As a single lady, Valentine's Day is usually a non-event for me (unless you include drunken karaoke as romance), however, this year I was PASSIONATE about V-Day... the anti-violence movement. V-Day was started 15 years ago by famed Vagina Monologue playwright, Eve Ensler in an effort to end violence against women. In 2012, armed with the horrifying statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime, Ensler took a bold step and birthed "1 Billion Rising". Created as an activist movement it spans 230 countries and urges women and men to rise and dance to stop abuse against women.
In Los Angeles, "1 Billion Rising" partner was what I call "The Forbidden Exercise", ZUMBA. Who better to lead a sassy 3,000-person dance off than the folks who created an exercise combining hip-hop, salsa and deep pelvic thrusts? "1 Billion Rising" coincided with the first day of the International Zumba Instructor Conference, brightly and scantily clothed Zumba instructors and fans converged at L.A. Live's Nokia Plaza to dance a Zumba created by the legendary choreographer, Debbie Allen in honor of the movement.
The event wasn't all dancing (although I did learn the salsa version of the "running man" from a swarthy young Zumba instructor), there were also rousing speeches from celebrity activists/actors, Dylan McDermott (Ensler's stepson), Frances Fisher (she has BAWDY and knows how to move it), Christine Lahti, Sufe Bradshaw (she may play a no-nonsense assistant to the president on HBO's Veep but she cuts loose on the dance floor) and two times Academy Award winner and O.G. of human rights activism, Jane Fonda.
While taking photos Fonda flashed what I thought was the "Peace" sign, but when interviewed she made it clear that the "V sign" stands for "Valentine's Day, Victory, V-Day and VAGINA". Fonda is a cool lady, but Barbarella doing Zumba? I couldn't picture it. She explained that V-Day enlisted Zumba as a partner because "Zumba is about dancing, dancing is uplifting, it's empowering you take up space, you know you exist, it's sexy and holy and wonderful, it's unifying".
When I asked Ms. Fonda what advice she would give to young women in abusive relationships. "Get out, get out, love has nothing to do with causing pain and hurt to somebody. If you're with somebody who is causing you pain, emotional, psychological, physical pain, you've got to get out because you have a whole life in front of you, a whole world ahead of you and this will only drag you down."
Right on Ms. Fonda, we can rise and ending violence towards women starts with US! "1 Billion Rising" is a global event, but it a grassroots movement; that's YOU! For information on how you can be a part of "1 Billion Rising" go to onebillionrising.org.
Above: Zumba instructor Gina Grant and V-Day Board Member, activist, and Academy Award winner, Jane Fonda. Photo by Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com