Oakton Community College raises awareness about violence to women
Oakton Community College Women's and Gender Studies teacher Angela Kooz participates in One Billion Rising last week on the Skokie campus. The national campaign is meant to raise awareness about violence against women. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 2:45AM
On a day usually reserved for romance and sweet talk, some Oakton Community College students and staff became part of a worldwide awareness event calling attention to violence against women throughout the world.
Sponsored by Oakton’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the “One Billion Rising” protests were held both at the Skokie and Des Plaines Campuses, 45-minute demonstrations empowering women and men to stand up against global violence against women.
Similar events occurred throughout the region, the country, even the world, and Oakton wanted in. In fact, said Oakton student Abigail Thomas, who helped with choreography for a universal dance that was part of every protest, 200 countries participated in the One Billion Rising demonstrations.
Thomas, 19, helped lead three sessions in preparation for the dance. She had much enthusiasm when she heard about the project — in part because she has worked a suicide hotline before and understands the rampant violence against women worldwide.
“The subject is very personal and dear to me,” said the freshman who wants to be a child psychologist.
That Thomas started dancing at age 2 also made her an ideal choice to help participants get ready for the empowering dance.
“We are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence,” states the One Billion Rising website. “One Billion Rising will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.
“What does one billion look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a revolution.”
The organizers said the demonstrations were intended as a global strike, an invitation to dance, and a call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends.
The numbers are staggering and sobering. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women. One billion women have been violated.
“Women do not have to be victimized,” said Kathleen Carot, chairwoman of Oakton’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program. “All of us can make change happen — both men and women. This is about standing up and letting our voices be heard.”
Mostly women but also a few men participated in the dance in the lobby of Oakton’s Skokie campus. They followed the dance steps that were displayed on a TV screen that took them through the 15-minute number. The lyrics were all about empowerment and not accepting the status quo that has led to suffering and tragedy throughout the world.
“I raise my arms to the sky. On my knees I pray. I’m not afraid anymore. I will walk through that door.”
Rose Novil, professor of Library Services at Oakton, danced right beside Carot and other staff and students, moving her feet, thrusting her arms into the air.
“I wanted to be part of this,” she said. “It’s one of the beautiful parts of Oakton. People come together and can stand up and speak out for what is right.”
Myles Glasgow of Skokie, a parent who came to support the cause, said that too many men “grow up very afraid” and cope with life through violence.
This was the inaugural One Billion Rising event. Oakton participants said they anticipate their school becoming a regular part of the global movement every Valentine’s Day.
Toward the end of the event, Carot, looking at two small children who had showed up with their mother, said they were all there “so little ones don’t have to live in fear.”
For more information on the One Billion Rising event, access www.onebillionrising.org. For more information about Oakton’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, visit Oakton-WGS on Facebook.