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Connecting Communities: Wood Hood Screening & Empowerment through Nature Panel

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Connecting Communities: Empowerment through Nature

Join us for an inspiring two-day event as the Elizabeth River Project proudly presents “Connecting Communities: Empowerment through Nature,” featuring award-winning film producer Manny Almonte and outdoor enthusiast J.D. Weatherspoon. This event is a heartfelt initiative to bridge the gap between youth of color and the great outdoors.

We'll screen “Woodhood,” a compelling documentary that follows the journey of Manny Almonte and J.D. Weatherspoon as they strive to connect young people of color with the natural world. The film showcases their mission through the lens of their groundbreaking initiative, Camping to Connect, which reveals the transformative power of nature. It’s a story of inspiration, community, and the breaking down of barriers, as it highlights the importance of inclusivity in outdoor spaces. 

Following the film, we welcome a community discussion with Manny, J.D., and local panelists that will share their insights and stories, fostering a dialogue on inclusivity and the joys of the natural world.

About Manny Almonte (He/Him), Founder and CEO, Young Masterminds Initiative/Producer of Wood Hood film | Manny Almonte is on a mission to connect and empower men of color. Manny is the founder of the Mastermind Connect men’s collective and the Young Masterminds Initiative nonprofit organization. Through these organizations, Manny creates unique experiences that empower men of color to realize deep connections with their passions, higher selves, and community. In recognition of his creativity, dedication, and steadfast commitment to changing the lives of young Black and Brown men and for his powerful work to increase access and inclusion for BIPOC youth in the outdoors through his Camping to Connect outdoor youth program, the National Recreation Foundation awarded Manny Almonte the 2023 Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize.

About J.D. Weatherspoon (He/Him), Co-founder, Young Masterminds Initiative/Mastermind Connect | A Globally-minded, grassroots-driven human catalyst and all around renaissance man, JD Weatherspoon has played a hand in numerous initiatives and programs both domestically, and abroad. A polyglot, JD's field of expertise spans from peer education and youth mentoring to program development and project management. A few of his exploits include the Harvard Center for AIDS Research (HUCFAR) "Forgotten Epidemic" project, the US Refugee Processing Center, El Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje, and the US Peace Corps (Cambodia). JD is also cofounder of Mastermind Connect and the Young Masterminds Initiative, with a focus on curriculum development.

Participating Panelists:

  • Brandon Eley: Founder of Baby Boy Mentoring, guiding youth through the art of fishing.
  • Jacqueline Johnson: Assistant Director of Portsmouth Parks and Recreation, advocating for accessible outdoor experiences.
  • Jarrell Williams: The creative force behind Nomarama, celebrating local culture and community.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore, learn, and grow with us as we celebrate the natural world and its boundless possibilities.

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