Members of victims advocacy nonprofit Women’s Way and other anti-violence groups from around the city gathered in Love Park on Thursday for a Valentine’s Day dance party. But they weren’t celebrating the Hallmark card meaning of the holiday.
“We decided to have a global event on love’s day to take a stand against violence against woman and children,” said Paula Paul of the Granny Peace Brigade, which also participated in Philadelphia’s celebration of One Billion Rising. “The ‘V’ in V Day stands for ‘Valentine’s,’ it stands for ‘violence’ and it stands for ‘victory.'”
One Billion Rising is a global day of awareness-raising that this year saw participation from 182 countries. Events from around the world were streamed live to the One Billion Rising website.
“One-third of women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime,” said Women’s Way executive director Amanda Aronoff. “That’s one billion women.”
She called for a show of solidarity with survivors across the globe. “One billion women violated is an atrocity,” she said. “One billion women dancing is a revolution.”
Also in attendance were many people who lost loved ones, including the families of slain young mother Melanie Colon and missing woman Franchesca Alvarado.
“It meant a lot to come out here and find so many commonalities, people that know what we’re going through” said Kimberly Phan, whose best friend, 19-year-old Michelle Gonzalez, was gunned down two years ago on a Summerdale street. Her murder has never been solved.
“We sit here and try to piece together the story to try to figure out what happened, but it’s hard because we’re ignorant as to what happened that night,” Phan said. “People don’t want to speak up until it happens to them.”
“We’re here because, on a day like today, we bury her all over again,” Gonzalez’s sister Tania DeJesus said. “We just want justice – not only for her, but for everyone that’s missing a loved one.”