"Dance then, wherever you may be!"
Dancing is not my strong suit. You should have seen me out there today, attempting to follow the simple choreography the students at North Harford High School put together. But my soul has been dancing ever since, dancing to the tune of new world possibilities.
If you had told me eight years ago that I would be spending VDay 2013 at North Harford High School, my alma mater, in Harford County, Maryland, I would have laughed in your face. My high school is in a conservative, isolated community--- not one that you would think would foster VDay festivities. When I say VDay, I don't just mean Valentine's Day. I mean the reimagining of VDay to include a fight to end gender-based violence. This reimagining began with Eve Ensler, famous playwright of The Vagina Monologues.
I began my love affair with Eve Ensler's work when I first read The Vagina Monologues in high school and my drama teacher Ms. Green allowed me to do my playwright project on Eve Ensler. Since then, I have seen productions of The Vagina Monologues all over, including a production in French! I have helped organize performances at Dickinson College and Drew Theological School. The performance at Drew Theological School was one of the proudest moments of my life--- and was the best performance of The Vagina Monologues I have ever seen. That performance was for VDay 2012, the year I also saw the official Occupy Wall Street Vagina Monologues in New York City featuring Eve Ensler herself.
So after the high of VDay 2012, if you would have told me even last year that I would be spending VDay 2013 in the high school I graduated from, I would not have laughed at you, I would have been sad.
See VDay 2013 is a big deal. Eve Ensler explains:
This February 14 2013, V-Day will be 15 years old. It was never our intention to be around that long. Our mission was to end violence against women and girls, and so we planned to be out of business years ago...So less than a year ago, we announced One Billion Rising, a call for the one billion women and all the men who love them to walk out of their jobs, schools, offices, homes on Feb 14, 2013 and strike, rise and dance!I wanted to rise up and dance. I saw myself at Times Square or in DC--- not the community where I grew up in the high school where my angsty teenage self located so much that was wrong in the world. And yes, my community still suffers from isolation and is often limited by a conservative value system, but I could not imagine a better place to participate in One Billion Rising.
Going to North Harford High School to see over 250 students crammed into the school atrium, holding up their pointer fingers to signify One Billion Rising--- this reminded me that this is the kind of work that matters most. My teacher Ms. Green was the one who got the event off the ground, opening space for these students the way she did for me as I studied Eve Ensler ten years ago. Here, I saw how teachers work with young people (even when I was too angsty to see it when I was a teenager) to create spaces in which they can begin to imagine a different world, a more healthy and loving world in which no one lives in fear of abuse or assualt.
Every third woman was given a card with the number 3 and asked to stand up to help their fellow students visualize how many women are beaten or raped in their lifetime. These students were given space to begin to understand the pervasive nature of violence across the world. And they were shown that they don't have to be a part of that cycle of violence and control. They can resist.
As I stood next to the principal, who is supportive, and saw my former teachers, and a few students I recognized from church dancing, I have never been prouder to be an alum of North Harford High School. I have never been more inspired to be part of a movement to rise up and say enough is enough. We are over violence. We were, in Eve Ensler's words, "Dancing up the will of the world to end violence against women and girls."
And when we wake up tomorrow, we cannot go back to our silence and our ignorance. We will not go back to being part of households, communities, or a world that condones violence against women. We will continue our dance, wherever we may be, even though it will be difficult with the specter of violence on our backs.
Inspired by those teenagers at North Harford High School and their amazing teachers, I, as a pastor, will speak on gender-based violence from the pulpit on Sunday. I will make a more concerted effort in the future to create space in my churches that looks a bit more like that atrium at North Harford, filled with people creating a different world. A world in which we are all safe and free.
How will you join in the dance?
|One picture of the flashmob from @laxingirl79|