The Rabble Rousers
Pray the Devil Back to Hell has traveled widely since its release, playing to women's gatherings in Srebrenica, Lima, Jerusalem, and Tbilisi. Disney likes to quote an old African saying: When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers; the movie reflects her belief that it was "time for the grass to speak."
That interest in giving voice also explains why, when Gbowee came to New York for the premiere, Disney introduced her to some of the biggest players in the city's philanthropy scene—people like Hildy Simmons, a former managing director at J.P. Morgan turned philanthropic adviser, and Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project. By then, Gbowee had founded a new and broader organization, Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN), and the group needed money. "We were struggling with institutional support, myself and my staff," she says. "We had not taken salary for three months." Disney put up $25,000 of her own money and then got a cadre of donors to follow suit. "She didn't have to do it," Gbowee says. "The movie was complete. Most people, once they've gotten what they wanted, they are off and out of your life!" Thanks to this newly solid financial footing, wipsen has been able to export peace-building programs to war-torn zones in Sierra Leone and the Niger Delta. Disney has convinced a group of American activists, including Gloria Steinem, to attend the group's conference in Ghana this month.
And when they get there, Gbowee will have one more request: "This time Abby has to stay awake at night so that we go dancing, because last time she did not do a good job," she told me in August. "She said, 'Leymah, I'm so sleepy. Can I go to bed?' And I was like, 'Abby, I thought you were a fun person.' This is one area where I think we are different. When it's nighttime and I have made up my mind that it is time to go dancing, there is nothing in my mind about sleep."
"Oh, man, I was so embarrassingly old that night," Abby said. "But it was 1 a.m. when I left, and no one was even in the club yet! If you think I was going to dance on an empty dance floor, the only white lady for 50 miles..." She shakes her head. "And by the way, when I went past that same club on the way to the airport at 7 a.m., it was still packed to the rafters."
I pointed out that if it hadn't been for big and loud and late, late parties, I would barely know Disney. At such hours, she was usually leading the charge.
"Okay, we'll see about that," Gbowee said. "In December, because of you, I will give her another chance."