The Young Women’s Christian Association of Greater Los Angeles held it’s second annual Jeans for Justice fundraiser with a purpose to raise awareness and funds for its sexual assault program. The proceeds from the June 20 event will benefit a shelter the organization is planning to build to provide a safe haven for sexually assaulted women.
From the blue jean carpet to high-styled denim ensembles, the amount of support for the cause was clear. Women and men from one end of the generational and ethnic spectrum to another were present at the party’s downtown location.
“Sexual assualt is a serious issue and we need to call attention to it,” said Sharon Shelton, YWCA/LA director of program services. “There are so many victims and survivors who need services, and that’s what tonight is all about.”
For the second year, this local chapter invited celebrities to decorate jeans to be auctioned off during the night’s silent and live auctions.
From pop and R&B sensations Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, to rapper Ludacris, A-list actors Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett, and even children’s cartoon characters Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob Square Pants, Hollywood’s elite designed and donated autographed jeans to support the YWCA’s overall platform of empowering women, specifically the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
“We are currently working with other shelters to provide services such as counseling to sexually assaulted women,” explained Shelton. “But we want to be able to ensure their safety, which is why we are raising funds to build a shelter.”
As guests awaited the live auction with jean paddles in hand, some participated in the silent auction while others enjoyed cocktail and hors d’oeuvre selections.
Guests were also entertained with an interpretative spoken word performance by artists Yolanda Androzzo, Gabriela Garcia Medina and Tuesday Connors, which was followed by a musical selection by Masauko Chipembere and Blak Sonshine.
It wasn’t long before Mistress of Ceremonies, comedian Jennifer Rawlings took to the stage to start the bidding. It took a bit of warming up, but guests began raising their paddles in support of the night’s cause.
The celebrities’ jeans sold as high as $450, which included a pair styled by Angela Bassett, while pairs styled by Ludacris and Denzel Washington went for $400.
Lucky bidder Tiffany Lee went home with two pairs of jeans by Justin Timberlake for a deal of $200.
When asked why she made the bid, she simply pointed to the “Justice for Jeans” logo on the wall and said, “I am a supporter of life and happiness, and for people as a whole. Anything to do with justice, I support. It was only appropriate that I bid on Justin’s jeans.”
Lee added, “The YWCA is a life-giving organization that is making a statement of empowerment with tonight’s event. I am very impressed with the way things turned out tonight.”
Jeans have become an international symbol of protest against harmful attitudes toward rape and sexual assault. Their symbolism was catalyzed on February 10, 1999, when the Italian courts overturned the conviction of a driving instructor who had allegedly raped his 18-year-old student. The Corte di Cassazione reasoned that the young woman was wearing tight blue jeans at the time, therefore the sexual intercourse must have been consensual. The court proclaimed, “It is impossible to take off jeans…without the active cooperation of the person wearing them.” The decision set off waves of protests across the political spectrum in Italy and around the world.