East Coast vs. West Coast: The Saga Continues!
Rewind to October 5, 2015 as I sit in Orientation; my first official day as a member of the swiftly growing NAESM staff. Imagine how it felt to hear that in a few months I would be traveling to Los Angeles, California to take part in the agency’s 13th installment of their National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and Other Health Disparities. I squealed in excitement at the potential performer (*cough cough) and the thought of traveling to LA. The furthest West I had previously been was Texas. I was forewarned of all of the hard work that would entail hosting the conference. However, I was up for the challenge and without hesitation signed up to be a part of the “Experience Committee”.
Fast forward to January, balancing my daily duties (Housing never sleeps!) and finalizing conference planning required a little organization but I was still hanging in there. My excitement, ever increasing as I started building my playlist for the trip there; songs included “California” by Colonel Loud, “Hotel California” by Eagles and “It Never Rains in Southern California” by Tony Toni Tone. The staff meeting updates and Condom Packing Parties quelled the anxieties of the impending trip. Although I knew I most likely knew I wouldn’t get the opportunity to attend the great line up of plenaries and sessions, I saw a vast opportunity. An opportunity to coalesce with my peers; diverse, highly educated, subject matter experts on issues plaguing our people, their subcultures.
When I hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and my coral blazer I knew we had T-minus 12 hours before showtime! The moment when “the experience” for the participants wafted into the halls of the Hilton LAX, myself and 13 other staff members welcoming and eager to assist. My thirteen plus hour days generally consisted of me assisting with registering participants, adding to the aesthetics of our Exhibit Hall and Receptions, escorting people through the winding corridors of the hotel to their desired destinations, “monitoring” the crowds and ushering people into the larger events and assisting with transforming smaller spaces for the next event. It was in those same hours that I got to meet majority of NAESM’s Board members; special shout out to the very amicable and REAL, Mr. Bates (he’s going to kill me for calling him that) who was also honored during the Black Gay Legend’s Ball for his countless contributions to the field of public health.
I witnessed the vibrancy that is the Ballroom scene, where Legendary Houses competed alongside the likes of “virgins” Byron Keaton, who gave us some nasty shoulder work and received 10s across the board to take home a cash prize and trophy. I also honed in on my anchoring skills during our recorded interviews with attendees, led by the talented Rameses Frederick of Urban Socialites, who took me from Kardashian to Couric (with a little work and many takes). Most importantly, during these hours those staff members transitioned into my family.
Being behind the scenes of the 2016 Conference was easier than it seemed but harder than it looked. I owe eight years of prior experience, a specialization in Community Planning and working in a man’s world with helping me get through the days that ensued unscathed; or at the very minimum, with unchipped polish, hair laid and decent make up skills to hide the circles under my eyes. Whilst, I was tasked with ensuring the participants got what they paid for, an unforgettable experience. Wonderfully sacred memories captured by the provided selfie sticks and engrained into spaces contained within their heads and onto their social media pages. Supplementary to the memories, conducive movements capitulated by an idea that sparked revolution. In exchange, I was afforded the opportunity to Live in the experience that the “City of Angels” blessed me with, Be amongst multigenerational leaders and Own my place in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS and other health disparities.
THANK YOU for bringing your passion, knowledge and artillery to Los Angeles! We look forward to seeing you in Dallas… 😀
#NAESM2016 #liveit #beit #ownit #goodtogreat
Bringing the Excitement to L.A! #NAESM2016
January proved to be a very exciting month for NAESM and MSM Engagement! The 2016 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and Other Health Disparities gave us the opportunity to bring together hundreds of gay black leaders from all across the nation to convene in one space to discuss concerns pertaining to our health. Driven by the theme: Live It, Be It, Own It: Taking Ownership of Our Health, we were granted the platform to unite as a community and empower ourselves in the fight against this epidemic. As an addition to the excitement, the conference took place in sunny Los Angeles, a west-coast dream destination!! Immediately after exiting my aircraft and entered LAX, excitement boiled within me and the anticipation of presenting an engaging and educational conference skyrocketed.
Once the conference began, one of my main functions was to attend to registering our guests. While working the registration desk, I was given the pleasure of meeting and greeting all conference participants and the positivity and energy received was compelling. I enjoyed the opportunity, while searching for name tags, to engage the participants with “small chat” to see what brought them to Los Angeles and their expectation for the conference. Most people simply replied that they had come to the conference to receive more information around the complexities we face as a community and to network, others came for work obligations. Some were there to present information on recent research, discoveries, and best practices. Even though the reason for attending varied, it was clear that the vast majority of participants were excited and ready to receive all that the conference had to offer.
In addition to interacting with our guests, my conference highlights would include the Opening Reception, PrEP Mini- House Ball, and the late nights/early mornings spent bonding with the team. The Opening Reception took place on Thursday night and was an explosive event with food, music, socializing, and fun. The conference attendees were able to “get their life” and interact with our staff through dialogue (and dance battles). Friday night, the Mini-Ball propelled the social fire of the conference, as we watched the KIDS vogue the house down and battle, while sharing facts about PrEP! The LA Ball Room Community came out in nice numbers showing their support, and it was greatly appreciated.
LA was the first opportunity for our staff to get outside of the office and truly get to know one another in a different environment. Pulling together to ensure that the logistics of the conference were implemented without flaw, created a positive organizational synergy that could be felt by not only the team, but also by those who witnessed our interactions. To continuously hear how professional and unified we were kept me smiling from ear to ear and enhanced my conference experience overall. Now that we are back in Atlanta, I am RECHARGED in this fight against HIV/AIDS, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone in Dallas next year!
#Liveit #Beit #Ownit