Friday, February 22, 2013

What it took to put on OBR - YOU!

One Billion Rising RVA has come - and gone - like a tornado rushing through my life.  For five weeks, from Jan 7 until Feb 14, my brain was in its highest gear, working to create a powerful, life-changing event for Richmonders, one that would put an end to violence against women, once and for all.

That may have been a too-lofty goal, but it didn't keep me from envisioning it and working towards it.
Kelsey Bedolli, Janett Forte, Julie Willard, Susan Singer

Five of us women: Janett Forte, Kelsey Bedolli, Julie Willard, Alba Jaramillo, and I, worked countless hours each day to pull together a huge event in a very short span of time.  It was exhilarating, fascinating, frustrating, dramatic, satisfying, maddening, and ultimately one of the biggest highs of my life.  It was amazing to see how the five of us worked together.  Without even talking about what needed to be done, each of us would work on parts of the project that needed to be with hardly any overlap ever.  It was almost magical!

Here's a very brief overview of what had to be done in five weeks:
  •  Find a location for the rally - the Richmond Coliseum was truly perfect, and the people we worked with there could not have been more helpful.  A completely positive experience.
  • Find a fiscal sponsor so we could run donations through a non-profit, making the donations tax-deductible and therefore easier to ask folks for - the Action Alliance was a gracious sponsor, allowing us to also use their copier to run off 1000's of flyers to promote the event, and to use their offices to meet in
  • set up a way to get donations - Indiegogo worked beautifully, and we raised $3315 in little over a month through the generosity of friends and co-workers and family members and strangers.  It was thrilling each day to check in and see what had happened since the last time I'd looked.  Thank you!
  • Find speakers - we were exceedingly blessed to find many good speakers to share their stories with the attendees.
Claire Sheppard and Kristi VanAudenhove
  1. Mayor Dwight Jones inspired us to contact our legislators to let them know we insist that VAWA be passed.  Thanks, Mayor Jones, for joining us!
  2. Claire Hylton Sheppard shared the painful story of her daughter's murder and inspired us with her courage and determination to make sure it doesn't happen to others.
  3. Carol Adams of the Richmond Police Department told us about her mother's murder at the hands of her father and how it affected her as a child.  She has gone on to be a powerful advocate for children ever since.  It's great seeing pain turned into activism.
  4. Rebiya Kadeer, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, shared with us the predicament the Uyghurs, a minority ethnic group in East Turkestan in China, are in.  Her life story is powerful and full of pain and suffering, but she is a powerful reminder of what just one person can do to bring attention to the plight of others through outspoken advocacy and efforts.
  5. Rebiya Kadeer and her translator Omer Kadat
    Carol Adams
  6. Kristi VanAudenhove of the Action Alliance shared with the attendees what the Action Alliance does and gave people ways to get involved themselves so they can make a difference just like our speakers have done.  She also encouraged all of us to take the One Billion Rising pledge to do at least one thing this year to help end violence against women.  Here's the pledge:
I am one of the One Billion Rising and I PLEDGE that on 14 February 2013, I will make violence against women and girls the central issue of our time and help to end it in my family, school, job, community/city/state/country by doing the following. 
  •  Find musicians - Gaye Adegbalola and the Wild Roots were the perfect accompaniment to the speakers.  Their music is powerful and evocative and empowering and gave us a chance to dance and feel the power in our bodies.
  • Find an emcee who could keep things flowing.  Christina Feerick of WRIC TV8 was super!  She, like all of the speakers, donated her time to help the cause of ending violence against women.  She promoted the rally on the news, on FB, on Twitter.  She was terrific!
  • Find Halal meals for Ms. Kadeer and her translator - first I had to learn what that was - thanks, Julie! - then I had to find someplace to get them for them.  This was not so easy, but we managed!
  • Khalima
  • Find entertainers for the time slot from 11-12 and coordinate them all.
  1. Khalima did her wonderful belly dancing
  2. Sara Heifitz stepped in at the last minute to substitute for another actress who couldn't come and performed a couple of Vagina Monologues beautifully and powerfully.  There was another actress who did a monologue, but I don't know her name.  If you were she, please let me know!
  3. Aja Hull and John Blake brought slam poetry to the OBR arena and added immense power to the happenings.
  4. Glow spinners and hoopers took part to add to the multigenerational aspect.
  5. Susan DePhillip came and sang and played her guitar and added much beauty to the day.
  6. Denise Bennett told a funny and meaningful story in Spanish and English then sang a beautiful a capella song to entertain us all.
  7. Aja Hull
    Denise Bennett
    Drummer in the hallway
  9. Drummers came to drum at the end of the rally so we could all dance - Diana Harris brought 15 drums to the Coliseum so that that could happen.
  • Create a way for participants to acknowledge their own experience.  Shirley Silberman learned how to do Papier and Cloth mache' in order to create the Dragon so people could Conquer their Dragons. So beautiful and creative!

