Peggy Stansbery, Contributing Writer
People dressed in classy cocktail attire enjoyed fashion shows, performances and refreshments while supporting UNICEF’s humanitarian work on Oct. 22 at the University Student Commons.
The African Student Union and UNICEF at VCU collaborated together to help educate people about UNICEF’s work, raise money for UNICEF and celebrate African culture and students, according to Rohan Rathi, UNICEF at VCU’s community building co-chair.
“It’s a massive event for us because we are going to be celebrating Black culture, celebrating Africa and celebrating UNICEF’s efforts to help Africa develop and prosper,” Rathi said.
The gala had a $5 entry for tickets purchased before the event and $7 entry for tickets purchased at the door, according to Rathi. The organizations will donate the money raised from ticket sales to UNICEF.
United States-centric news fails to value stories from developing nations, according to Rathi. UNICEF at VCU wants to close that gap and educate the VCU community on global topics, Rathi said.
World issues pertaining to Africa are especially underrepresented in the news, according to Rathi. He said he hoped the gala educated people on children’s issues existing in Africa. Some of these issues include Ethiopian children being embroiled in their country’s civil war, nutritional issues and children being unable to attend school, according to Rathi.
The gala included presentations highlighting UNICEF’s work across Africa and its responses to these issues to help show what donations can help achieve, according to Rathi.
“I hope people will be more aware of what is going on in the world that we don’t see because of our own news consumption issues,” Rathi said.
ASU visual director and fashion gala coordinator Marie E. Kamara said the collaboration with UNICEF derived from one of ASU’s main missions — that being giving back and helping other individuals.
ASU wanted to highlight student designers while fundraising for UNICEF through the event, Kamara said.
“The fashion portion was just an idea I had to highlight student designers. I know a lot of students at this school who have their own clothing lines so I wanted an opportunity for them to be able to showcase that,” Kamara said. “I wanted to highlight all these designers and their hard work.”
Beyond showcasing these talented student designers, the fashion shows provided entertainment and helped motivate people to donate, according to Kamara.
“The student designer portion and the intermissions we have is to draw people in,” Kamara said. “Not only are you going to be giving back and donating for the cause but you’re also going to see a little show here and there.”
In addition to the money raised from the ticket sales, ASU and UNICEF at VCU asked people for further donations at the end of the event, according to Kamara.
Kamara said that she hopes people appreciated the hard work and effort put into creating the gala and donated to the cause.
“I’m also hoping people take the time to get to know the designers and see their lines and appreciate them for what they are. Because I know I did and that’s why I really wanted something like this to be formulated,” Kamara said.
VCU alum Belton Harris Jr. showcased his designs at the gala. His brand Political Apparel works to bring people together, according to Harris.
“My parents raised me to treat people right, show love to everyone and make sure not to discriminate and that is where a lot of my imagery comes into play,” Harris said. “Say we have opposing ideas, but the person that is able to see both sides is a more whole person, and that’s where my designs come to play.”
His designs include imagery such as happy and sad faces and the slogan “don’t look away,” according to Harris. These designs emphasize understanding and facing different perspectives.
Harris said he appreciated the opportunity to explain the meaning behind his brand at the gala. He said he hoped people had the chance to understand one another and the designers’ work.
Harris decided to be a part of the gala to have an opportunity to express himself, make new connections and give back to those who are less fortunate, according to Harris.
“I hope in a lot of ways this will sort of galvanize people to think more about how they can help children in developing nations, how they can help UNICEF, how they can help all these other organizations and how they can help be a force in driving for change across that,” Rathi said.