Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
It was a busy day for the Monro Muffler Brake and Service on Main Street, with a packed parking lot filled with people in high heels - men and women alike.
Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is an event held to support victims that have been raped or assaulted, violently and/or sexually. This is the seventh year the program has been held in Buffalo. Both males and females can be victims, and although the use of "her" in the title may look to target specifically females, it strives to tackle all gender issues.
The event began at the Crisis Service center on Main Street. Its title stems from an old saying: "you can't really understand somebody until you've walked a mile in their shoes." The phrase shows how difficult it is to grasp others' pain without sharing their perspective.
Jimmy Janowski, co-chairman and Buffalo United artist, has been one of the event's most active members. He gets the LGBTQ community involved and this year got Maryalice Demler, from WGRZ-TV, on board.
"The original idea was violence against women so that men would be walking in women's shoes," Janowski said. "But it's calling to all sorts of gender violence - any kind of violence toward women, toward gays, toward transsexuals, and men also. Violence in itself."
The smiling faces in the crowd belonged to different ethnicities, orientations, and genders. Though they were from different backgrounds, they all supported the victimized.
Even before the walk began, the amount of people in attendance had already topped last year's three-fold. To hold an event of this magnitude, every member used resources to promote wherever they could - especially social media.
The direction of the walk proved to be a factor as well, according to Shandra Whitefield, domestic violence case manager.
In the past, the mile was walked toward UB, but this year The Crisis Center felt it should be more community centered, so the group travelled down the opposite direction - toward North Park Theatre.
It wasn't the direction of the walk that mattered, but what it represented. Enthusiastic men were eagerly holding their own as they walked as best they could in high heels. They walked with calves bulging as they tried to get a feel for the new footwear. Other men sat on the curb, trying to figure out how the heels actually fit. In either case, the heels were a prominent standout with pairs ranging from red to rhinestones.
"This is my first year walking in shoes, not my first year walking; last year I chickened out," said Arlen Boyer, a former worker for the Crisis Center. "Last year I just walked in my sneakers, I was supporting, but I wasn't wearing the shoes. This year I'm wearing the shoes. I wanted to be a larger voice. I wanted to have a more significant impact."
Under the white tent with the lone red balloon that symbolized the "Walk a Mile" international colors was a number of volunteers who took time out of their day to work registration, handle donations, and pass out shoes.
"[The event] is huge. All the money that's donated is going towards the advocate program, which is a program for sexual violence," said Bessie Fitzgerald, a social sciences student at UB and member of the crisis services advocate program. "I just volunteered for the event because, why not?"
When it was time for the walk to begin, people grabbed their children, dogs, and high heels and hit the sidewalks. Police escorts were present, with two squad cars stopping traffic from both directions, and Buffalo Police Department motorcyclists followed and kept a close eye on the walk.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has so far reached about two-thirds of its goal - $7,007. Charitable donations are still being accepted and will go directly back to the advocate program to help those who are victims of domestic violence, rape, and assault.