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One Billion Rising: Eve Ensler & Taína Asili Mark V-Day and Campaign to End Sexual Violence

StoryFebruary 14, 2020
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This Valentine’s Day, people around the world are taking to the streets to protest violence against women and girls. From the Philippines to India to Italy to Bolivia, thousands of women in more than 100 countries will reclaim public space through dance and performance as part of a global movement called One Billion Rising. The movement takes its name from the shocking statistic that one in three women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. One Billion Rising started on Valentine’s Day 2012 and has continued to grow every year since. Participants say they won’t stop dancing until violence against all women — cis, transgender and those with fluid gender identities — has ended. We speak with Eve Ensler, the award-winning playwright and author of “The Vagina Monologues.” She is the founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising. We’re also joined by Taína Asili, a Puerto Rican singer, filmmaker and activist whose song is the One Billion Rising anthem.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Taína Asili, “We Are Rising.” She released the song for this V-Day, in collaboration with One Billion Rising. This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, this is Valentine’s Day. People around the world are taking to the streets to protest violence against women and girls. From the Philippines to India to Italy to Bolivia, thousands of women in more than 100 countries will reclaim public space through dance and performance. The global movement is called One Billion Rising.

AMY GOODMAN: One Billion Rising takes its name from the shocking statistic that one in three women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s 1 billion women and girls. The movement started Valentine’s Day 2012, has continued to grow every year since. They say they won’t stop dancing until violence against all women — cis, transgender and those with fluid gender identities — has ended.

Well, for more, we’re joined here in New York City by two guests: Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright, author of The Vagina Monologues, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising, and Taína Asili, the Puerto Rican singer, filmmaker, activist. We just heard her song, a part of it, “We Are Rising.”

So, Eve, One Billion Rising, talk about the significance in this year, 2020. You started it, what, eight years ago?

EVE ENSLER: Yeah, we started it eight years ago, and we thought it would be a one-year campaign. And guess what. Dancing just spread like a fabulous virus around the world.

I think this year — and I just want to say to all the activists who have already begun to rise — we’re already getting videos from Australia, in Byron Bay, where women there begin — really, begin the day by taking off their clothes and diving into the ocean, doing a mad dance. They’ve risen at the presidential palace in the Philippines. The day has begun.

And I think this year is really significant because of the rise, what we’re seeing across the world, of fascism, of white supremacy, of desecration of the climate, of trans rights being obliterated, of workers’ rights being obliterated. And I think one of the things we know from dance and from music is that it raises the vibration, so that all these kind of forces of darkness, whether they’re the leaders of our own country or the Philippines or India, just this kind of low-level oppression, low-level hatred — what dance and music does is it lifts the vibration.

So, right now in 180 countries that we know of, people will have already begun to rise and will keep rising. The 29 states of India are rising. And what’s beautiful about India is that they have joined forces with all the people rising against the citizenship amendment, so that we’re seeing now, in the eighth year, how intersectional this movement has become and how, like dance and like energy, it’s brought all kinds of coalitions together. So, in some places, indigenous people are rising for land rights, that corporations are taking for drilling. In some places, like last week, we rose in New York against Governor Cuomo for One Fair Wage. We rose with restaurant workers who are still living on tip wages and are facing some of the highest rates of sexual abuse. In villages in Zimbabwe, they’re rising with tribal leaders, who are now beginning to understand that violence against women must be part of the discourse, and they must change basic cultural ways. So, we’re seeing this incredible diversity of risings, but the solidarity in terms of the fact that we know that women’s bodies are the landscape on which so much violence is inflicted, whether it’s violence literally of rape, of harassment, of incest, of battery, or if it’s the abuse of poverty, the abuse of denigration of migrant rights, the denigration of workers’ rights, the denigration of LGBTQ rights. We’re seeing this across the globe.

And I have to say, I’m particularly proud, because in places like Mexico, where they’ve been rising for the last nine years against sex trafficking, they’re having an impact on sex trafficking. In Hong Kong, where domestic workers have been rising for eight years, they’ve actually changed laws. And they just got it so that women can no longer clean windows on the outside of high-rise buildings, because so many women were dying. Well, they changed that law, through their dancing. And we’re seeing legislation changing. We’re seeing culture changing, major culture shifts occurring, because dance is so powerful.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Taína, I wanted to turn to play more of the music video for the song “We Are Rising” and then ask you about your involvement, as well.

TAÍNA ASILI: [singing] From those who dare to interrupt the violence
To those who expose the truth and break the silence
Warriors who work to open up the prison bars
Valiant souls who stand up against the unjust wars

The multitudes who defy walls along the border
Masses who unify to protect our water
Rebel minds who unionize for workers’ rights
Fearless hearts who fight to defend trans lives

Those who take back their land and their health
Those who seek to redistribute the wealth
Youth who demand a right to education
Those who reclaim political power in their nation

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Taína Asili. Taína, talk to us about how you got involved in this, and also about the importance of music as a form of resistance.

