On V-Day, DC dances to end violence against women

One Billion Rising, Farragut Square, Washington, DC

Washington, DC downtown lunch-goers picking up a bite to eat at the Farragut Square food trucks found a dance party in progress at their picnic place.

The fair weather drew several hundred people to an event sponsored by the One Billion Rising campaign, which aims to wrest the Valentine spotlight from the consumerist holiday and shine it on violence directed at women.

Long celebrated as Valentine’s Day in many cultures and leveraged for the last fifteen years by women’s rights activists in the “V-Day movement,” today’s actions are a culmination of the “One Billion Rising” campaign spearheaded by author, playwright and activist Eve Ensler and champions equal rights and an end to violence against women and young girls.

The stark fact underlying the campaign is that one in three women–more than a billion–will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.

Revelers in Farragut Square joined thousands in One Billion Rising events around the world, including Khartoum, New Delhi, and Joy (Democratic Republic of Congo), using dance as a form of empowerment:

When One Billion bodies rise and dance on 14 February 2013, we will join in solidarity, purpose and energy and shake the world into a new consciousness. Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It’s dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It’s free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It’s contagious and it spreads quickly. It’s of the body. It’s transcendent.

Watch people around the world dance.

And see more pictures of DC Rising here.

Syrians rally for democratic future, end of atrocities

Waving Syrian flags, Syrian Americans gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy to draw attention to the opposition movement defying the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The rally came just after Assad assented to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, but the UN said he hadn’t yet fully complied with its peace plan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against half-measures, saying in a press conference, “The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations.” Apparently committing the US to political transition, Clinton said, “Assad will have to go and the Syrian people must be given the chance to chart their own future.”

Called the Syrian Women and Children Rally, supporters chanted “Free, free Syria!” and “We want democracy, not hypocrisy!” A speaker said, “We are here to tell the whole world that there is a massacre happening in Syria right now. We are here to support our brothers and sisters in Syria.”

The rally was held in front of the Saudi Embassy out of gratitude to its government–one sign read “Thank you Saudis for supporting the Syrian Revolution”–and to ask for more measures like a no-fly zone and a safe haven on the Turkish border.

“The Saudi Embassy representative welcomed us and thanked us for being here, and said they supported us 100%,” organizer Nagia Kurabi said.

The crowd of about 50 was largely made up of women of all ages, who highlighted the current plight of women and girls in Syria: “When a girl gets raped in Syria, we are all raped.”

17-year-old Hania Hamwi of Arlington, VA said it was important to get the message out to people in America that Syrians need help. “Children are so innocent,” she said. “Why should Assad’s soldiers go into a house a rape a woman in front of her child? The least I can do is be out here.”

At the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Ave., the demonstrators raised the Syrian revolutionary flag without permission before moving on to protest at the Syrian embassy.

(Images by coolrevolution.net)

Cool Day in History: “We want bread and roses too”

International Women’s Day has its roots in the labor movement:

On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. Their ranks were broken up by the police. Fifty-one years later, March 8, 1908, their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honoring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labor. The police were present on this occasion too.

The labor struggle in the US is an exciting one, but it traditionally concentrates on men. A little examination shows that women carried their weight and their share from the beginning, both supporting the men’s organizing and quite soon, after realizing that women’s needs were ignored in the existing unions, forming women’s caucuses or all women’s unions. The first all women strikes took place in the 1820’s in the New England tailoring trades.

The most famous of the early strikes took place at the Lowell cotton mills in Massachusetts. Here young women worked eighty-one hours a week for three dollars, one and a quarter of which went for room and board at the Lowell company boarding houses.

(Photo: Women corset workers on strike, 1937. From the collection of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs.)