Julia Child and I got into our biggest wigs and our highest heels and headed down to the Modern to meet Yoko Ono Lennon and her guests at the second annual Courage for the Arts Awards dinner. We were one of 5 groups being honored and were humbled and grateful to be acknowledged for our work and our commitment to change the world, one sexist city at a time.
There was an hour of wine and yummy hors’dourves in a room overlooking MOMA’s sculpture garden and it was here that we met Yoko. I was struck at how warm and down to earth she was as she immediately put Julia and I at ease as her guests. We gave her a small gift of a hand carved gorilla and baby from the Dian Fossey Foundation dedicated to the conservation of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. While mingling we were honored to also meet Martha Wilson of Franklin Furnace (www.franklinfurnace.org) and the folks from Printed Matter who were also being honored. A. A. Bronson and Max Schumann congratulated us as we toasted to their continued success. (www.printedmatter.org) Just before dinner was announced we met journalist and art critic Edward M. Gomez who was intrigued by our masks and wigs. We were standing with Josephine Baker and Juana Sor Ines de la Cruz of Guerrilla Girls BroadBand (www.ggbb.org) another of the awardees and the five of us discussed activism and art.
After an hour we moved into the dining room and found our places. Julia and I sat at a table with Edward M. Gomez, Kathy Halbreich of MOMA and RoseLee Goldberg of Performa. The food was exceptional and the conversation moved from art to performance to cooking to Japanese culture. It is clear that Yoko Ono has the warmest of friends and only surrounds herself with great people – on this night a few masked ones as well.
It was time for Yoko to present the awards and as Julia and I went up to accept the framed award she grabbed our hands and held them. She spoke about how she felt it important to honor artists for having courage. Courage is bestowed onto soldiers but should also apply to artists who take risks, she said. Yoko mentioned that there was great energy in the room – we all felt it as well. As photos were being taken after the ceremony she whispered “keep doing what you are doing…don’t stop!” I nodded and urged her to do the same. She looked at me as if that idea had never once had crossed her mind. After this night I hope it never crosses mine again either.
We are having trouble adding photos to this post so they will be posted tomorrow. The text of our speech our below. Onward we go armed with courage and some new friends.
Aphra Behn March 29, 2010
Happy Women’s History Month! My name is Aphra Behn and this is my colleague Julia Child. We are two of the 26 members of Guerrilla Girls On Tour, also known as the theatre girls. We are honored with this award and thank you, Yoko, for your own courage and commitment to change and peace. As we travel around the world with our performances and street theatre actions, we meet many young women and men who want to channel the passion they have for the causes they believe into action but have very little first hand experience with radical theatre, protest marches, activism and resistance. One of the most important and rewarding things we try to do is inspire the next generation of theatre activists with new ways to effect change. Here is a letter from a student that we received last Tuesday while we were in Tennessee.
Dear Guerrilla Girls On Tour,
Four years ago I moved to Tennessee. All of a sudden I was the only one on campus who wanted to fight for women’s rights. I was immediately the subject of many hateful rumors. I countered this by reading feminist books and getting involved in the Women’s Council but I still felt hopeless. Then you showed up and the moment that your show “Feminists Are Funny” started I began laughing. Smiling AND laughing, for over an hour! Your humor, strength and passion woke me up and reminded me why I have to keep fighting through the tough days. I want to be able to speak out against violence against women and empower others to do the same. Suddenly I felt less alone. Even though I don’t know who you are you made a big difference in my life tonight. Thank you for making me smile, and reminding me that every woman is worth it.
Love, “Alice Paul”
This award will help us to work with all the “Alice Paul’s” out there who continue the struggle for equality for all. Thank you.
Aphra and Julia