Hundreds of students dance in protest on Arcata Plaza

Local event ties in with global campaign to denounce sexual violence

Over 100 young students danced in the Arcata Plaza Friday afternoon, resolving to not tolerate violence against women and children. (Jose Quezada — contributed)

Over 100 students from Sunny Brae Middle School danced on the plaza Friday as part of a global campaign called “One Billion Rising” to end sexual violence around the world.

One Billion Rising arose from a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls called VDay, according to the campaign’s website. Jesse Hobba, a coordinator for VDay Humboldt, the group that organized Friday’s event, said the purpose of the dance is to educate and draw attention to the inequality, abuse, and violence against women and children.

“The idea is that one in three women in their lifetime will be a victim of violence or abuse,” she said. “If you take one-third of all the women in the world, that’s one billion people.”

Participants in Friday’s event danced to “Break The Chain,” a song written and produced by Tena Clark with music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz. By dancing, participants are able to convey a message in a different way than conventional protests, rallies or marches might typically do, Hobba said.

“Dance is one of those ways you can make a statement,” she said. “We’re going to keep doing this until things change in our society and culture.”

All the students who participate are volunteers, she said. They are shown a short video that portrays violence and abuse around the world, followed by a discussion. The video is meant to raise awareness of what is happening around the world, and the dance gives participants a chance to reject the perpetuation of violence against women and children, she added.

Victoria Orban, a community organizer for VDay Humboldt, said that some people suggest the topic is an “adult issue,” and question whether middle school-aged kids should be involved.

“They’re going to be adults at one point,” she said. “We want them to be leaders … they’re going to break the cycle and the shackles of violence are going to be released.”

This is the seventh year the dance has taken place in tandem with the global initiative. Josh Smith, a local parent, said his son has taken part in the dance for three years in a row.

“It’s positive for them to think about things in this way,” he said. “It would be nice to see more of this.”

Smith said he believes movements that seek to raise awareness about violence against women, sexual assault, and bullying are especially important this day in age. By supporting these initiatives, teachers and parents make it easier for kids to talk about what’s going on in their lives.

Smith’s son, Sunny Brae eighth-grader Noah Smith, participated in the dance and said it brings awareness to the realities women and children face when it comes to violence and abuse.

“It’s not OK that all these things are happening, and this might help people get in the know,” Noah Smith said. “Even the little things we can do to help to change things matter.”

He added that it was especially important for him to participate since he isn’t a woman or girl.

“It shows that we’re all connected and can contribute to the cause together,” Noah Smith said.

Sunny Brae eighth-grader Maddison Kelly said the dance was a way to speak up about violence against women.

“It helps me feel like I have a voice and can help people,” she said. “And it’s not just here, people are dancing all over the world … . I would like to see a change but I know it’s going to take a while and a lot of work.”

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.



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