To celebrate St Valentine’s Day the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre and up to 50 of its friends, family members, supporters, and survivors and simply anyone who loves women and girls, gathered on Market Square, Castlebar, to join the One Billion Rising campaign — the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.
Despite the seriousness of their demonstration, they showed through movement and dance and the words of some very powerful songs that this rising is happening, it is visible and united in its mission.
According to the campaign one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. So they are right when they say one billion women violated is an atrocity. But on February 14, across the whole world, the call went out for one billion women to dance in what has been described as a revolution.
In the Valentine’s celebration of dance in the county town, participants stopped traffic and pedestrians in a show of solidarity against violence against women.
Castlebar’s town centre came alive to the sounds of ‘I Want To Break Free’, ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’, and finally the group did a pre-rehearsed dance to the song ‘Break The Chain’.
Ruth McNeely, director of the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre, read this poem to the large gathering:
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like suns and like moons,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh as if I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still like life, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the hope and the dream of the slave
and so naturally
I’d like to offer my editorial to the words of Maya Angelou and to any woman or girl who has felt the pain and devastation of violence. Never under any circumstance is it acceptable for a woman or girl to be subjected to violence. They must be supported in the family unit and, failing that, their communities so that they can break the cycle of violence. We must educate our children that violence against women or anyone will never be accepted or tolerated. Our laws must reflect this attitude.
In next week’s Mayo Advertiser we talk to a survivor of sexual abuse who bravely brought her attacker to justice through the courts. She speaks strongly about the support she received from Mayo Rape Crisis Centre which can be contacted on 094 902 5657 or email [email protected]