Founded in 2009 by fashion designers and passionate philanthropists, Jim Searle and Chris Tyrell, Dare to Wear Love has raised over half a million dollars for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, dedicated to community-based programs turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa. This year, proceeds will help launch the SLF’s new LGBTQ Initiative – supporting LGBTQ groups in Africa working on urgently needed HIV & AIDS programs.
Who is Steven Lewis, you ask? Well let’s just say he is a pretty extraordinary individual. For starters, he is a professor of Distinction at Ryerson University. He is also the co-founder and co-director of the international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World. In addition to this, Stephen Lewis has been working with the United Nations spanning more than two decades. Now that, my friends, is what you call dedication.
During Stephen Lewis’ speech, he highlighted the importance of his initiative and of spreading awareness surrounding AIDS. With each word, you could hear the sincerity and passion he had for his work. Mr. Lewis then brought Dr. Frank Mugisha to the stage, a renowned Ugandan LGBTQ Activist, a respected champion of human rights, and an anti-violence advocate.
While living in Uganda, Mugisha realized there is a need for help in the LGBTQ community. Civilians suffered in silence as they were being disowned by society because of their sexual orientation. That is when he created Ice Breakers Uganda, a support network for LGBTQ Ugandans who are out or in the process of coming out. Mugisha’s speech was moving and had the crowd on their feet. I was moved, too, and shed a tear because of Mugisha’s bravery and how far he has come on his journey to freedom.
Now onto the show. We were welcomed by an amazing host, Garvia Bailey, who got the audience loose and ready to have an amazing time. She was poised yet charming, not to mention her punch lines were top notch.
The runway opened up with and exclusive look at Greta Constantine’s Fall 2017 collection. One word…Amazing!! Greta Constantine never disappoints and this collection was no exception. After the opening, prominent designers from Canada showcased one-of- a-kind creations constructed from six yards of African fabric. Christopher Bates, DSqured2, House of Dalla and Rita Tesolin Jewelry created stunning pieces that lit up the runway. Let’s not forget about top Canadian influencers like Glen Baxter, Yasmin Warsame, and Myles Sexton were on hand to watch the models of the evening work every inch of the runway.
The show ended with a great performance by the talented Simone Denny, from 90’s group “Love Inc,” who graced the stage with the hit, “You’re a Super Star.” The audience jumped from their seats and danced the rest of the night away. I felt like I was inside Electric Circus (Toronto inside joke).
Two things I took from this experience: First, I realized that we all have a lot of work to do. We need to be more accepting of groups who are already being marginalized. The LGBTQ community is accepted by many, but not all, which means too many are still suffering from this prejudice.
The second thing I carry with me after the show was seeing how many people of all walks of life came together to enjoy the night without discrimination. We all came with a common mission of Dare to Share Love. I’d say Mission Accomplished!