By Kiarra Solomon
On Friday June 15th, over 400 people packed The Trust (home of MTV’s Real World Philadelphia) for the Stomp the Runway Fashion Gala, an event inspired by the death of local runway model Vanessa “Ms. Banks” Watson. In addition to viewing the latest collections from some of Philadelphia’s premier designers, attendees were reminded of the cause through testimony of domestic violence survivor and author, Brenda Thomas (Laying My Burdens Down), as well as the Watson family and friends.
The event was hosted by MoShay LaRen, 100.3 WRNB’s midday on-air personality, who is also a survivor of domestic violence and Kendra G, Fox 29 entertainment reporter. The runway show featured local award-winning couture designer, Autumn Kietpongler, along with Carmelita Couture, Bishme Cromartie, Faithful by Michael Thomas, Jacqueline Myles for Todd Anthony Clothing, Untamed by Kia Denise and Kings Rule Together by Curran Swint.
A portion of the proceeds from the gala benefited Women Against Abuse, a nonprofit organization that runs the only emergency shelter in Philadelphia specifically for women who are experiencing domestic violence. Last year, the facility was forced to turn away more than 7000 women. Additionally, the organization is facing further cuts in the funding it receives from the City of Philadelphia. “The Philadelphia Police Department responds to 115,000 domestic violence calls each year”, says Cheryl Brubaker, Development and Communications Director at Woman Against Abuse, “we do a lot, but it’s still not enough”.
Domestic violence affects all races, ages and economic backgrounds, however, 48 percent of the women housed by Women Against Abuse are African American and 100 percent of the women are experiencing poverty. Nationally, a woman will leave an abuse relationship seven or eight times before she leaves for good. Domestic abuse is more than just physical, it can also be mental and emotional. “It’s not about the physical aspect, it’s about control,” said Brubaker.
Although the occasion was one for a cause, in addition to the high fashion, guests were able to enjoy hors d’oeuveres, signature cocktails, as well as discounted Minx manicures, and complimentary massages from Spa East and more.
The Stomp the Runway Fashion Gala was presented by Rashad Corey, owner of Rashad Corey Productions and close friend and business of associate of Watson prior to her passing. “We chose to do this event because in a city of 1.5 million, where one in every three women is at risk of being battered at least once in their lifetime, we must take action,” he said. Vanessa “Ms. Banks” Watson was murdered by her abusive boyfriend Luis McCrea, who then turned the gun on himself earlier this year. A portion of the proceeds from the gala will go to help support Watson’s three surviving children.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, Women Against Abuse operates a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week (1-866-723-3014). A victim does not have to be ready leave the relationship when calling, operators are there to answer questions for a victim or friend of a victim, and even help create a safety plan. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the organization should visit their website at www.womenagainstabuse.org. The organization is currently in great need of clothing donations, especially for children. Donations can also be made to Women Against Abuse in honor of a friend or family member.