The rising beat of a tune. A sudden rush of people dressed in red and dancing in sync. For the people participating, it’s more than a flash mob, it’s a message.
This event, called One Billion Rising for Justice, is part of a worldwide effort to empower people and end violence against women and girls. On South Whidbey, a group will continue its participation in the worldwide event next Friday, Feb. 14.
The group will make three appearances on Valentine’s Day throughout the South End. The first will take place at the Clinton Ferry Dock in the early morning, the second at Boy and Dog Park in Langley in the afternoon and the third at a surprise location.
“A lot of people don’t recognize that their neighbors could have been violence victims,” said Maureen “Momo” Freehill, a dancer and organizer of the event.
Freehill said the flash mob is a way people can show support for each other and provide a safe environment.
The United Nations estimates 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during their lifetime, which equates to 1 billion women worldwide, according to the campaign website.
“This is a way for women to be seen and honored for who they are,” Freehill said.
Last year, the organization estimated one billion people from 207 countries joined the movement on Valentine’s Day. On the South End, about 50 people attended.
For Freehill, it’s all about a group of people driving creative action. She works as a dance instructor and is an advocate for community dances. She said gathering to dance is a good way to address larger community issues.
“I really believe dance and art is a fabulous way to bring people together in a positive way,” she said.
She hopes people will be surprised at every flash mob and support peace and justice for women.
Sommer Joy Albertsen helped organize and choreograph the event. Working on a piece with that much significance globally was an amazing experience, she said.
“I could feel the collective consciousness on the planet that day,” Albertsen said.
The flash mob was a place for healing to unfold for people in the community, she added.
“It took Valentine’s Day to a really different level of love and collective universal love,” she said.
The effort doesn’t stop at women. Men and children are also encouraged to participate. Albertsen said people can dance as much or as little as they are comfortable with, “as long as they wear red.”
Three more rehearsals will take place before the event at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, and Thursday, Feb. 13 at Island Dance. Videos of the choreography are also available online for people to practice with. Albertsen said a handful of people flash mobbed last year without attending any rehearsals. Organizers are also looking for people to make signs to hold during the dance.
Freehill hopes people join in any way they can.
“When a person experiences violence, it hurts everyone,” Freehill said.
Langley resident Sumer Eberhart plans to dance in the flash mob for the first time this year. She sought out a One Billion Rising event as a survivor of sexual abuse and as a mother.
Eberhart joined because she wanted to change the public’s perspective of the issue, especially her son’s.
“Right now, it’s not a household conversation,” she said.
After speaking out about her own story for the first time, Eberhart said a lot of women she knew came to her with similar experiences.
Eberhart found a lot of encouragement within that group and hopes to be able to provide the same support for women and girls on the South End.
“Young women can be in violent relationships, not understanding what’s happening,” she said. “And there are lots of young women out there.”