OAKLAND -- Ten Oakland fashion designers will showcase their creations in a Sept. 14 fashion performance at the California Ballroom in the Uptown District to support the founding of a women's support center in Oakland.

"Sewn Seeds -- Cycles of Fruition" will feature fashion, DJs, live music, a cash bar and a silent auction. The evening will be hosted by Women's Center International and is supported by a variety of local and corporate sponsors. The event will be produced by Rebecca Lippert.

"When you improve the lives of women, you improve the lives of families. The energy ripples through the whole community. That's what the Oakland center will do," Lippert said.

Avril FitzGerald, board member of Womenís Centers International and Susan Burgess-Lent, executive director of Womenís Centers International, are planning a
Avril FitzGerald, board member of Womenís Centers International and Susan Burgess-Lent, executive director of Womenís Centers International, are planning a Sept. 11 fundraising event called "Sewn Seeds," to launch the Oakland Womenís Center.

Women's Centers International is the brainchild of Susan Burgess-Lent, the founder and executive director of the organization, and a longtime Oakland resident. Burgess-Lent has established centers in Sudan's Darfur region and Nairobi, Kenya.

"The nature of the issue that I see, and the reason it applies here, is that poverty, whether in a camp, or urban slum, or West Oakland is the same problem," Burgess-Lent said. "Women's lack of resources.

"I don't need to reinvent anything," Burgess-Lent continued. "It's about bringing a tool kit of resources that already exists (in Oakland), but are hard for women to get to. Women can come to one place, hang out with women and get the resources they need. That's how communities change. I believe it's about women. What you wear is who you are, and that is a tool for women."


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In 2007, Burgess-Lent teamed up with Montclair resident Avril FitzGerald, who raised enough money to kick-start the Kassab Center in Darfur, bankrolling solar cookers (ovens) for the war-torn region's women and other projects related to livelihood and literacy.

"Many acknowledge living in a great place, but there is a social divide where it is growing," FitzGerald said. "It's becoming startlingly obvious, and it doesn't feel good. We need to start to fix it now. Let's not forget about everyone else. Let the tide raise all boats."

FitzGerald praised the support of the many businesses supporting the event, including several Montclair-based businesses, such as Sola Lucy, A Great Good Place for Books, Isabella Nail Bar, Eco Chique Salon and Red Oak Reality.

"I've got an affinity for Africa and helping women and the fashion part brings everything together and captures the energy here in Oakland," said Vanessa Bergmark, the general manager of Red Oak Realty in Montclair.

"It's about creating community connections," Burgess-Lent said. "This is necessary work. It has to begin at the local level. People know what their gift is and just need to find an opening. We can't afford to lose those opportunities."

IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Sewn Seeds -- Cycles of Fruition," a benefit fashion performance and silent auction
WHEN: Sept. 14
WHERE: California Ballroom, 1736 Franklin St., Oakland
TICKETS: From $20 to $85
INFORMATION: http://www.womenscentersintl.org/events/