By Mrinal Gokhale
Hundreds of people filled the Grace Centerat 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 20.
Models were walking and dancing down the aisle, each wearing shirts that said “One less,” as lively tunes played throughout the room.
This was the first fundraiser fashion show for Foundations for Freedom. Founded by Dana World-Patterson, Foundations for Freedom is a nonprofit organization with the mission to eradicate sex trafficking through advocacy while reducing vulnerabilities in girls and women.
Some sponsors included Senator Lena Taylor, WNOW 860am and Gruber Law Firm.
Patterson said she loves fashion and felt the show is a fun way to raise money for eradicating human trafficking.
In addition to ticket sales, she said two outfits were being given away in a raffle that night by designers Larry Andrews and Kelvin Haden.
All the money raised went towards the organizations’ mission. “Our two initiatives include both helping victims and increasing awareness on sex trafficking among middle and high school students through curriculum, education and resources,” said Patterson.
Once the show began, communications coach Denise Thomas emceed, announcing the names of 30 girls who walked, ages 10-18. She explained the meaning behind the “One Less” t-shirts they wore, saying children enter the sex trade as young as age 10.
“Each person walking is one less in that age group,” she said. Veteran journalist Eric Von also emceed, saying that Milwaukee is a problematic area when it comes to sex trafficking.
He said Milwaukee has experienced a large increase in child sex trafficking cases and the average age is 13.
“An article recently described Milwaukee as the ‘Harvard school of pimpism,’” he said.
Each girl had written a short mission statement which Thomas read as each girl walked.
Lesley Morales, 17, was one model involved through the Wisconsin LULAC Senoritas sorority.
“My mission statement was that one person at a time can make a change to be one less,” said Morales. Right after the last child model walked, a group of adults also walked wearing t-shirts that said “thrive 247.” Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele was one of the adult models.
“I usually don’t dance but I did it for Dana and this show,” he laughed.
Abele said he and Patterson know one another, and although there are other anti-sex trafficking organizations in Milwaukee, he feels Patterson is the “star around the solar system.”
“The fact that she can gather so many people here on a Sunday afternoon says something,” he said.
One of the models, Laura Johnson, introduced herself as a former victim and advocate. She is now in her thirties, but said she was in the sex trade from age 14 to 17.
Without saying too much, she said she gets paid to tell her story and educate others on the sex trafficking problem in the country. “I travel and speak about my story to encourage other girls and women to stay out of the sex trade.”
Some other adult models included State Rep. Latonya Johnson, Crisela Zavala of LULAC Women’s Council in Wisconsin and president of the LULAC Senoritas division, Joua Yang of Hmong American Women’s Association, Judge Michelle Havas, and Brianna Dorney of Arts @ Large.
Visit foundationsforfreedom.org online and on Facebook for more information.