The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 14, 2013

Dancers rally in Joplin in campaign to stop violence

By Emily Younker

JOPLIN, Mo. — Isabella Hall nabbed a spot front and center of the dance group and unreservedly showed off her best dance moves.

“It was amazing; I loved it,” she said. “I just love dancing, and it’s good to help a good cause.”

The 11-year-old was one of more than 30 people who participated in a flash mob-style dance Thursday in front of the Joplin Public Library. The event, one of thousands planned across the world, was held as part of the One Billion Rising campaign, an international activist movement led by Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization aimed at stopping violence against women and girls.

Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” announced the campaign last year, urging women and men around the world to dance on Feb. 14 to raise awareness of the troubling United Nations statistic that one in three women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

“It’s happening, and what we’re seeing is really huge uprisings,” Ensler told The Associated Press on Thursday. “It’s amazing because it goes from huge events like in Collins Square in London to six girls in a living room in Iran. That’s what’s so beautiful about it, like the whole world’s doing it in the way they can do it.”

Click here to see video.

Several international officials endorsed the event, including the prime ministers of England and Australia, the president of Croatia, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted: “I rise with people of good conscience to stand up against intolerable acts of violence against women around the world.”

Scheduled events in the U.S. included flash mobs in San Francisco; a Zumba dance party with Jane Fonda in Los Angeles; a special program at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, featuring Rosario Dawson and Glenn Close; and a rally led by Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice A. King, in Atlanta.

In Joplin, the dance party was small but energetic. Shelli Jones, one of the organizers, said she was pleased with the turnout. She said several women told her they participated because they had been a victim of violence, because they knew someone who had been a victim or just because they wanted to rally for the cause.

“I hope that it gave people hope, maybe a little community and support,” she said.

Marlena Hall, Isabella’s mother, said she brought her daughters, who were out of school for Valentine’s Day, to show them how activism can work.

“I thought it was something fun to show them to support a cause and participate in something that’s bigger than themselves,” she said.

Charity Hall, of Pittsburg, Kan., brought her 19-year-old daughter with her for the dance rally, the reason for which struck her deeply.

“I come from a background of domestic violence, and I feel like the more people know about it, the more they’ll understand it and understand where women are coming from,” she said. “I’m very happy to see this kind of support. I think it’s awesome.”

Victoria Carpenter, of Joplin, said she first heard about One Billion Rising in a newspaper from her native Australia and then found out through the Globe that a local event was planned.

“I got excited and rang every foreigner (in Joplin) I could think of,” she said. “I just love the idea of the flash mob to get all these strangers together to do this.”

Carpenter wasn’t sure she got the dance choreography right — she found herself free-styling more than following the specific routine — but she enjoyed connecting with the other women who turned out to dance.

“It’s just a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and honor women globally,” she said.

Anna Turner, of Springfield, noticed the dancers as she waited at the library for an afternoon bus to take her back home. Although she missed the dance, she said she quickly got on board with the One Billion Rising mission.

“This organization, what they have done is a blessing for the children all around the world, and I hope they stay strong with it because it may stop many perpetrators,” she said. “The buck needs to stop here.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

Local assistance

SUZANNE SIMEK, child care director of Lafayette House, said violence against women can affect everyone in a family, especially a woman’s children. She said women and children who need help with cases of domestic violence or sexual assault are urged to call Lafayette House’s toll-free number, 800-416-1772.