The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced today that Passion for Fashion will be back for 2021 — in a safe, virtual space. Scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 20, this intergenerational wellness event will include a curbside drive-thru luncheon, self-care kits, keynote speakers, and even an online fashion show.
The nonprofit youth organization was forced to cancel Passion for Fashion last year, as it coincided with the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. According to Dawn E. LeBeau, deputy director, the staff feels strongly that the event must return in this second pandemic year.
“Our young women here on Cheyenne River look forward to Passion for Fashion every year,” she explained. “During these challenging times, when isolation presents its own set of health risks, it’s vital that our youth still have access to this rite of passage — and valuable opportunities to connect relatives, mentors, and elders in our community.”
To commemorate the return of Passion for Fashion, CRYP has given the beloved program a new name: Wiŋčhíŋčala Teȟíla Ukiya. In Lakota, it means “the cherished young girls are coming back here in a group.”
“Although we cannot gather in person, we’re celebrating the strength of our connection and community as Lakota people,” LeBeau said. “We’re celebrating the fact that we are still able to open our arms and hearts to our young women, so they know we always are here for them, lifting them up.”
Wiŋčhíŋčala Teȟíla Ukiya will kick off with a special luncheon catered by CRYP’s Keya Cafe & Coffee Shop. Participants may pick up their meals and special self-care kits curbside at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life); the kits will include jewelry, makeup, hair accessories, bath and body products, sage, and more.
When participants return home, they’ll enter a dedicated Zoom space where they can enjoy their food together and enjoy listening to select guests speak on a variety of topics. During this virtual roundtable, they’ll also have an opportunity to engage with those guests, and with each other.
“We encourage our young women to invite their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and cousins to join us,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “This is a major life experience, and each year, we witness the impact it has on these girls to share that experience with their loved ones. Although we cannot be together in person this year, we can find new ways to connect, share our stories, and find common ground together.”
Following the Zoom roundtable, the teens will enjoy an online fashion show so they can share hair and makeup ideas, show off their new looks, and support each other.
“Although we originally created Passion for Fashion more than a decade ago to help our teenagers prepare for the prom, the program always has been about so much more than that,” Widow said. “We want our young women to have opportunities to learn from other Lakota women, connect with relatives of all ages, and find their own voices and power through positive self-esteem, traditional values, and Lakota culture.”
All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation will receive personalized invitations to Wiŋčhíŋčala Teȟíla Ukiya. For this year’s event, CRYP is seeking donations of jewelry and hair accessories; makeup, bath and lotion sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.
The youth project also is continuing to accept the donation of new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4-26, and dress shoes in all sizes, for the anticipated return of in-person Passion for Fashion in 2022. In particular, CRYP needs dress sizes 16 to 26 and shoe sizes 9 to 12. To make in-kind or financial contributions, visit www.lakotayouth.org/give.
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.