For the fourth year, the Project Healthy Living Advisory Board is hosting the annual ManDate conference, a health and wellness conference focusing on issues affecting black gay men.
“There’s really no other conference like it, anywhere in the nation,” says Project Healthy Living’s Robert Barrett. “My husband used to work for the Department of Health, and he would go to a lot of these conferences, that are really focused around providers. So they happen during the week, during the day, when people who actually need the information couldn’t go.”
The conference, which runs for three days from Nov. 6 to 8, will feature a variety of workshops and speakers, as well as live performances from musical artists and comedians, to both educate and entertain the attendees during their stay.
Starting on Friday, conference attendees will be treated to various dance and musical performances, interspersed with smaller performances by comedian Sampson, at The ARC in Southeast Washington. Six awards will be presented to people who have made outstanding contributions in the arts, community service and social activism.
On Saturday and Sunday, at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Center, attendees will be given a choice of three different workshops for each of three separate workshop sessions. Topics covered will range from religion and spirituality to wealth-building, to an “Ask the Docs” forum on health issues affecting black gay men to discussions around police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The conference will also offer free HIV/STI testing, as well as blood pressure, diabetes and other health screenings on Saturday.
“We didn’t want this to be a conference focused on just HIV/AIDS,” says Barrett. “There are other factors in our lives that we want to talk about. And we feel that by addressing those issues, it gets us more healthy in general.”
The keynote speaker for the weekend is Bishop Yvette Flunder, the reverend of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco and a prominent lesbian leader within the black LGBT community.
Howard alum Frenchie Davis will perform on Sunday, and Darryl Stephens of Noah’s ARC fame will hold a Q&A session about his book, How to Get Your Life for Good. Saturday night will feature a singles mixer event at the Beacon Hotel, which is the host hotel for the conference, with a champagne brunch to follow on Sunday morning.
“This is conference is social,” says Barrett, “but it’s also educational.”
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