March 7, 2013
Today, President Obama will sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). After first being signed into law in 1994, VAWA has since been reauthorized two additional times. But VAWA’s fate hung in the balance last year, when Congress began to disagree about who should be protected under VAWA and failed to re-authorize the Act. As advocates of VAWA sought to expand protection to transgender people, gay and lesbian couples, Native Americans on reservations, and undocumented immigrants, a vocal backlash erupted.
Advocates of an expanded VAWA argued that because violence against women is a pervasive issue, the protected class covered under VAWA had to more inclusive. Violence Against Women is a global issue, and, this Valentine’s Day, there was a global response: One Billion Rising, a strike, show of solidarity, and movement to stop violence against women and girls. In cities around the world, people participated in Strike.Dance.Rise. New Orleans was home to a rising started by Sisters in the Name of Love and supported by Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES). The event included a second-line procession to Congo Square and dancing, healing circles, prayer, poetry, acupuncture, body massage, and relaxation.
Because the event was being held on the “most romantic day of the year,” I was initially apprehensive about how many people would show up. When I first walked into Ashé Cultural Center, I saw one hundred or so people dedicating their day to discussing something each person felt very passionate about. Predominantly women came to the event, and while it was a diverse group, it was disappointing to see a show of solidarity that did not include men. In one of my candid interviews at the event, attendee Keiya Mavita, remarked, “Every time I saw a man step up today, it just made my heart warm.” Everyone I interviewed emphasized the importance of having all members of society (young/old, man/woman) become an active part of the solution. And this is the mission of One Billion Rising: to bring people together from all walks of life with different passions to rally around a problem that affects us all. After initially stumbling by not reauthorizing VAWA last year, the country took another step forward in the fight to end violence against women today.
Ariel Guidry is a Media Fellow at the Anna Julia Cooper Project. She is an aspiring filmmaker and a 2012 graduate of Tulane University. As a student, she pursued educational opportunities that afforded creativity and participated in writing and film projects, eventually majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Her final semester at Tulane was spent working with New Orleans middle school students to produce short videos that promoted educational reform and creating video blogs for the Cooper website.