Studio X

Dogtown Dance and Khalima

Planned Parenthood volunteer

  • Organize a resource fair so folks could find help or volunteer opportunities if they felt so led - the YWCA, Action Alliance, Safe Harbor, First Things First, Planned Parenthood, Studio X, dogtown Dance, Beyond Barbie, Hollaback, Circle Safety & Health Consultants, and a bus from the Latin American Art Association were present to support and enrich our attendees' lives.  We even managed to find a T shirt vendor who traveled from Waynesboro to sell T shirts for the event.
  • Spread the word about One Billion Rising RVA - we had a Facebook page, a Facebook event page, a website, a Twitter account, Instagram, Pinterest - you name it, if it was social media-related, I think we had it!  And we had volunteers who helped us fill each with interesting things for folks to read!  We also sent out 5 different press releases to the local media.  We had articles in several blogs - La Diff furniture store even wrote a piece about us!  We were on TV, on the radio, in the newspaper, in Style Weekly, etc.  I'll post all the links in another blog post.  Our Facebook reach maxxed out at 13,497, with 735 people "liking" us - so far.  
  • Organize marches the day of the rally to let people in the area know it was happening.  Carly Evans, Alba Jaramillo, Lori Gardener, Diana Harris along with Kelly and Eugene from American Family Fitness Center held a rally at 8, and the YWCA held another at 10.  They certainly enlivened the city with their enthusiastic support of OBR!
  • Print up countless flyers as well as programs for the events.  The Action Alliance provided us with access to their printers for the flyers and Conquest graphics generously donated the programs for the rally.
  • The YWCA supporters walk to the Coliseum from the Y
    Bobby Lohr, T shirt vendor with customers
  • Create complementary events to support OBR and to spread the word and the energy even further.

Renee King and They Dance When They're Happy
  1. Women Rise! a juried art show held at Crossroads Art Center.
  2. Cranksrising - a bike race/scavenger hunt organized by Lorene Davidson and created to raise awareness and to provide supplies for the women at Safe Harbor shelter
  3. Beyond Barbie: Four Fridays in February - a performance series produced by Dawn Flores consisting of four nights of entertainment around issues of importance to women.  Denise Bennett, Lisette Johnson, Kathleen MacDonald, Sylvia Clute, Peggy O'Neill, Jess Lucia, Jackie Jones, Jenny Warne, Paige Russell Rosemond Rosemond and Susan DePhilip, (and perhaps others I've regrettably not remembered to include) graced the stage and moved us with their candor and courage.
  4. Hollaback had a benefit at Babes of Carytown on Valentine's Day which benefitted OBR.
  5. Hollaback's Afton and Jenn
  6. The Vagina Monologues, directed by Julie Willard, will take place at the Gottwald Theater, April 26-27 and will be the last of the series of complementary events for One Billion Rising!  Watch our FB page for info on how to get tickets.  It sold out last year - we're expecting the same this year.
  • Find volunteers to help us create all these wonders and to help out the day of the event.  Our email list of volunteers ultimately had 60 people on it.  What a testament to each of you for your solidarity in ending violence against women.
  • Make the event run smoothly Valentine's Day!  Julie Willard was the stage manager who kept things running.  Kelsey Bedolli helped the volunteers get where they needed to go so they could do what they needed to do.  Janett Forte picked up the slack wherever necessary.  I spoke from the podium before the other speakers to set the tone for the day.
  • Get insurance in case someone got hurt.  That involved estimating how many people would attend and making sure we had enough insurance but not too much. Our insurance agent, Mike Cushnie, was kind and helpful beyond reasonable expectations.  When I told him we needed to insure for 10,000, he gracefully helped me lower my expectations so the insurance wouldn't cost us $750, but only $495.  He was a true gift and a kind man.
  • Raise $7500 in 5 weeks!  We had a private individual who was willing to take the risk and put up the money for the Coliseum, agreeing to take the loss if necessary.  That made all of us feel determined to raise enough to keep her from losing money.  Thankfully many of you - 116 to be exact - answered our call for donations and helped us out.  That doesn't include the kind souls who donated cash at the event and can't be enumerated or thanked individually.  It does include AlterNatives and Extreme Pizza who held profit sharing events to help us out as well.  We were blessed by a generous community which is also committed to ending violence against women.  
  • Organize a Flash Mob so we'd have a very cool dance to start and end the program.
That's probably a long enough list!  I know you get the idea!  And I'm certain I've left out people - I apologize for that!  Please let me know who I've left out and I'll happily include them - each of us Lead Organizers took on different parts of the rally, so I may not even know everything that got done!  Despite that, I am deeply grateful.

Thank you, each and every one of you who helped in any way to put One Billion Rising RVA together.  I wish I could give each of you my personal thanks for working so hard to make this event happen.  There was such an incredible outpouring of love and support and caring!  The energy the day of the event was palpable and powerful.  It makes me believe that violence against women truly can end if we all put our minds to it and say NO.

I can see it on the horizon.  Can you?

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