Come Together for Denim Day on April 27

 Come Together for Denim Day on April 27

By Katie McFadden

Good things come when people come together to make something happen. That’s been playing out in real time as a group of folks from different areas of the peninsula and different organizations have been collaborating to make the second annual Rockaway Denim Day event a success. And it is the message that head organizer, Theresa Racine, founder of XtremeMeasure, hopes that people can take away from the event on Saturday, April 27. That with more people becoming aware of sexual violence and how to combat it, that the stigma surrounding it, and the actual act, become things that are more avoidable, so that people can feel safe.

Denim Day is an international event held at the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month every year since 1999. That year, in April, women across Italy showed up to work wearing jeans the day after the Italian Supreme Court overturned the sentence of a 45-year-old driving instructor who raped an 18-year-old Italian girl in 1998 because the man had argued that since her jeans were so tight, it would’ve required her to remove them, so the sex was consensual. Now each Denim Day reflects that protest to raise awareness for sexual assault.

Racine, herself a victim of sexual assault, has been working on Denim Day events since 2015, and for the first time, brought a wildly successful event to Rockaway last year. Now she’s doing it again on Saturday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hammel Playground (Beach 84th and Rockaway Beach Blvd.). The day will include a vigil for survivors and attendees are encouraged to wear jeans. Jeans, with cards with phone numbers for sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking hotlines in the pockets, will also be available as a giveaway, in addition to plush animal giveaways for kids. The St. Rose of Lima and Rockaway Lighthouse choirs will be performing. DJ Rhythm Selector will be spinning tunes. Moises Reyes will be leading seminars in self-defense, senior defense and weapons training, while Seph Figueroa will be leading IntenSati, a spiritual fitness class with affirmations, breathwork, cardio kickboxing, martial arts and yoga. Zin Gina will be leading a Zumba class. Agencies like the NYPD, FBI, New Day Treatment Center and others will be leading discussions and will provide resources at tables. Guests will have an opportunity to paint affirmation rocks and enter raffles for prizes from Smoke & Barrel, Kimo’s and Coastal. There will be drinks and food, with pizza donated by Elegante. The main guest speaker of the event will be Rose Cabo, who will be sharing her story of her daughter, Chelsea, who went missing in May 2016.

The main theme of last year’s event was to help victims heal from the trauma of their sexual assaults and to let them know that they’re not alone. This year’s event is more focused on giving victims the power to fight back and making everyone aware of the realities of sexual assault, so there are more eyes on potential situations, more ears to listen to stories and more voices to speak up for those who need help.

“I want more people to have situational awareness in their lives…that they walk away knowing how to protect themselves and knowing that there’s a community of people that care about them, to a point that they can go up to someone and share their story and ask for help, and people can be there to help them,” Racine said. “I think the biggest thing about a person that goes through sexual assault or human trafficking is that there’s a stigma and if they share their story, someone might say, ‘well, what were you wearing?’ I want to try to change that perception and to get people comfortable enough to share what happened to them so they can get help.”

That message that Racine hopes people take away from the event, has started in the planning stages, as a variety of people have come together to offer their various talents and knowledge to make Saturday’s event another success.

Sara Bruno, an organizing specialist for Partnership for Parks has teamed up with Racine to make things go smoothly at Saturday’s event taking place in a public park. “I’m there for the community if they need anything and if anything goes wrong, I have the numbers for who to call,” Bruno said. “Theresa is passionate about sexual assault and domestic violence awareness, and she’s passionate about the community at large and defending green space, so when she came to me with her ideas, I wanted to help her get this done.”

Reyes, who works with Queens Community Justice Center- The Rockaways, will have a table to discuss the services the organization provides, such as help navigating the justice system, youth development, community safety services and more, in addition to leading martial arts and self-defense classes at the event. “I feel we all can be a part of the solution instead of staying ignorant to the problem,” Reyes said. “I want people to learn how to take control of yourself and be aware, not just about self-defense, but know where you’re walking, the history of that place, who you’re working around. We are big on awareness.”

Seph Figueroa, one of the leaders at The B.R.I.D.G.E. FEC will be leading an IntenSati workout class that will not only get hearts pumping but will fill minds with positive affirmations. A practice originally started by the late Patricia Moreno, IntenSati gives people a renewed sense of intention and mindfulness. “It’s very easy to go back into a negative state in this world. We need to come back to a grounded place without screens and look at one another and be aware of our surroundings. Sometimes we see something, and we don’t say something and that may come from a cultural upbringing, but we need to break those barriers and trends. We can’t do this alone, we need one another.”

Gloria Lewis, program director of the New Day Treatment Center is bringing her knowledge of substance abuse and treatments to those who may be vulnerable to drug abuse and others who can provide help. She’ll be providing overdose training and will provide Narcan to those who take the training, plus things like fentanyl test strips, with the hopes of saving more lives. “We’re trying to educate people on how substance abuse can lead them to becoming more of a victim, while not trying to shame anyone for substance abuse. Let us get you the help you need.”

Rosemarie E. Duggan Gulston, a member of Community Board 14, a resident of the Hammels and a licensed insurance broker, is volunteering her time to provide financial literacy. As the survivor of domestic abuse and a situation in which her father murdered her mother, a victim of sexual assault, and someone who has experienced homelessness, Duggan Gulston understands how important financial literacy is when trying to escape an abusive situation. “Teaching financial literacy can help remediate some of our problems,” she said.

With a mix of talents, knowledge, experience and above all, passion, coming together, Saturday’s Denim Day is sure to make an impact. If you’d like to help with the event, contact Theresa Racine at 646-408-1200 or Moises Reyes at 917-600-9891. For more info, follow xtrememeasuregold on Instagram.

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