Essence virtual summit set to help black women cope in COVID-19 era

The agenda will include meditation, wellness tips, cooking workshops, fitness workouts, story-reading for children, virtual dance parties, and more.
Charli Penn, Charlamagne Tha God and IyanlaVanzant
Charli Penn, Charlamagne Tha God and IyanlaVanzant.Essence, Greg Duncan, IyanlaVanzant.com

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By Curtis Bunn

Iyanla Vanzant, Charlamagne Tha God, and actor LaVar Burton are among the featured presenters for the Essence Wellness House: A virtual summit Tuesday and Wednesday to provide black women and their communities with information on how to cope amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The first Essence Wellness House events, sponsored by the magazine’s parent company, Essence Ventures, run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET and will air at www.essence.com.

“As we come together to safely get through the COVID-19 crisis, it is critical that we do not allow social distancing to morph into social disconnection,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and chair of Essence Ventures.

LeVar Burton.Brad Barket / Getty Images for HISTORY

The agenda will include meditation, wellness tips, cooking workshops, fitness workouts, story-reading for children, virtual dance parties, and more. All participants have donated their honorariums to the National Action Network and the World Central Kitchen.

“It was imperative that we step and continue to be the source for black women so we have the tools and the information we need right now,” Charli Penn, Essence’s relationship and wellness director, told NBC News.

“Misinformation is not good to spread,” she said. “People are scared; there’s fear out there. It’s important that we push through that and talk about COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our community and what the new normal will look like and how we navigate that together.”

Across America, more than 160,000 people have been infected by coronavirus and more than 3,000 have died as a result of the disease.

The virtual summit is free, but organizers are asking viewers to sign up on the Essence website. The seven-hour event will explain how to manage during these challenging times, Penn said.

“We have to look at black women's total life,” she said, “so it was important we have doctors so we get medical facts, spiritual leaders so we can make sure we are truly living the best life that we can in such a difficult time. We included meditation and exercise because all these things holistically are important for our overall wellness.”

Vanzant, the renowned spiritualist and bestselling author of many inspirational books, is scheduled to deliver an uplifting message early in the program. Dr. Patrice Harris and Dr. Lauren Powell will give facts on the coronavirus and how to boost the immune system against it.

Radio personality Charlamagne Tha God will address how to remain calm in the face of fear. Body sculpting artist ShaNay Norvell will conduct a workout segment and Burton, famous for his role in the legendary series Roots, will read books to children, among many other events over the course of the virtual summit.

“We are amplifying the voices of our own community,” Penn said. “We know readers trust us to bring facts, and that’s what we will do at this time when knowledge is power and people are scared.

“We’re talking to the moms, wives, daughters, caregivers, the teachers, the front-line workers, the women who are going out every day, the women who are scared at home,” she added. “There’s something for everyone.”

The full schedule for the two-day event is at www.essence.com.