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By Purvi Shah
The work of ending violence and enabling gender equity is hard. The victories are too rare, the celebrations too brief.
And so I participated with joy in a dance flash mob at New York City’s Washington Square Park as part of the One Billion Rising events this Feb. 14, 2013. Not only is there nothing so Bollywood as a flash dance mob but also the diverse women – across ages, ethnicities, and reasons for being present – offered me joy and hope. The power of moving in shared rhythm, each with our unique saunters and sways, made me smile. Our fierceness in surviving, celebrating, and imagining a just future gave us all glow.
From NYC, I cheered when I saw women in the city where I was born – Ahmedabad, India – danced traditional garba as their expression for a safer world. I cheer for the billion people – across 207 countries – who expressed commitment for a world without violence. To move people and be moved oneself is no easy task. It is worth celebration – especially in the face of naysayers who believe nothing can (or will) ever change.
Yes, powerful critiques of such movements exist. There can be powerful privileges, glosses over indigenous women, queer women, women of color, working class women, women around our world. And so we should keep working for strategic understandings of power and power differentials – and strategic methods for change rooted through our own voices, keeping in mind the incredible range and complexity of our experiences and inter-relationships.
As we critique aspects of One Billion Rising, however, I hope we do not slight our own powers – our own capacity for connection over difference, for beauty over despair, for change over stagnation, for possibility over impossibility, for movement over silence.
My hope for our movement is that we envision our capacity to connect our own pasts and futures, our shared dreams across lands and divisions, and our power to move forward despite a recalcitrant society, fractured policies, and divisive agendas.
We start by believing again that movement is powerful – and is available to each one of us. We start by wondering: how can we move as ourselves and with others? We start by knowing: somewhere a movement is in the making. We start by asking ourselves: how can we make movement?
In the end, I can’t imagine a better way to spend Valentine’s Day than dancing. In fact, I can get down with that – especially on the road to justice.
Purvi Shah reckons life is better with a dreamtrack. Winner of the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Services Award in 2008 for her work fighting violence against women, she also directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. She writes to plumb experiences including migration & loss, the current threading her debut poetry book, Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press: 2006)—a nominee for the 2007 Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award. She serves as a non-profit consultant while contributing to the Huffington Post. You can find more of her work at http://purvipoets.net or @PurviPoets.