On February 14th, 2013, One Billion Rising RVA took place at the Richmond Coliseum. Janett Forte, Kelsey Bedolli, Julie Willard, Alba Jaramillo, and I were the five lead organizers for the event. Our intention was to raise awareness about violence against women and to help end it. We created a Resource Fair, offered Entertainment, provided music and dance, and organized 5 speakers (Mayor Jones, Claire Hylton Sheppard, Carol Jones, Rebiya Kadeer, Kristi VanAudenhove with Christina Feerick as MC) to address various aspects of violence against women - domestic violence, stalking, spousal murder, sex trafficking, young marriage, oppression, sexual abuse, etc. Approximately 1000 attended the rally; many more tuned in via LiveStream; and even more knew about it and were with us in spirit.
Several people have asked me for a copy of my remarks from the day (I was the first speaker and offered the concluding remarks as well). Here they are...
Welcome to One Billion Rising RVA! Welcome!
My name is Susan Singer and I’m one of the five lead organizers for this event. I am so happy to see you all here today. I hope you’ll tweet and FB your friends all day to let them know what’s happening and to give them a virtual rally even if they can’t be here with you right now, but please invite them to come if they can! Let’s make the Richmond Coliseum the place to be right now!
And why is it the place to be?
Take a moment to feel that – you being here.
No matter what you have experienced in your past, no matter what you may experience in your future, right now, right here, you are here. Present to yourself.
Let all the hustle and bustle of the morning slip away. Feel the adrenalin coursing through your veins from the dancing. Feel your muscles vibrating with joy from the movement. Notice the beat of the music in your head. Feel the vibration in the air, the excitement, the buzz, the anticipation.
Now put your attention into your belly, your beautiful belly, the seat of your power. What kind of energy do you sense there now? Can you feel it growing? THIS is the source of your power.
Perhaps in the past you were told to hold it in. Perhaps someone tried to beat it out of you, or had dominion over you, and you thought you had to squelch it or suffer terrible consequences. Well I am here to tell you today that you do not have to hold it in anymore. Today is a new day, a new way of being, the rising of a new consciousness, the shift into a new paradigm. We are here today to break through the pain we’ve experienced and to come into our own power.
For all you men and for those who fall between rigid gender assignments, we’re speaking to you too. Most assuredly. We love our V-Men and our V-tweeners, especially the ones with the courage to be here today to embrace their own beautiful power and to set an example for others to follow. Kids, we’re talking to you too! You’re the ones who are growing up into this big wide wonderful world, and we want to make it as safe and beautiful for you as we possibly can!
So, please, women, men, kids, and everyone in between, embrace your own power! You know I’m not talking about power over or about dominion over – I’m not talking about political or physical power that leads to confrontation and polarization. Those are simply manifestations of fear. To those living with the fear that manifests as bullying, I invite you to feel this different source of power. I offer you healing for your pain.
There is a deep rich knowing deep in our bodies that can heal the world. It arises through dance, one of the most magical manifestations of joy possible!
It arises when we hold our newborn babies in our arms and feel their pure souls cradled there.
It manifests when we see another in pain and rush to help. It happens when our hearts open and override our conditioning.
Today I ask you to open your heart, access your power, dance your joy, and, as you do so, know that ALL OVER THE WORLD, crossing the globe just as the sun is crossing the globe, women and children and men and all genders in between in over 200 countries around the world, are gathered, just like we are, feeling their power and their joy. There are over 20 risings in Virginia alone. Can you feel the power?
In the General Assembly just a few blocks away, Delegate Jennifer McClellan is calling on our delegates to join us in spirit to put an end to violence against women. At the end of their session, around the end of our rally, Senator Donald McEachin will close the Senate session by rising and asking all the Senators to take a pledge to make violence against women THE central issue of our times.
This is a moment like no other in the history of the world. More women and those who love us are rising today than have ever come together – ever!
So I ask you to take a moment to feel your sisters and brothers and others in Mumbai, in Tokyo, in London, in the steppes of Russia, in Mexico, in Capetown, even in Antartica.
All over the world, people are feeling this power in their bellies. They are invoking a vision of a new world where compassion and kindness and compromise are the hallmarks of justice. Can you see it?
We are calling forth our clarity that there is no place in the world for cruelty or injustice or even unkindness. There is only room for kindness and love and compassion.
We are calling forth a world where we feel solidarity with our sisters. When bad things happen, we call on our sisters and our V-men and everyone else and together we make it right. We don’t allow a young girl in Pakistan to die because she wanted to go to school and spoke out about it. Instead we raise a rallying cry and make a public stink and make sure she recovers and can go on to learn as much as she possibly can. That outcry is changing the world. Our solidarity, our choice, to stand behind that young woman changed something in the world.
I have a challenge for you – from now on, if you see a woman in pain or a man suffering an injustice or a child needing help, if you can’t help directly, do this – look that person in their eyes and raise your one finger in the air and let them know – we are all one. They are NOT alone. They have ONE BILLION PEOPLE BESIDE THEM, BEHIND THEM, all over the globe, supporting them as they stand up to oppression and say no. Our sign from this day onward, to all who are suffering, is our one finger, raised in solidarity and support, reminding each of us, we are not alone.
If each of us has the courage to tell our stories, our heartbreaking sorrowful sad shameful stories, we can break the chain and open our hearts and find the support we need. We can work together to make things right. We can work together to heal where there has been harm. We can work together to change laws that are unjust, to govern in just and compassionate ways. We can work together to end war and to heal the planet and to create a good and just world for all.
Together we rise. ONE BILLION RISING.
We have heard here today some of the horrors being perpetrated here in Richmond as well as around the world. There is so much pain and suffering, it is terribly difficult to hold it all.
But we have also heard tales of joy and empowerment and triumph – Claire’s daughter’s tragic murder led Claire to become a tireless advocate for others. Carol’s mother’s death has not gone unnoticed, and thousands of children are better cared for thanks to Carol and her mother. Rebiya Kadeer’s life has been full of pain and suffering, even as now two of her children are imprisoned just as she was. Despite all that, we have witnessed her determination to take the higher path and to devote her life to the autonomy and safety of her beloved Uyghur people, especially the women.
Each of the women you heard speak today is a beautiful example of power used for good. Each has accessed her life’s purpose, the reason she is on this planet, the reason her life matters, and each is boldly and courageously pursuing her vision for a better world.
Take the time, I beg you, to listen deep within to your own still small voice that knows why you’re here, what you are meant to be doing, and pledge today to do one thing to grow that voice, one thing each day, to give voice to the beauty you have to offer the world. Just imagine a world where each of us is living the life we were born to lead – giving the world the gifts that only we have to bestow.
THAT is the vision of SEVEN billion rising and of heaven on earth. Thank you.