This fall has had so many amazing happenings. It feels as though I have been at the helm of many projects: my daughter’s first birthday, my husband’s 40th birthday party, getting back in shape, running a race and my part-time marketing business. I also have two full-length plays in development, many articles due and then there is this crazy rouge project that you must go to!
Back in March when I thought I wasn’t going to work for awhile, but be a stay at home mommy, I was in search of the perfect volunteer project. I was looking for something that was outside of me, but still me. So I signed up to be the producer of what was then called Voices of Africa, part of The Estrogenius Festival at Manhattan Theatre Source. By June I had gotten really busy, taking on private clients that I never expected and the Voices project seemed dead in the water. We had no script coming from Africa this year. I was about to call it a day and forget about it. Then things shifted and Jen Thatcher, this year’s Estrogenius producer put me in touch with Jessica Morris, who is the executive producer of a kick-ass group of young women performers called Project Girl Collective that is all about empowering young women through performance. Jessica also happens to be one of the most courageous, driven and inspiring people who I have ever met.
Welcome to Voices Without Borders: Project Girl Congo. I am one of what feels like 50 producers who helped shape this piece. Led by hip hop artist Toni Blackman, the Project Girl girls’ have developed monologues, poetry, song and dance numbers inspired by stories told by the Man Up delegates working in the Congo, who in this case, are men who are working tirelessly to stop violence against women in the Congo every single day. These men have lost wives, mothers and sisters to violence, lack of education and health care. Many women die giving birth since there is little to no access to maternal health care. These men are standing up for women, as are the young women/performers of Project Girl who are taking time away from school and their social lives to stand up for women in the Congo. What are they giving? Their time, their hearts, their energies. What are we asking of you? To give the same. Be aware of what’s going on in other parts of the world. Watch our show, which is a fundraiser. Every penny of the proceeds goes back to the Congo to stop violence against women and girls. If you cannot come to the show, please log onto, http://www.s317461102.initial-website.com/donate/, to support this worthy cause.
“Just about every kid in America is told that they can make a difference in this world,” says Project Girl performer Alexa Winston, age 17. “Now I have a real opportunity with Project Girl: Congo. For the first time, I have heard first-hand accounts about what life is like for girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These stories are the bedrock of our show. I know exactly where our donations are going and am proud to support the courageous young leaders who are “manning up” in the DRC.”
This ground-breaking show will be a staged reading performed at Manhattan Theatre Source as part of the Estrogenius Festival on Oct 29th and 30th in New York City. The show tells the stories of young girls in The Congo and helps us all realize that we can do something right here, right now by just being aware.
I never knew, for example, that the fear of being raped is a fact of life for women in the Congo and that being permanently damaged (or “ruined”) from a rape is a common occurrence there. However, what trumps all of this violence is the fear of being killed as a result of living in a war-zone where child soldiers are shown with precision how to abuse women as part of their military training.
Through education and enlightenment, it is our hope as producers that we are encouraging awareness about what is going on for women in the Congo and for women right here in our community who are affected by gender-based violence. The statistic is 1:3 women and girls around the world are victims of violence. Clearly, this is a universal travesty that our youth-led theater company, Project Girl Performance Collective and Man Up, a youth led movement to stop violence against women and girls are working to change.
Voices Without Borders with be performed in connection with Congo Week, which is October 17-23, 2010, and Voices Without Borders will be co-produced by Congolese human rights organizers, Ally Malumba and Jean de Dieu Tshileu and Lewis Kasindi.
Proceeds from this year’s Voices Without Borders ticket sales and donations will benefit Man Up Campaign’s global anti-violence work in the Congo.
For more information and ticket sales, please visit Estrogenius Festival (www.estrogenius.org), ManUp Campaign (www.manupcampaign.org), Project Girl Performance Collective (www.projectgirlperformancecollective.org).