Once upon a Saturday in Brooklyn, three young women walked into the Brooklyn High School of the Arts auditorium, although very different paths led them there.
Girl #1 was a tall redhead, probably in her early 20s, who ventured out of her apartment on this damp, gloomy afternoon in pursuit of a vegan cupcake. She passed by the school auditorium on Kent Street, and stopped in her tracks when she heard exuberant shouts inside. Standing on her tip-toes, trying to peek in, she was interrupted by a teen girl running hastily by, looking for the entrance to the school.
"What's going on in there?," she asked.
As if she was Alice from Wonderland, the other girl replied, "ahh, I'm late, I'm late! Eve Ensler is inside doing a workshop!"
"EVE ENSLER?! Can I join?" Clearly Girl #1 must have read The Vagina Monologues, the signature work of the playwright, which has been performed in over 10,000 colleges, in 140 countries worldwide.
"Yeah, come on in!"
And thus the redhead who had only been out for a cupcake crashed the V-Girls Workshop, free and open to girls ages 16-22. A group of dynamic girl activists from around the world -- representing Peru, South Africa, Israel, France, South Dakota, Arizona, California, and Maine -- connected with these girls in the New York City area to speak out on the issues they face and step up to become agents of change in their community. Eve's latest book of monologues inspired by the inner lives of teenagers, I Am an Emotional Creature, propels the movement.
Girl #2 is 16 years old, and during Eve's heart-to-heart with the girls, who all sat on the floor of auditorium, cross-legged, in a circle, she spoke up. "I'm gonna be real honest," she said, looking at Eve. "Before today I had never heard of you and read none of your work. But my friend dragged me here. She said, 'you have to come to this.' I'm, you know, lazy. I don't normally do stuff like this on a Saturday." This girl said she never before realized how much power she has to make a difference, to collaborate with strangers to create a better future.
Girl #3 is 25 years old. She received an email invitation to the workshop four days earlier, and pragmatically scheduled it into her Google Calendar. When she was a Women's & Gender Studies minor at The College of New Jersey, she discovered Eve Ensler's work, secretly wishing she had the guts to get up on stage and perform a monologue as moving as those! When I Am an Emotional Creature was released in February 2010 and she had the opportunity to interview Eve for seventeen.com, she was totally star struck. For these reasons, this workshop was not to be missed, especially since she now runs a non-profit that helps girls in the developing world be first in their families to graduate.
You see where this story is going... I am Girl #3, and I couldn't have been more honored -- and fascinated! -- to be in the company of the V-Girls, Eve's global ambassadors who aim to bring one million girls into their revolution inspiring girls everywhere to speak up, follow their dreams, and become the women they were always meant to be. V-Day, the non-profit Eve founded to receive the proceeds from benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues, believes it is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true. The non-profit I founded, She's the First, fits snugly into that vision.
I wanted to attend the workshop and be a fly on the wall, just observe how girls would raise their voices to express their desires and dreams. But when I walked down the auditorium aisle about a half-hour late, watching girls shout, stomp, and wave their hands about, I unknowingly stepped right into one group, rehearsing their response to a seven-minute task Eve had given everyone. They absorbed me into their interpretation of what it meant to be an emotional creature -- every group's piece was symbolic, complex, vulnerable, and moving.
Opportunities to connect with strangers to create a better, more understanding reality are all around you. Yes, they may be hidden inside deserted high schools on a Saturday afternoon, but you never know what gems are inside -- maybe even fearless, trailblazing leaders like Eve. Wander and listen for them. Sometimes, it just takes a bite of curiosity, or a "yes" to a good friend when she insists you join her for something cool. We can change the world with social media and online activism, but we need these offline sparks, too.
So that's the story of the Emotional Creatures in Brooklyn. Only there's no end... just beginnings.
Join the V-Girls Movement on Facebook to help them reach their goal of one million activists! I'd also love to hear what you are or will be "first" to do, given your education, on facebook.com/shesthefirst.