“Brava!,” the sold-out fundraiser that provided new bras to women at the YWCA-GCR, was held at The Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St. in Troy, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 13, 2015. The Arts Center was a partner in the event which featured fourteen talented writers from around the region who read jury-selected poems and essays or performed songs and monologues on the subject of brassieres in their lives. The pieces touched on the subject of bras from many viewpoints and range from the poignant to the hilarious. Submissions were reviewed and selected by a juried panel. Each of the pieces was limited to 750 words.
The event was emceed by Susan Arbetter, well-known Capitol correspondent and radio commentator. For those who wanted to double up on a “night of stories”, the event served as an unofficial pre-party for the NPR “Selected Shorts” event at 8:00 p.m. that night at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Attendees each brought a new bra to the event in addition to a $25 admission to cover savories, desserts and refreshments. The food was supplied by Dali Mamma, an Albany eatery that locally sourced the ingredients and prepared an exciting menu with the help of YWCA-GCR’s Jamison-Rounds Ready for Work Program participants, residents and students in the “Women of the World” class at Russell Sage College.
YWCA-GCR Executive Director, Daquetta Jones, described the event in one word, “UPLIFTING! I am overwhelmed with joy, appreciation and the event’s success. I don’t think there’s a realization of the profound need for bras. BraVa completely sold out, bringing the awareness to this silent but fundamental need. The support of our community (including men!) in responding to the call to action is priceless and we sincerely thank each and every one that supported BraVa! The event also created an opportunity for some of our residents and Jamison-Rounds Ready For Work “Job Readiness” program’s current and alums to a real life work experience with Dali Mamma. They helped created a menu, prepared the food and served our wonderful guest at BraVa! I can hear people across the nation, screaming, BraVa! Special thank you to Marion Roach-Smith as she courageously initiated BraVa to address a need and bring awareness to it”
The idea for the event developed out of a conversation between author, editor and teacher Marion Roach Smith, who teaches memoir writing at the arts center and Malissa Pilette-McClenon, Director of Development and Marketing at the YWCA-GCR. “When we were discussing holiday needs for the residents, Malissa told me that bras are always in desperately short supply,” Roach Smith said. “This struck a powerful chord with me and we decided right there to do something about it. The support the community showed Brava! was immensely reassuring and expressed how deeply we care for one another, and how it is indeed the small things — in this case, a bra — that can mean so much. We laughed, we cried, and we shared stories of the meaning of our bras in our lives, the result of which was to bring us all closer to an understanding of the struggles that make us all more similar than different. I congratulate the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, Inc. for its vision and thank them for taking the chance on producing what turned out to be a life-enhancing event. I already look forward to next year’s reading and party.”
Brava! aimed to collect at least 200 new bras to be distributed to women at the YWCA-GCR and others who need them, but more than doubled their goal by collecting over 500 bras. Artist Sharon Bates was on hand at the event to create a unique installation of the contributed bras.
Those who couldn’t attend the event but want to still support the cause can drop off a new bra at Dali Mamma at 41 State St. in Albany or the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, Inc. at 21 First St. in Troy, or make a monetary contributions toward the purchase of bras at http://www.fundabilities.org/Brava! The Town Shop, a well-known lingerie retailer operating in Manhattan, will provide the bras at wholesale cost, ensuring that people’s donations go farther.
An event like this would not be possible without the help and support of so many people, organizations, and companies. The event committee consisted of Marion Roach Smith, Sunny da Silva, Debra Townsend, and Malissa Pilette-McClenon. Sponsors for the event were: The Recovery Room, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, Dali Mamma, Great Barrington Bra & Girl, and Braza. Additional special thanks go out to: Susan Arbetter, Sharon Bates, Amy Biancolli, Bowman’s Orchard, Meredith Coit, Allie Denny, Joe Donahue, Susan Dunckel, Senator Kirsten Gilibrand, Katrin Haldeman, Honest Weight Food Co-Op, Colleen Ingerto, Michael Kennedy, Danny Koch, Ellie Markovitch, Jill Naveh, Nine Mile Farm, Psychedelicatessen, Renee Penetta, Paul Miyamoto, Hana Murphy, Slackhollow Farm, Sweet Sue’s, The Town Shop, Troy Civic Theatre, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy Waterfront Farmer’s Market, Nancy Weber, and all of many dedicated volunteers and supporters.