process and product, the personal as political, co-creative, and collective action, and connecting the everyday to the sacred.” On V-Day they hope to convey this message through creative gatherings. During the rally, this included a flash mob where everyone joined in on the “break the chain dance,” which was created by choreographer Debbie Allen, and a drum circle aimed at conjuring positive energy.
The drum circle began with a few members of Bay Area Rising joining together and drumming around the plaza and ended with more than 50 people getting drawn into the sounds of the drum and joining the circle. “I got to actually witness people gathering and getting called in. So I just love the feeling of there’s only four of us, and then there’s five, and fifteen, and twenty. That felt invigorating,” said Bay Area Rising member Afia Walking Tree, who led the drum circle.
“What 1 Billion Rising means to me is that we are gathering people together to bring awareness so that we can change our behavior, change our thoughts, change out actions, and create a whole new dynamic around women and girls,” continued Walking Tree. “My hope for Bay Area Rising is that we will completely bring women to the front of how we actually run the world and that we are a part of setting that up for the future.”
Before the rally ended with people dancing into the night, everyone sat quietly and listened to speakers give testimonies and offer statics about gender violence and what people can do to change it. The speakers included MISSSEY’s Fruitvale anti-trafficking representative, Falilah Aisha Bilal, 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence founder Lorrain Taylor, and Mayor Libby Schaaf, who started out her speech by saying “Happy Valentine’s Day weekend.”
“I am so proud to be here as a mayor of Oakland, as a woman, as someone who grew up as a little girl here in Oakland, and is now a mother in Oakland,” continued Schaaf. “And that’s a blessing because this is a city that, while it does have a lot of pain and suffering, it does have a lot of love. And that is what it is going to take to answer that question about stopping the violence and stopping the harm and hurt that happens everyday in this city, especially to our girls.”
The event ended with a round of flash mob dances, all with encouraging messages about women’s empowerment and standing up against violence. Members of the activist group Stop Patriarchy were also in attendance and were happy that the rally was a success. “I am tired of seeing women being sexual assaulted day after day and we need to change this,” said May Malika, a member of Stop Patriarchy. “This is a way to bring awareness and a way to just also celebrate women in a way in which it is not celebrated.”
Bay Area Rising continued celebrating on Saturday with ice skating at the Oakland Ice Center, featuring a performance by the UC Berkeley Figure Skating Team, and a party with dancing, drumming, and cupcakes at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland. “This is a beautiful thing!” said Stop Patriarch organizer Alex Petersburg. “People across the planet acting up and acting out in different ways against the epidemic of violence against women.”
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