Vote Tour 2004 Recap
V-Day took its grassroots voting campaign –V Is For Vote – on the road in September to encourage the nation to vote and to elevate violence against women as an important issue in the 2004 Elections. V-Day Founder and Artistic Director Eve Ensler lead a V Is For Vote team through Florida, Ohio and Colorado where they interacted with activist groups, students, politicians and people at local women’s shelters and programs. The group also met with anti-violence, arts and community leaders. The V-team’s mission: To promote voting as a critical form of activism to end violence against women.
The following are some highlights of what the V Is For Vote team, local organizers and community members accomplished together.
FLORIDA – September 19 - 21
Welcome to Miami! For the first stop on our Vote Tour, Eve and the V Is For Vote team dropped-in to talk with teenage girls at a local juvenile detention center. The Girls Advocacy Project (GAP), the only comprehensive intervention/education project in the state of Florida specifically serving girls in detention, hosted the visit. For two hours, Eve facilitated a conversation with forty thoughtful, creative and clever young women. The group shared ideas about what decisions the girls would make if given political power, their relationships with boys, what’s great and what’s awful about being a girl, experiences with domestic and family violence, and personal wishes for the future. The girls all agreed that people under 18 should be able to express themselves by voting. Excitement grew when Eve suggested that the group create a list of reasons why women and girls should vote.
Here is their list:
Women and girls should vote because—
We need to be heard!
That’s your voice
At one time, women couldn’t vote. Now we can.
Everybody’s opinion should be heard
We can have better jobs
It’s a way to represent a woman’s voice
We want to get a female president
We can address our issues
You can help yourself
You do know what’s going on
We just should
For the tour’s next stop, V-Day threw a whole new kind of political party. At Miami-Dade Community College’s North Campus, over 300 students, faculty, administrators, and community members came out to hear about V Is For Vote and the importance of voting to end violence against women. Eve spoke to a diverse crowd of enthusiastic men and women about safety conditions for women in Afghanistan, Iraq and Juarez, Mexico, as well as in their own communities in the United States. She also performed a new piece, “Reclaiming Vote,” as the audience threw their hands in the air, chanting “Vote!” In addition to Eve, student Monica Jones performed original poetry on the theme of women and power. Students Amy Baez, Christy Francois and Olympia Moreno gave a brilliant reading of Eve’s “The Vagina Vote” essay. The V Is For Vote team was happy to see so many women and men sporting the “Value Your Vagina—Vote!,” “Vagina Warrior,” and local V-Day campaign shirts.
After the rally, Miami-Dade North Campus held a lunch reception with their honors scholars group to recognize Eve as the first recipient of the campus’ Civic Revolutionary Series.
To read the “Vagina Vote” essay visit: http://www.vday.org/contents/vday/press/media/0406041
After lunch, the vote team stopped-in at The Lodge domestic violence shelter to meet with the staff of advocates and counselors. Eve talked with the staff about women and leadership, safety conditions for women throughout the world, and the history of The Lodge. The V-Day team saw The Lodge staff’s work in action earlier in the day at the Miami-Dade rally when a participant identified herself as a woman who had experienced domestic violence and was still living with her abusive husband. After a call to The Lodge, two staff arrived at the college within 20 minutes. They accompanied the woman to the shelter to link her with an advocate, resource guide and a safety plan. Vagina Warriors in action!
For the big Miami finale, Sharon Socol, a supporter and dear friend of V-Day, hosted an informal dinner party at her home to introduce Eve and the V Is For Vote team to local community and activist leaders. Eve spoke to the group about V-Day and V Is For Vote. The women enjoyed Eve’s performance of “Reclaiming Vote” and generously gave individual donations to V-Day that amounted to $7500. Before the evening event ended, three local groups agreed to collaborate on a V-Day Miami 2005 and use the proceeds to open the “A Home For Girls Who Have No Home” group home where young women can go to live after they finish serving detention. Go Miami!
Special thanks to Judge Cindy S. Lederman, Eileen Brown, Meredith Lasher, Tere Martinez, Angela Diaz and Sharon Socol for their generosity and effort in bringing V Is For Vote to Miami.
Mad for the Midwest, V-Day’s V Is For Vote tour made visits to Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. In Cincinnati, the YWCA hosted an evening reception for Eve to address community members. Eve talked about the Vagina Vote, read her piece “I Am An Emotional Creature,” and answered questions from the crowd. The audience was eager to dialogue about ending violence and making change in their own community. After the reception and discussion, Eve met with event attendees and talked to them about their work at the YWCA shelter and the rape crisis center. She also signed copies of “The Vagina Monologues” for local V-girls. The crowd left feeling very excited and took home lots of “Value Your Vagina—Vote!” and “Vagina Warrior” t-shirts and buttons.
The next morning, Eve attended a press conference at The Rape Crisis & Abuse Center of Hamilton County. Joined by Ann MacDonald, of the rape crisis center, and Charlene Ventura, of the YWCA, Eve spoke to local ABC, Fox, and NBC television affiliates and The Cincinnati Post newspaper about the importance of the Vagina Vote and making ending violence against women a political priority. Ensler, MacDonald, and Ventura also informed the press that the YWCA’s battered women’s shelter is over capacity and that the rape crisis center is straining to respond to 10,000 calls a year from abused women. Funds are tight for both organizations. To help, V-Day gave monetary awards to both agencies. Eve and the V-team also met with the rape crisis center’s staff. Everyone who attended—including the men and women of the press—walked away from the day wearing “Vagina Warrior” and “Vagina’s Vote!” buttons.
