Saturday February 16, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Global activism on Valentine’s Day is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

On Thursday, people gathered to dance at Equilibrium on Elm Street to show their support for ending violence to women.

"For us, it’s great," said Equilibrium owner Jacob Roberts. "We saw a lot of new faces. And since it was nationally recognized, we had people come who wouldn’t have normally come to Equilibrium on a Thursday night. For us, it was really cool to see some of the regulars and those who embraced our space co-mingling with those who are there for their first time."

The event was organized by Julie Cunningham, who works for Families First, which sponsored the event. The proceeds went to the Women’s Freedom Center, located in Brattleboro.

It was part of events held on Valentine’s Day throughout the world that support One Billion Rising, which is a campaign that symbolizes the amount of women affected by violence worldwide. The campaign was founded by Eve Ensler, who wrote "The Vagina Monlogues."

Cunningham had been at work on an idea to spread a message to help stop violence against women since attending a conference in upstate New York, where Ensler had asked the audience to commit to the cause in their respective hometowns.

"I stood up and said, ‘I got your back in Brattleboro,’" Cunningham said.

Although Cunningham had been sick with the flu for a few weeks, she said she was able get the event rolling.


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"It all just kind of came together," she said.

Men and women came out to Equilibrium to dance to Atom Planet, a band which Cunningham’s husband plays in. His band played songs as the crowd danced, including a cover of "Once In A Lifetime," originally recorded by Talking Heads. After Atom Planet finished, DJ-J played a set.

Those who came were encouraged to share their movement and expression in what Roberts called the common space, which is a hall where musicians and other performers are encouraged to play.

"It went well," said Roberts. "We had about 50 people show up and we raised $135 for the Women’s Freedom Center, which is great."

Roberts has owned Equilibrium for five months. The first section is a café, which has soy and organic products. He invites people to use his healing room for workshops and other activities. He also has a section of the building that operates as a store, where people can sell clothing and other merchandise they’ve produced.

Roberts is open to suggestions and new ideas. He likes to share the space in Equilibrium with the community.

On Friday Su Eaton of Peaceable Village appeared at Equilibrium to hold a "Moovin’ and Groovin’ Love and Friendship" interactive concert.

Eaton told the Reformer that she encourages non-competitive activities and fun for all ages that channel everyone’s inner child. Proceeds went to a victim of a house fire in Jamaica.

On Saturday, Eaton will be having a free interactive fashion show. Its participants will wear "recycled clothing." This is to encourage people not to waste articles of clothing that may be handed down. Eaton suggests people make old clothing their own. The fashion show will also welcome barefoot models.

Other benefits were occurring all around the world on Valentine’s Day, in order to support One Billion Rising, which has been organizing a Valentine’s Day Movement.

According to the website vday.org, "V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery."

Leland & Gray High School has been working with One Billion Rising, too.

A student activist group from the high school, Civic Leadership Education and Action, worked with the Brattleboro Women’s Freedom Center. The CLEA gathered information about violence against women as well as local women’s resources to show the student body on Feb. 6.

On Thursday, CLEA invited students and teachers to join in on a flash mob, "to express solidarity with One Billion Rising and highlight the importance of ending violence against women," read a press release from Leland and Gray.

Participants sang the theme song from the campaign, "Break the Chain," during lunch time.

CLEA will also be organizing bake sales throughout February, in order to donate its proceeds to the Brattleboro Women’s Freedom Center.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.