LaGuardia Community College students and faculty cha-chaed down Van Dam Street on Valentine’s Day to shed light on violence against women.
Roughly 30 participants, dressed in black, pink and red, learned the dance as part of the global “One Billion Rising” campaign founded by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, in which citizens rose up for human rights from big cities such as Los Angeles and London to New Delhi, where a 23-year-old woman died from a brutal gang rape late last year.
About one billion women worldwide — or one in three — suffer from violence perpetrated by a man, according to a United Nations assessment.
“It’s a way to raise awareness against abuse against women physically, mentally and spiritually,” LGCC dance club president Michael Trahan said. “It’s a way to show women that they should love themselves, not that they don’t, but it’s the true Valentine’s Day present of self -ove.”
Last year the college hosted a series of monologues performed in its theater to educate the public about the same issues. This year the Humanities Department, along with the dance club and Women’s Center, wanted to engage the community, theater assistant professor Stephanie Sertich said.
“We came up with this idea of a sort of flash mob on the street,” Sertich said. “It’s an invigorating message that may get to people that might not go into the theater.”
Outside the school’s main building, where the dance began, construction workers happily stopped their drilling so the music could be heard and heartily cheered on the male and female dancers.
Sertich’s reasons for getting involved are personal, she said, “I know a lot of women and girls who have been abused and this is my dedication to them.”
She wants women, starting at a young age, to be confident of their voice. She said for her, there was a time that she had wished she had been more assertive and she hopes displays such as last Thursday’s and further education will help women avoid situations like the one she endured.
Professor Vanessa Bing, faculty mentor of the Women’s Center, said the issue of violence against women has a shroud of secrecy around it. She hopes lively events, such as the Van Dam Street Valentine’s dance, will encourage those who have been abused to speak out against it.
“It’s a tremendous message and it’s expressed in a way that students can access,” Bing said.