An activist movement is blossoming in Bay Ridge — a blue enclave in a red sea, surrounded by the majority Republican-voting Staten Island, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights.
But when Bay Ridge native Stephanie Spangler decided to stage a women’s benefit event at The Owl’s Head Bar, she had no idea it would achieve an almost viral following.
On February 26, 11 local women staged a reading of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues as part of the 2017 Annual Worldwide V-Day Campaign.
Tickets sold out within hours of posting the Event Brite page, said Spangler. “We had such a positive reception, I hadn’t anticipated it would be so big,” she said.
It was the first V-Day event held in Bay Ridge and the only one ever in Southern Brooklyn.
Aside from a capacity audience, the group raised almost $1200 for Planned Parenthood with tickets sales, pussy-hat sales, and donations.
Since the election, participation in Bay Ridge activist groups has ballooned, said Spangler.
“The neighborhood has just exploded with groups reaching out to [Republican Congressman] Dan Donovan,” said Spangler, who felt compelled to meet organize with local women after the Women’s March in January.
“We’re getting vocal and finding this larger community,” she said, citing the activist events brewing at The Owl’s Head Bar. “I think that Bay Ridge, having grown up there, is diversifying.”
But despite its changes, the heart of Bay Ridge still feels familiar to Spangler. “It’s a cul-de-sac of a neighborhood,” she said, as the last stop on the R train and home to many green spaces. “It’s a vestige of days gone by, it hasn’t totally changed through gentrification.”
The staged reading attracted a diverse mix of local activists, artists, teachers, and other professionals who bonded while performing at the cozy Bay Ridge bar. “It was the first time we performed as a full group, and it was the best run we’d had,” said Spangler.
Some people started out shy, like one performer who read a challenging piece called ‘reclaiming cunt.’ But the empowerment in the room was contagious.
“She brought it,” said Spangler. “She found it in herself to feed off the energy of the other women and she got a huge applause because we were all on this journey together.”
Spangler put the whole event together in a month, thanks to help from the Owl’s Head Bar and local women who made items for the bake sale and crocheted pink pussy hats and heart pins.
Along with Spangler, the 2017 V-Day Bay Ridge cast included Danielle Bullock, Johanna Dehler, Elizabeth Donohue, Mollie Flanagan, Isabelle Garbani, Stephanie Matthews, Alison Rooney, Christie Terranova, Julia Torres, and Samantha Vacca.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of Ensler’s V-Day movement and the group plans to make an even bigger splash. After the performance, the reaction from women in the room was unanimous, said Spangler. “They said, ‘Next year, I’m in.'”
To get involved in future performances and events, visit the Bay Ridge group’s facebook page here.
In the meantime, you can donate to V-Day Bay Ridge’s Planned Parenthood NYC campaign here. 100 percent of the of proceeds will be donated, said Spangler — 90 percent to Planned Parenthood and 10 percent to the V-Day Spotlight Campaign: Ending Violence Against Women in the Workplace.
Additional reporting by Pamela Wong.