Young people in New York are joining an effort to create a violence-free future, and some of the solutions they are exploring were on display at a recent performance festival in New York.
Playwright Eve Ensler established a movement she called "V-Day: Until the Violence Stops." The event, started in 1999 was aimed at spurring a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day planners in New York are working with local women's and anti-violence groups to help make New York the safest big city in the world for women and girls.
Community coordinator Jennifer Chambers worked with local groups in New York to hold events around the city, including the viBe! Youth Against Violence Performance Festival, involving five groups of high school students who performed songs and plays to show how violence has shaped their lives and ways to change it.
Chambers says art has a very important place in the movement.
"I think, art allows people to find a common voice, and helps them out of their isolation, and [helps them to] come together in community through a shared experience, whether it's theater or visual art or music," she said.
The teenagers performed before an audience of peers, in several short scenes they wrote, portraying their feelings about school violence, harassment, war and rape. Other highlights of the weekend festival included workshops about abuse in teenage relationships and sexual decision-making, as well as a songwriting workshop. The diverse performances dealt not only with physical violence, but the emotional aftermath of such trauma.
Dana Edell, co-founder and director of the non-profit viBe! theater group says while V-Day is specifically about eliminating violence against women, young participants focused on the broader issue of violence in all its forms.
"Violence affects our entire world," she said. "If it is not affecting you personally, it is, because if it is in your community - it is affecting you personally."
Machiko James, in the festival, says one goal of the festival is to understand that violence comes in many forms.
"People are violated in their lives everyday," said James. "It can be verbal, emotional, as well as physical, and kids are constantly surrounded by violence in the media and in school and at home, and they need to recognize that is what they are dealing with, and that they can do something about it."