The Arts for Social Justice: One Billion Rising

We often talk about the power of the arts to inspire and to help people see the world differently. For more than two decades playwright and social activist Eve Ensler has done this by combining theatre with social change, with her play Vagina Monologues (which I first saw in 1998), and with V-Day, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “end violence against women and girls,” often using theater as a means to raise awareness and support.

Susan Swan, managing director of V-Day, is inviting arts organizations to participate in the group’s latest effort, One Billion Rising, in February and she has asked me to share this letter with you.

An Invitation to participate in “One Billion Rising”
From Susan Swan, Managing Director of V-Day, and Kathleen Drohan, Arts Marketer

The arts have the power to change lives. We all believe that, and I think for most of us that’s a part of why we chose a career in arts administration. We work long hours for wages that are unlikely to put us into the 1%, but we do it willingly and with passion because we’ve seen the impact our organizations have on communities and individuals. I would even venture that each of our lives has been changed in some way by an encounter with art, and the efforts of even the smallest of our arts groups result in a net position for society as a whole.

A global day of action is planned for February 14, 2013, and I believe this represents a great opportunity for our organizations to do what we do best — to use the arts as a means of changing perspectives and lives.

One Billion Rising directly confronts the horrifying statistic that one in three women globally is raped, beaten, or severely violated her lifetime. That’s one billion women. Led by playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues, Necessary Targets, Emotional Creature) and V-Day, One Billion Rising invites people around the world to take time on February 14 to rise, dance, and show their commitment to making violence against women and girls a distant, sad memory. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a revolution.

Since announcing One Billion Rising over a year ago, support has been overwhelming. Those lending their voices have included the His Holiness The Dalai Lama, women of the British Parliamentary, Amnesty International, and a group of students who staged a Gangnam Style flash mob in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Dance, as a universal language of joy, is the focus of One Billion Rising, but that can be interpreted in any way that works for your group. Groups can dedicate part or all of an event to the evening; ask audiences to take a moment to dance after a curtain call or during intermission; or simply share information as fliers or in an e-mail to your constituents.

Organizations worldwide are joining the effort in ways that make sense for their communities. The Guerrilla Girls in New York City; Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and St. John the Divine in New York City; ELLE Magazine Belgium; and Unite and TUC in the UK are among the hundreds of groups worldwide who have joined to rise.

Groups can dedicate part or all of an event to the evening; ask audiences to take a moment to dance after a curtain call or during intermission, or simply share information such as fliers or in an e-mail to their constituents. For more information on getting involved, contact Kathleen Drohan at kathleendrohan (at) or visit


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