A crowd of about 200 people sporting red clothes and bright smiles were standing in Washington Square Park on Valentine’s Day when they suddenly broke out into a choreographed dance to a song titled “Break the Chain.” The flash mob was part of One Billion Rising’s campaign to raise awareness about the fact that one billion women will be either beaten or raped in their lifetime.
Valentine’s Day this year coincided with the 15th anniversary of V-Day, a global campaign most known for its Vagina Monologues plays that are performed throughout the world. V-Day stages gatherings, films, and campaigns to change attitudes about violence toward women.
Similar events took place in hundreds of cities around the world. In New York City alone, supporters organized flash mobs and other awareness events. Organizers set up a live stream video to attract viewers around the world.
One Billion Rising also gained significant attention in social media. Celebrities have used their influence to voice their support for the movement on twitter. Russell Simmons and Maria Shriver tweeted using the “#1BillionRising” hashtags. Actress Anne Hathaway drew attention to the cause when she wore a One Billion Rising tank top on the cover of Glamour magazine last month. Senator Kristen Gillibrand also tweeted in support.
Activists and supporters learned the dance prior to the Valentine’s Day flash mob via Internet videos or classes throughout the city, according to social media strategist, Majo Tinocio, 37.
Savannah Cook, 25, a victim advocate at a non-profit organization called Shelterhouse in Midland, Michigan, traveled to New York City specifically for the event. She came with her friends Whitney Luce, 26, and Vicki Wakeman, 28, both social workers, to join the flash mob. They learned the dance in advance by watching the YouTube videos.
“It’s to change the attitudes. It’s not just about how to avoid rape. It should just be, ‘don’t rape.’ I mean this here in a country where women’s rights are generally respected. Once you start considering the rest of the world, it’s just scary to think about.” Tinocio said. “So I knew I had to participate.”
Mariama Petrolawicz, CEO and founder of There Is No Limit, a foundation that works with communities to fight global poverty, gender inequalities, and diseases, was one of many dancers in the flash mob. She works between New York City and the Republic of Guinea in West Africa.
“I enjoyed it. I do not even want to leave. I’m glad that it got a lot of attention. So many people came. That’s why we are here, because it seemed like not everybody knew about it,” Petrolawicz said. “With this dance, so many people are now aware. So I think it is fantastic and it was successful. I want to do it again and again.”
This article was originally published in The New School Free Press and can be viewed here.