A group of staff and students celebrated the day of love differently this year by participating in the worldwide movement “One Billion Rising.” Students spending Valentine’s Day on campus were in for a surprise when not one, but three flash-mobs danced into place.
“One Billion Rising” is a global campaign that is using dance as a tool to protest violence against women. Fifteen years after Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” started an international phenomenon “V-Day,” the statistics that spurred the activism remain very much the same.
According to a United Nations “Unite to End Violence Against Women” fact sheet, one in every three women will be raped or beaten at least once in her lifetime. That’s more or less one billion women on the planet that have been, or will be violated. The “One Billion Rising” campaign aims to change that using dance to “shake the world” into awareness.
Students paused in mid-bite in the University Pavilion food court when Samantha MacFarland, an academic adviser in the Academic Advising and Career Center announced the flash-mob to everyone having lunch. After a short introduction, MacFarland and a group of students and staff started dancing to “Break the Chain.”
“The creator of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ decided for the fifteenth anniversary to do something big because nothing has changed, our statistics have not changed in 15 years,” MacFarland said.
Later on in the University Center all the students enjoying the Valentine’s Day festivities stopped what they were doing to watch the flash-mob erupt again, and some even ran to join. Men and women danced alike, and were met with loud applause while flyers explaining the campaign were passed around the students.
Jonathon Mateen, a sophomore chemistry major was having lunch in the UCEN when the 2 p.m. flash-mob started. Not knowing what it was at first, he was astonished by the statistics he read on the flyers.
“It’s shocking, definitely, and it seems like something that gets ignored a lot so this definitely raised awareness for it,” Mateen said.
Around 200 countries participated in the “One Billion Rising” movement on Valentine’s Day. Jen Salamone, project coordinator at the LGBT Center and Women’s Educational Center led the “One Billion Rising” project at UM-Flint. For two weeks, she and MacFarland taught the dance offered by V-Day to anyone interested and spread the word.
“I just wish people will know about it and also do what they can in their own lives, whether that’s just talking about violence against women, or maybe calling out their friends for using rape jokes casually when rape is such a problem. Or going to V-Day and taking the pledge – all the way to giving money if you have it – or working in a shelter,” Salamone said.
The actual V-Day, which features the production of “The Vagina Monologues,” will take place on March 20 at 6 p.m. in the KIVA.
“That will be another opportunity to learn more about what people can do to help stop violence against women – plus it’s a really fun play,” Salamone said.
The campus’s attention was unmistakably stolen by the energetic dances and informative flyers. People clapped, danced and snapped pictures.
Brittany Henneberry, a senior English and French double major, participated in two of the flash-mobs.
“Well, everybody was paying attention. So hopefully, at least they’ll be more aware of it if nothing else,” Henneberry said.
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