“Reppin on the Runway” was a charity event hosted by Rutgers’ chapter of United Muslim Relief (UMR) at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus last Thursday. UMR hosted the event to raise money to provide winter weather resources for refugee families.
The multipurpose room of the student center was decorated with flags of different countries. A few circle tables were placed in front of a makeshift stage that also consisted of more tiny flags, where the models would make their grand debut.
The night began with the treasurer of UMR Laila Ahmed, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, introducing herself as the emcee of the event. She then welcomed the president and vice president of the club, Salma Elztahry, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, and Yasmin Hafez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, to the stage.
The women, who also donned traditional clothing, took turns briefly discussing what UMR is and how the purpose of the event was to “provide winter resources for refugee families.” The refugee families are from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen. The hosts described UMR as an organization that “provides sustainable development in the face of emergencies and rapid socioeconomic and political change.”
Afterward, the fashion show began. The show consisted of many models representing a large range of countries. Some of the countries included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and a few others. As every model walked out, the DJ played a song that corresponded to that country.
Each of the models wore garments originating from their respective countries. As they walked out onto the stage, the brave participants were warmly greeted with encouraging applause.
The vast display of culture, represented by the different garments, was touching. It's easy to forget that people around the world express themselves and their cultures in different ways. The colors, fabrics and intricate designs of every garment of clothing reminded everyone in the audience of the array of cultures that exist at Rutgers.
The catwalks were interrupted by a short intermission. Three members of the Chinese Dance Troupe at Rutgers dressed in black and, while holding fans, danced powerfully in sync to a soft tune. Their intricate dancing was met with lots of applause.
The fashion show ended shortly afterward with a compelling performance by Prashasti Aurora, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Aurora wore an Indian suit with blue designs, complete with wavy hair and a bindi.
She gracefully walked onto the stage and sang a song in Hindi. Despite many not understanding the words she sang, the whole audience seemed to be compelled by the sound of her voice.
“I really love the cause of this organization. I love that they’re fundraising for refugees. There were a lot of participants for India, so I asked if I could represent India in a different way. I asked if I could sing and they were really nice about it. I wanted to give that representation to India,” Aurora said afterward.
Many of the models said they participated for similar reasons. Serah Sannoh, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore from Sierra Leone, was the winner of the Rutgers Wanawake club’s Ms. Africa Pageant. “If there’s any way that I can help to raise awareness for something that’s going on, even if it’s just walking or posting a flier, I feel that it’s necessary,” Sannoh said.
Sannoh also described how she wanted to show that Sierra Leoneans don’t come in one form and that she herself is unique for being a Black Muslim.
A lot of the clothes that the models donned had sentimental value as well. Kausar Ahmed, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, described how her intricately designed, colorful Nigerian-Muslim dress was brought to her from Nigeria by her aunt. The dress is unique to Ahmed’s tribe, the Hausa people, who are mainly located in Northern Nigeria.
The market and graphic designer of UMR, Abdurahman Sherif, a School of Engineering senior, described why UMR decided to hold a cultural fashion show. “We wanted to do something different, over the years we always do soccer tournaments or bake sales. This time, we wanted to do something that stands out, and we don’t see a lot of these kinds of events on campus, so we wanted to do something unique and exciting,” Sherif said.
In addition to this event, UMR has hosted many other charity events. Last year, they organized a basketball tournament to fundraise for Yemen.