For the third year, a group of leading women will take to the catwalk at a fashion show for a cause, raising funds an awareness for domestic violence survivors.
P7 Walk With Purpose on Sept. 17 features the P7 Divas, or Powerful 7, women leaders in their communities and professions, and many of whom are themselves domestic violence survivors. The fashion show is the centerpiece of a party that begins with casino games, then includes a performance by R&B singer, songwriter and harpist Tulani, the headline fashion show, and then a live DJ and dance party that last until midnight.
Organizer Lisa Jones, the founder of Silence No More, said for her, the P stands for powerful—not just in status, but in giving, togetherness and harmony among the models.
“They have become a sisterhood,” she said. “When they need each other, they’re on group chats. It’s a diverse group of age, nationality, and they have a bond. …. It is just an amazing, amazing energy.”
Jones is the founder of Silence No More, a platform for collaboration among organizations, agencies, community members, elected officials, and real time victims and survivors, with a goal to build a system to sustain survivors for two full years after they leave their abusive partner.
The P7 Divas vote on a nonprofit to support each year. The event will this year benefit Women Giving Back, the Sterling-based organization that provides clothing for women and children escaping domestic violence. Both organizations can help prevent survivors from returning to their abusers—often, among the controls that abusers seek over their victims is control of their money and other resources, which can make it difficult to leave.
Jones said the fashion show isn’t just about the glamor—it’s all about the mission.
“It was important to me that they weren’t volunteering just to be seen—I wanted them for the mission. For the first year, no one could know they were in a fashion show. Nobody knew it until they were actually on a stage,” she said.
But the P7 Divas are there for the mission, as is the designer of their outfits, New York City-based Afua Sam.
Sam recalled meeting Jones years ago at an event for serving autistic children through fashion and art. For Sam, who has been designing since she was young and taught herself to sew so she could create what was in her head, her talent and art have always been tools to serve, and for her own liberation.
“I have been a victim myself, years back, and I realized that immediately once I got the courage to move away, even though it took me a long time, everything started shining bright,” she said. “My creativity came out even more, because I’m free.”
The first year, she collaborated with other designers on the show. But she later decided to take on the whole show herself—despite the workload of designing multiple outfits for multiple models. It allows her to put her artistic vision for the show, with Jones, on stage.
“I knew that the focus would be more if we kind of narrowed these things down,” Sam said.
And she said the work becomes “effortless” when you love what you do.
“The love behind what you’re doing gives you more joy when you’re creating pieces like that. And for a cause like this, it’s something dear to my heart,” she said. “And I’ve always—since I started designing, and because it’s a gift—I always know that when you have a gift, it’s not only for you. It’s for the people, to create happiness, to make other people smile.”
Many of the models have been taking part since the first year, said Solitaire Carroll. She is the founder of One Sparrow, a nonprofit dedicated to serving communities in Haiti with hands-on instructions for students on gardening and farming, pop-up health clinics and health education, as well as a college prep program in the U.S. for first-generation immigrant families, and which was last year’s fashion show beneficiary. She also helps with Silence No More, and said the mission fits well with her nonprofit’s work to lift people out of poverty.
“A lot of the root cause of homelessness and economic disparity, especially for women, is domestic violence,” Carroll said. “Whether it’s why they don’t leave, whether it’s why they’re staying, whether it’s why they’re now impoverished, because they did leave but they didn’t have the resources—a lot of times, they need re-education. They need help getting a new job. They need help, their kids need help getting back on their feet.”
She said learning more about domestic violence—both the resources for victims, and how to recognize and be sensitive to domestic violence and dispel preconceptions about it—is also important.
“I truly believe that education is the answer to a lot of the situations that we’re facing in society, whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s domestic violence, whether it’s inequality, whether it’s economic inequalities,” she said.
Jones said the P7 Divas have had an impact they may not even suspect.
“Our hope is that other women will speak up, and they have,” Jones said. “I don’t even think they know the good they’re doing—they really don’t. I get a lot of women who pull me aside separately because of them.”
The P7 Fashion Show Fundraiser begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at 21586 Atlantic Boulevard, Sterling. Tickets are available at p7phasethree.com.
Reporter Alexis Gustin conducted interviews for this story.