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