CCONNECT360 Presents: The Conversation Party (Philadelphia)
~Originally written for Proud Neighbor Magazine~
Question: “If relationships/marriage are a gift from God, then why do they destroy so many lives?
Answer: “It destroys our lives because we don’t know God”
Claps, snaps and cheers ring out from the crowd after Rayna Weddington calmly gives her concise yet immeasurably powerful response at the Verbal Connections Conversation Party on Sunday, October 12th 2014. This is the theme of the evening; questions that people want answers to are anonymously asked to a crowd made up of approximately 250 people, and mixed responses are voiced.
Organizer, Kashief Butler says, “The goal of the Verbal Connections Conversation Party is to have people from different walks of life engage with one another and talk about issues that need to be discussed on a larger scale. I want people to network, mingle, connect and build new relationships. Verbal Connections allows people to freely talk without being judged or looked down upon.”
There are most certainly people from all walks of life present; when emcee Kyle Morris asks the audience to call out the years we were born, some participants say they were born in the nineties and others say they were born in the sixties. Age isn’t the only thing that differentiates us tonight; our opinions vary greatly. This is evidenced clearly in one of the more controversial topics discussed: the right of incarcerated people to vote.
Question: “Should people in jail be allowed to vote?”
Answer: “The people who are in prison…our tax dollars are paying for what they’re doing. Well, paying for their lives, we’re paying for their meals, and we’re paying for their clothes et cetera. It’s almost like with a child, if we have to take care of you then maybe it’s not so much of you having a say. If all of our money is going into the system then maybe the people who are making the money should be the ones trusted to vote”.
The crowd’s response is diverse; some people clap enthusiastically while others don’t appear to be so convinced. One of the unconvinced participants is Dechana Roberts; the passion she exudes when she speaks commands the entire crowd’s attention. She says,
“I just feel like no one is looking out for the people living in the prison system. So that’s why they need the right to vote. We’re not looking out for them. We don’t know what it’s like to live in that situation and so only someone that has lived in a prison can understand their concerns, and they are humans just like everybody else”.
Dechana, who attended the event mostly for entertainment purposes, was pleasantly surprised that she was able to network and interact with people within the Philadelphia community who are trying to bring about positive change. There are many other participants who shared her sentiments. Skye Idehen says,
“This event really gave me the opportunity to network with many young professionals in the Philadelphia area. I learned that Verbal Connections was much more than having deep, intellectual conversation around hot topics, but more of a chance for others to broadcast their talents and lived experiences. For instance, they were humbling and telling moments when people shared that they had just gotten out of jail or recently been homeless or are currently living with HIV. [The Conversation Party is] such a powerful movement and event.”
As powerful as this event is; it has very modest beginnings. The Conversation Party started in the living room of the founder, Corey Carter, CEO of Communications Connections Worldwide. This company, also known as CCONNECT360, LLC, was founded in 2011 after Carter recognized the recurring theme of failed relationships in his community. CCONNECT360, LLC is focused on relationship strengthening and community building through media and open communication. Carter wanted to create a forum where individuals could engage in open dialog about relationships and social issues, and thus the initial Conversation Party was birthed. The Conversation Party started as a quarterly gathering for couples and singles, but has since grown into a modern and inviting networking platform that promotes effective communication in relationships at large. People attend Conversation Parties with their friends, spouses, siblings, even parents and children; Carter’s event successfully creates a space for anyone to come and comfortably participate in discourse.
Sunday’s Conversation Party was the largest the event has ever been, and it was held at the Ibrahim Theater at the International House on 37th and Chestnuts streets in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There were many vendors at the event, including Atiya Ola’s Café, Chars, Creations, Akilah Itan Handcrafted Jewelry and Accessories, LoVe.BEast Tees and Stone Temple Creations.
Attendees experienced many inspiring moments; some of the more frequently discussed being the blindfolded food tasting and loop pedal performance. Atiya Ola’s Café supplied each attendee with a sample of food, mine was ginger beets, and we tasted it blindfolded. There were mixed reactions to the taste of the food; some were not so pleasant, but the overall experience was positive. Krystin Foster says, “The best part of the event to me was the live performances! It was great to hear some of the raw talent that can be found within this city.” One of the two performances was Jacqueline Constance; Jacqueline got on stage and performed three songs using only herself, her mic, and her loop pedal. It sounded like there was an entire band on the stage; watching the performance unfold was mesmerizing. Another artist who performed was Kriss Mincey, a self-proclaimed Artrepreneur with the voice of an angel.
Foster also appreciated that the proceeds of the event go to a charitable cause. Corey Carter and the organizers of The Conversation Party selected Philadelphia Youth Health Empowerment Project (Y-Hep) as the organization to receive a percentage of the event’s proceeds. A check for $278.00 was given to Y-Hep; and Foster says “just being a part of that was pretty amazing.”
From presenting the check, to the vendors, to the professionalism of the staff, the Verbal Connections Conversation Party was well planned and well executed. This was a great alternative event for young people in Philadelphia; Jasmine Adams said, “I am glad I am able to voice my opinions without it being a fight, I am glad I tried this event; Philadelphia doesn’t know what’s here.”
Luckily, Corey Carter and CCONNECT360, LLC plan to make this event a permanent fixture in the city of Philadelphia; for more information, visit CCONNECT360.com and follow Corey on Twitter @cconnect360 .