TAÍNA ASILI: Right. Well, you know, for the past 20 or more years, I’ve been doing social justice songwriting. I’ve been addressing issues of climate justice, issues of mass incarceration. You know, we heard “No Es Mi Presidente,” which I wrote after the last presidential elections. And a lot of my music has been identified as anthemic, right? Anthem music. And so, last year, I was really sitting with this concept of: What does it mean to write anthems for our movements? And so, I was sitting with that as I was heading down to the Beyond the Bars Conference in New York. And as it happens, Eve was there and was also thinking about this idea of a new anthem for One Billion Rising. So the two came together really nicely.

You know, for me, I see what I do, this idea of writing anthemic music, writing music for social change, as a part of my legacy as a Puerto Rican woman. My mother is a — was a dancer. My father was a singer. And they were both keepers of our Puerto Rican cultural traditions. And so, from that point until today, you know, I’ve seen all of the music that has come out of my cultural background as a Puerto Rican, from bomba y plena to hip-hop to reggaeton and all of that, as a part of the work that I do today. You know, to me, when we look at the history of oppression, art, creativity, music has always gone hand in hand. It’s a part of our human gift. So, you know, that’s something that sat with me. And this is the craft that I’ve been honing in on and trying to think about — not just thinking about it from a U.S. perspective, but also a global perspective, and how to intersect with One Billion Rising’s work that they’re doing around the globe. So it’s been a beautiful challenge.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember bumping into you and interviewing you at the first Women’s March in 2017, when you sang on the stage, outside of — well, it was the next day, after President Trump, you know, and the audience he had. Though significant, it was much larger the next day, when the women, hundreds of thousands of women, came to protest. This issue of the global women’s movement, Eve, that Taína was just referencing, this issue of intersectionality and where you are now in 2020?

EVE ENSLER: I think it’s so important. I mean, I was thinking today, you know, we have actors, artists, indigenous folks. We have farmers. We have Adivasi women. We have Dalit women. I mean, across the globe. And I think one of the things we’re seeing — we’ve even changed our mission this year, which is, V-Day is now about ending violence against all women and girls and the Mother Earth, because we understand that we can’t be addressing violence against women unless we’re addressing climate crisis. I mean, and also, how we feel about women’s bodies is so much how we feel about the Earth — the same raping, the same pillaging, the same taking without permission, the same not thinking of long-term consequences of our violence. And I think if we look what’s happened to the movement over the last eight years, it’s organically understood that you can’t end violence against women without addressing all the attending issues. You can’t do it without addressing morbid inequality of wealth in capitalism. You can’t address it without addressing imperialism and colonialism. You can’t address it without addressing how we’re treating workers and workers’ rights, because so many women are on the frontlines of low-paying jobs or jobs that are literally holding the world up with little respect.

So, I think what’s beautiful is to see how we’ve unsiloed this movement and how, in some ways, it’s easier to do in other parts of the world, because in places like the Philippines or India, they have built-in movements and coalitions that are coming together through dance. And I think dance has made it easier in some ways, because dance opens up the heart. It opens up the binaries. It opens up spaces where people can literally feel their humanity, feel their bodies, be in collective spaces together, take back public spaces, that had been denied to women, who have been so abused, and reclaim those spaces as theirs. And I think we are literally — slowly, over these eight years, we’re building a movement that is not only intersectional. It’s artistically and intersectional, which means it has some kind of new vibration that is bringing these issues together in a way that feels holistic and organic.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to end with the very music, Taína, that we’ve been playing throughout, that is your music, “We Are Rising,” on this Valentine’s Day. We want to thank you both, Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright, author of The Vagina Monologues, and Taína Asili, singer, filmmaker and activist, as we go out with “We Are Rising.”

CHORUS: One for many, and many for one
One for many, and many for one
One for many, and many for one
One for many, and many for one

TAÍNA ASILI: [singing] In a time of an upheaval
Will come a transformation
Ignite a fire that will burn
Like the sun
Become a strong movement
Fierce and determined

AMY GOODMAN: “We Are Rising,” Taína Asili. And you can see the whole thing at And the website for “We Are Rising,” One Billion Rising, Eve, is?

EVE ENSLER: And over 500,000 people have already watched this video. So please watch and spread it everywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us on this V-Day.

Democracy Now!, by the way, is accepting applications for a paid, year-long news production fellowship here in our New York studios. Get the information at I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, for Democracy Now!

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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