To read The Cincinnati Post article: http://www.vday.org/contents/vday/press/media/0409231
Determined to see as much of Ohio as possible, V Is For Vote next visited the capital city Columbus to stage a rally at its historic statehouse. Students, political representatives, activists, and interested community members all gathered to see Eve and hear from local Columbus activists. The crowd emitted a hopeful, positive energy and expressed a strong desire for change. In addition to a talk by Eve and her performance of “Reclaiming Vote,” local women Joy Reilly, Emily Bach, Aiyana Marcus and Molly Camp read “The Vagina Vote.” Other speakers included Kaizaad Kotwal, V-Day organizer; Gloria McCauley, Executive Director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (B.R.A.V.O.); Leslie Ferris, Chair of the Department of Theater at The Ohio State University; Julianna Nemeth, of the Sexual Assault Resource Network of Central Ohio (S.A.R.N.C.O.); Kate Anderson, Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus; Carla Williams Scott, Office of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman; Staci Kitchen, of the Ohio Coalition on Sexual Assault (O.C.A.S.A.); and Liz Lessner, Get Out the Women’s Vote Activist and Owner of Betty’s Restaurant. All of the speeches were full of enthusiasm and personality. Everyone left feeling energized and inspired!
Special thanks to Elaine Plummer, Francine Pepper, Ann MacDonald, Charlene Ventura and Kaizaad Kotwal for their V Is For Vote work in Ohio.
An invitation for Eve to speak at the University of Colorado’s Athenaeum Speaker Series occurred at an important time for the students and community in Boulder. With the recent media coverage of violence against women in Colorado, V-Day’s presence gave people an opportunity to begin to talk about what has occurred on campus and in the community. Following Eve’s speech at the college and the rally outside the courthouse, the Boulder community began to come together and dialogue.
At the Athenaeum, Eve gave the inspiring “Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Species, An Emerging Paradigm” speech to an enthusiastic crowd of 600 students, faculty and community members. The speech was followed by a lively, fun, moving dinner with 100 students. Eve encouraged them to talk to one another and share their ideas on ensuring the end of violence against women on campus! Each table presented one idea after another, from doing half time speeches at football matches to starting a men’s resource center. An obvious theme stood out: education and dialogue between faculty and students, and between the students themselves. A wonderful “v-moment” on campus was meeting Robert, a young man who is now dubbed one of the most Vagina Friendly men Eve has ever met. Robert has developed a project in which men take responsibility for men’s violence against women and girls. He will be working with other men on campus.
The next day, a rally was held outside the Boulder County Courthouse on Pearl Street, drawing a great crowd. Dorothy Rupert, former Colorado State Senator and founder of Women Acting in New Directions gave an inspiring speech drawing on her own experience in the State Senate to emphasize how important it is for women to be a part of the political arena. Eve’s passionate speech roused the crowd. After culminating with “Reclaiming Vote,” everyone at the rally was fired up and ready to learn how to effectively increase women’s participation on Election Day and in the political process.
A voter training program concluded the activities in Boulder and the Vote Tour. Eve opened the event with an inspiring speech about how women can make a difference in public office and in their communities. Next Sandra Ramos, a nationally recognized get-out-the-vote trainer with Latinos for America and Democracy for America, gave a hands on training session, providing practical tools and tips for door-to-door canvassing, telephone canvassing and day of election procedures. Kristen Thomson from Colorado Women's Agenda/Colorado Women Vote, a statewide network that champions economic security, social justice and political power for all Colorado women through public education, political advocacy, communications and grassroots activism, gave useful information for how to get involved in the voting process. The training session can best be summed up by this comment from our organizer: “You'll be happy to know that I have talked with many of our participants in the last few days and they are taking action! Some are looking into becoming election judges and others are organizing drives to get seniors to the polls.”
Afterward, an informal get together at a local restaurant with all the volunteers and many of the directors of the various anti-violence organizations in Boulder pulled the whole visit to Colorado together. The evening was particularly moving because so many of the women present had experienced violence in their lives, including two incredible young women who had experienced sexual violence on campus and were welcomed into this broader community of Vagina Warriors – it was an incredible feeling of encouragement and being connected to one another.
The Vote Tour in Boulder was a terrific opportunity for the V-Day staff to witness the commitment of local V-Day organizers to the movement. All it took was one phone call and the V-Day Boulder team hit the ground running - within a few weeks they galvanized a great group of women and men to volunteer and lend their support to a rally, voter training and a very memorable dinner honoring everyone’s dedication! Thank you to Dorothy Rupert, Sandra Ramos and Kristen Thomas for their time and energy. Special thanks to Meredith Arandt, Emily Davis and Geri Mitchell-Brown for being such fierce, dedicated Vagina Warriors.
Again, thanks to everyone in all three states who helped to make the Vote Tour such an amazing success. See you at the polls!