Seeing Red in New Orleans

(({ V10 REPORT: MY LETTER OF GRATITUDE TO THE V-DAY TEAM }))

Dear Jen, Eve, Shael & Cecile –
Thank you – thank you – thank you!!!
V TO THE TENTH was amazing. Thank you for inviting Red Collaborative to participate in transforming the Superdome into SUPERLOVE. It was an honor to be a part of creating a safe, healing and inspiring environment for thousands of women and to network with so many incredible organizers and activists from around the world.

I’m happy to report our creative public art initiatives were well received and have generated positive feedback — and for some, cathartic transformation. The Collaborative Scroll: From Isolation to Community held a special place in the Healing Lounge, and received approximately 72 new entries from visitors, who shared their pain, hopes, grief and gratitude. It is both heartbreaking and motivating for me to read the entries on The Collaborative Scroll after each display as I upload them to our online version. As the scroll travels and grows, my commitment to breaking the silence surrounding abuse is stoked and I am aflame with fury and an unstoppable passion to make change by giving voice to those who are seldom heard.

Our second project, Seeing Red: Voices of the Gulf South was launched at our table in the Activist Lounge. New Orleans City Council President, Arnie Fielkow kicked off the project by donating the paper on which participants would share in words or pictures their response to the question: What Makes You See Red? We collected over 170 pieces in the two days we were at the Super Dome. The Seeing Red: Voices of the Gulf South project will be extended over the next few months, while we collect pieces from hundreds of school children and adults throughout the Gulf South with the help of several local volunteers. The hundreds of red works on paper created by Seeing Red participants will be incorporated into a book and traveling exhibition that will debut in New Orleans in the fall. It was a special privilege to have Dr. Denis Muskwege’s response: “What makes me see red? It is the destruction of women — The destruction of the life force. That makes me see red!”

In the Activist Lounge, we had the opportunity to meet hundreds of organizers from around the world and to learn about pressing issues that need real attention, such as the situation Dr. Muskwege so powerfully brought attention to – the torture, rape and mutilation of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was sickened to learn that women are strategically being used as “weapons of mass destruction” in the Congolese war, and are considered “cheaper than bullets.” The source of the problem, we learned, is the protection and control of the earth’s minerals located in the region.

We have to ask ourselves: Are the minerals used for making cell phones and digital cameras more valuable than lives? Are we, the consumers, going to turn a blind eye to the decimation of lives (and indeed the planet), simply for the sake of personal convenience? The precedence set by our nation’s corporate and political leaders seems to encourage us to do just that. I am reminded how strong the spell of inertia and complacency is in this country – especially upon my return to the beautiful, affluent and peaceful Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. It is for this reason, I am so grateful we have people like Amy Goodman, Eve Ensler and other activists around the globe to help wake people up to reality.

I’m still processing all that happened during our visit to New Orleans and the impact it’s had on my sense of purpose. Prior to arriving in the city, I felt a strong pull, an urgent call for action, devotion and a mysterious connection to a city I’d never seen before. The City has captured my heart, and I know my work there is far from finished.

Thank you, all of you from V-Day, for creating an opening to connect to my higher good in ways I never knew possible – from holding space for people to safely share their pain and grief, to joyous serendipity experienced throughout the city at every turn, as we made connections with people in New Orleans.

The City, as in Life, encompasses extremes – from orgasmic joy to primordial angst, and everything in between. But the reality clinging to my heart, is the reality of lives lost and hopes destroyed, yet there remains a fierce will to go on. I am compelled to return to New Orleans and to devote my time to rebuilding the city alongside the thousands of volunteers from all over the world who have come to New Orleans to help build homes because the government is not taking care of it’s own people. There are thousands of New Orleanians that still don’t have homes to return to, nor the support of their government to bring them home. There’s a pattern emerging here in America, created by political and corporate entities, that I don’t want my name attached to. Fortunately, there are thousands of artists, activists, volunteers, journalists and bloggers reporting the truth, raising awareness, and demanding change. We have the power to turn the tide, to change the norm and to redeem this country – but it will take every one of us to do it.

Are we going to turn a blind eye, hide out heads in the sand?
Or are we – all who came to New Orleans to celebrate Eve Ensler’s worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls – going to carry on that commitment to make change in the world by breaking the silence, giving voice to the voiceless and empowering individuals around the globe to be the change they want to see? I, for one, am committed to this cause for life.

In peace and with gratitude to all, namasté.

Gabrielle Senza, Seeing Red in New Orleans
Artist, activist and founder of The Red Collaborative

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