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Detroit ­— Nearly 300 women gathered along the Detroit River on Saturday to pay homage to the sartorial style of the Kentucky Derby and raise money for local nonprofits.

Women, dressed in Derby chic dresses, gloves and over-the-top hats, attended the sold out Detroit Derby Brunch at the Roostertail restaurant.
 
Event organizer Shalika Sanders said the brunch is exactly what she imagined when she started it in 2014 just for close friends as a fun idea to celebrate Mother’s Day on Kentucky Derby Day. The event quickly grew from 50 to 140 women in the first year.

 

The Kentucky Derby is schueled for 6:45 p.m. Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The race will be broadcast on NBC.

Sanders decided she would use the brunch as a fundraiser to support nonprofits founded by women. By 2015, the brunch donated $1,000 to Women in Touch, a nonprofit serviing abused women and children and in 2017, $2,000 was given to Doors of Success Foundation, providing mentor services to young girls. The event was not held in 2016.
On Saturday, the group made an initial donation of $1,000 to the Detroit Phoenix Center, a social services organization for homeless youth, hoping to triple the donation by the end of the event through raffles and sponsorships.
 
“The mission of Detroit Derby Brunch is to connect, empower, celebrate womanhood, and fellowship in high style, while providing financial support to local non profit organizations founded by women in Metro Detroit,” Sanders said.
 

State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, the keynote speaker, offered a brief history about the Derby and African Americans. 

“The Derby has gone on since late 1800s and is noted as the great American race,” said Gay-Dagnogo. “While looking into the apparel, the history and culture... I found a couple of noteworthy facts. Did you know 13 of 15 of those first original jockeys were African-American.... I find that noteworthy... to not have our freedom at that time but ride with pride in a patriotic event." 

Of all the stunning hats, Amber Kirkland of Yipsilanti, won best Derby Detroit hat with her handmade creation using real flowers. She coupled it with a long white gown featuring colorful summer flowers. 

“I joined because I was impressed with what Shalika was doing and her vision for the community,” said Kirkland, 45. “I’m honestly shocked there were so many great hats.” 
 

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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