Violence against women is focus of One Billion Rising, ‘Vagina Monologues’ events on V-Day

Proceeds from the One Billion Rising V-Day event this Thursday will benefit the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (Marianna Hauglie/DD)

Valentine’s Day—a 24-hour period in which a relationship is embellished with roses, Hallmark cards and dinners for two—is not usually associated with violence against women. But this year, it will also be a day to shed light on the atrocities women endure across the globe.

This Valentine’s Day, hundreds will dance through the streets of downtown Phoenix to raise awareness for domestic violence during One Billion Rising, an event expected to draw both men and women from across the state. Together with showings of the play “The Vagina Monologues,” the day will be formally presented as V-Day.

Participants will gather from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Cesar Chavez Plaza on the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street and dance their way to Civic Space Park. Proceeds of the event will benefit the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

One Billion Rising was organized by Karen Lillis Bravo of Independent Voices and Karen Kondej of Arizona NOW, the state chapter of the National Organization for Women. Bravo said she is passionate about women’s rights.

“One in three women on the planet is going to be raped or sexually abused in her lifetime,” Bravo said. “(That adds to) one billion women.”

In addition to the dance, One Billion Rising will include music by singer Celia Farran, a performance by artist Apollo Poetry, and other influential speakers. A candlelight vigil will be held toward the end of the event. It will honor two women — Laura Peralta, who was killed in November by her husband, and Jyoti Singh Pandey, the young Indian gang rape victim who succumbed to severe internal injuries in December.

Bravo, 56, of Scottsdale, has been involved in activism since the 1970s. She protested the Vietnam War and marched in Chicago during Roe v. Wade.

Women’s issues have become personal to Bravo, who had a relative die from a back-room abortion. Through One Billion Rising, she said she hopes to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources for those who need help.

Bravo said she expects people from all genders and sexual orientations to attend the event.

“We’ve got a huge interest from men and the LGBT community and from the performing arts community,” Bravo said.

Apollo Poetry, 29, of Phoenix, will perform at the event. He created a song and music video for One Billion Rising called “Dear Ladies.”

His work mainly focuses on social issues and he said he was honored for the invitation to play at the occasion.

“We can’t just sit back and allow these things to happen,” he said.

Poetry stressed that more men should participate in this event.

“Society is very much like a bird. Men and women are the wings. When we learn to fly together, we learn to rise together,” he said.

Bravo said Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to bring out women who might be celebrating the holiday alone.

“This is for all the women who sit at home on Valentine’s Day who don’t have dates,” she said.

Stacey Champion, 41, of Phoenix, is the communications director at PR firm Strategies 360 and the producer for the local showing of “The Vagina Monologues.” She said she is enthusiastic about taking part in the V-Day events.

This is the second year Champion has produced the show in Phoenix. She has seen the effects of violence against women, she said.

“I’ve personally experienced violence in my lifetime,” she said. “Every woman I’m close to has unfortunately experienced (some form of) abuse. I spent some time in women’s shelters as a little girl … As a kind of recovery as an adult, I wanted to give back to help support women’s rights.”

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the conception of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” a series of monologues about women’s sexuality. Joseph Benesh will direct the performance.

“V-Day stands for ‘vagina’ in this case, so it’s a great day to empower and educate people to stop violence toward women and girls,” Champion said.

The play will have both a 6 p.m. and a 9 p.m. showing on Thursday night. Tickets for the event are $31.50. “The Vagina Monologues” will be playing at Playhouse on the Park on the corner of Palm Lane and Central Avenue.

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