48: RISING ONLINE WITH THE WORLD
by Jonathan Archer, Social Media Team
I joined V-Day four weeks before One Billion Rising, in a Mission District coffee shop. My friend and former public media comrade Brooke Shelby Biggs had drafted me in to meet Susan Celia Swan, the executive director. The mission, should I choose to accept it: join the social media team and oversee a global webcast of international Risings. I was in the middle of working on Demand A Plan, the anti-gun violence initiative. Violence against women is significantly higher in homes with guns, and I see these two important issues merging. Besides, the audacity of One Billion Rising has me hooked. How could I resist?
The final lead up to V-Day encompassed several nights of broken sleep, complicated cross-timezone communications, and more drafts of “how to document and livestream your rising” than I care to remember. But finally, from early morning on February 12, we were ready to roll.
The following takes place in San Francisco on the day of One Billion Rising. (Cue: theme tune from 24.)
February 13, 16:00 PT
The beautiful vibrant Manila Rising is underway and streaming from the streets via smartphone. By 17:32, #1billionrising is trending on Twitter in the Philippines. Social team is very happy. We love the Philippines! And it’s just the start that Brooke and I need to face the following 30+ hours without sleep.
February 13, 22:00 PT
I arrive at Brooke’s apartment for the long haul. We’re going to be sitting next to each other for the next 17 hours. We kick back and watch Anne Hathaway rocking Leno with a mini-Rising. Jane Fonda has already been on Piers Morgan. It’s a huge kick for me to be involved with something so current and relevant and popular.
February 13, 23:30 PT
Trying to contact production crews in Karachi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are supposed to go live at midnight. No one is responding to my emails or Skype chats. I don’t have cell phone numbers. I’m starting to sweat a little bit. I finally hear from my man in Karachi - there has been some miscommunication, and the livestream won’t happen. One down.
February 13, 23:44 PT
What’s happening with the DRC? Still the radio silence. Eve Ensler is at the City of Joy in Bukavu, ready to rise at the place she and V-Day helped build, where she will deliver her welcome message live to the world. Breathing is getting a little shallow. I need to get ahold of Prince, my man on the ground and time is short. I text Eve, 9,404 miles away. She tells me the electricity has gone out. Then that the generator has died. Then, somehow, in what from my perch in San Francisco seems almost literally the middle of nowhere, they come up with 200 meters of power cable in the nick of time. It’s going to be alright.
February 14, 00:41 PT
Prince is the man and now we’re transmitting pictures from the DRC to the world. Brooke responds to my grumbling by reminding me how miraculous it is that we can even do this. That an event in the heart of Africa, with a VSAT uplink to an ISP in Kenya, running over a cable two football fields long, is streaming in my browser. Well, sure, if you put it that way, Brooke...
February 14, 01:30 PT
Now The Gambia is giving me a headache. I have a great guy on the ground, but despite careful planning earlier in the week, something just isn’t working. I had spoken to my new Gambian friend only a few days before. I was struck by his passion and eloquence about violence against women in The Gambia. We’re supposed to be live now. I’m hopeful we’ll resolve it, especially for Mohammed, who really wants this to work.
February 14, 02:22 PT
3,304 miles west, it’s starting to rain in the DRC. Dancers are huddled under tents. Mud pools are forming. I ask Prince how it’s going.
Prince: I'm in the rain, I take the risk of losing my computer
Me: You should end it then. It’s not worth that. You did a great job!
Prince: No, continue brother. No problem.
Me: But i don't want your computer to die.
Prince: I cover it with a tarpaulin.
We eventually call it at 03:13 PT. I’m indebted to Prince Sebakunzi for making this happen. (You can watch the full City of Joy livestream on the V-Day YouTube channel.)
February 14, 03:22 PT
We’re live in New Delhi!! Turns out they have a whole musical, theatrical, dance production planned, with location and set changes. Looks like thousands of women and men are out in the street. They perform Break the Chain, a multitude of swooping arms creating a Mexican Wave effect. They are asked to perform again by public demand. Later, a performance from poet Maya Krishna Rao that has stuck with me ever since... It is amazing to see country after country Rising. We’re getting photos on Twitter and Facebook from everywhere else in their timezone. #1billionrising trends on Twitter in India. It’s starting to take on a life of its own.
February 14, 04:36 PT
I call it on The Gambia. Unfortunately, it’s just not going to work, despite more then 200 lines of chat over 3 hours between me and the production team. By 05:01 PT, they have managed to get a spotty feed running via cell phone on Ustream. So technically, it happened. At least the Risings with women in the provinces are being captured for the documentary.
February 14, 06:30 PT
South Africa is up next. Another big deal - this Rising is happening at Constitution Hill, site of the former prison where Nelson Mandela was held. The nearby Constitutional Court was built using bricks from the old prison. Out of violence and injustice grows a new future. It’s a powerful statement. Worth pointing out that this was the same day as the breaking news that South African star athlete Oscar Pistorius had allegedly murdered his girlfriend. But when #1billionrising and #onebillionrising trended there on Twitter, they both trended higher than “Oscar Pistorius”. I was proud of them then. South Africa made its choice, and the choice was to look forward in protest and defiance.
At 06:50, we heard #1billionrising was trending on Twitter in the USA. We would continue to trend on and off all day.
Somewhere around here, Brooke bought us bagels. They were good.
February 14, 10:15 PT
Atlanta Rising is killing it. Our star organizer on the ground, V-Girls manager Nikki Noto, arranged a great lineup of local speakers, including Bernice King. (Bernice King rocks a mic just as hard as her father, by the way.) Production looks great, and the vibrancy is stellar.
Pittsburgh joins the party, too. We weren’t expecting this one, but entrepreneurial organizers set it up. One Billion Rising in the US is off to a great start. We’re trending in every city in every state.
#1billionrising has been trending for hours in the UK, too. This thing is GLOBAL!
February 14, 16:00 PT
We’re into the final stretch now. Over the next 3 hours, events in SF, LA, NY, and HI will go live and wrap up a crazy 30 hours. Brooke has left to live-tweet the SF event at City Hall. Once we’re streaming, I go home, shower, and zip over there myself. I arrive to two urgent SOS’s from NY and HI. I can’t solve NY’s problem, but manage to help our Hawai’i organizer (Jane Sibbert of Friends fame) solve a last minute issue so that the team she flew in from Los Angeles can move ahead. I spend a few minutes standing on the steps at City Hall, in rather a sleep-deprived haze, watching hundreds of women take the One Billion Rising pledge with Mayor Ed Lee, fingers pointing to the sky in the now-familiar salute of female solidarity. It’s more than a little surreal having watched and read of millions of women rising worldwide through my 13” laptop screen, to witness it in person. A friend from the SF Office of Innovation spots me and asks, “Did you have anything to do with this?” I think I managed a mumbled, “Yes, a little bit” before deciding to head out to find Brooke and try my hand (or is that feet?) at Break the Chain.
I butchered it. If I ever meet Ms. Debbie Allen, the fine choreographer of this signature dance, I will profusely apologize. Brooke has the proof on her cell phone. She has kindly agreed to keep it confidential.
February 15, 07:00 PT
I awake after 8 blissful hours asleep. In the last 72 hours, I have worked 47, and slept 13.
And it feels great.