Big Freedia will be performing at the Mazzoni Center's Hard Candy Bash on June 3. (Provided)1/2
Big Freedia will be performing at the Mazzoni Center's Hard Candy Bash on June 3. (Provided)
The design for the Mazzoni Center's new home on Bainbridge Street. (Provided)2/2
The design for the Mazzoni Center's new home on Bainbridge Street. (Provided)
When the Mazzoni Center’s spokeswoman Elisabeth Flynn says “the move was far from easy,” she’s not just talking about the change of address – a $1.5 million relocation/renovation – of Philly’s most comprehensive health and wellness program for the LGBTQ community.
The expansion of Mazzoni from Center City to Broad and Bainbridge at May’s end (its HIV-testing hub, the Washington West Project at 12th and Locust, remains in the Gayborhood) was an accomplishment for the award-winning center. Yet, as of late, strange, out-of-the-ordinary scandals have hit the usually squeaky clean Mazzoni with Medical Director Robert Winn, CEO Nurit Shein and Board President Jimmy Ruiz resigning due to alleged sexual misconduct and cover-ups.
That’s in the past, however, insists Mazzoni’s brain trust, which is looking forward to the big move, the expansion of its TRIP (The Real Impact Project) Program to raise awareness and care regarding sexual health within the African-American LGBTQ community, and a party to celebrate the latter on June 3 at University of the Arts – a “Hard Candy Bash” with New Orleans Bounce music ambassador Big Freedia.
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“While the timing for the TRIP Party and the move to our new location have both been in the works for months, and years, respectively, they could not have come at a more opportune time,” Flynn said. “So, no, while there’s not a direct connection to recent events, the timing of both does indeed offer us the opportunity to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter for Mazzoni. As an organization, we are recommitting to our goals and core values and re-engaging with our communities and the people we serve. We are open to new opportunities for connection, community and healing. Our new space will support and encourage that.”
While a community open house and possibly a block party are slated for the fall for the new Mazzoni office on Bainbridge Street, Flynn said the change is immediate. “The benefits of bringing nearly all of our programs into a single location, adding space, and providing clients and patients with a comfortable and welcoming environment make it absolutely worthwhile and exciting." The new address at Broad and Bainbridge being easily accessible by public transit is crucial for Mazzoni’s patients, clients and staff, she added.
Innovation in healthcare is key, said Vernon Brown, TRIP program coordinator. TRIP is a social initiative designed to raise awareness regarding sexual health amongst the African-American LGBTQ community, which the program does through a mix of unique events, outreach and engagement activities promoting self-empowerment and connecting people to important health-related resources.
“The program engages and encourages individuals to reach out to their peers and social networks, to talk about health and well-being and provide a space where LGBTQ people of color can share some of the specific challenges they face in these areas, and also celebrate and reinforce their power and resilience,” said Brown. “A program like TRIP aims to tap into the power of community, to help individuals find support through friends and peers, build relationships and ultimately build the lives and the futures they wish to see.”
If focusing energy on TRIP and making time to heal all Mazzoni wounds isn’t worth a loud, bouncy party with Big Freedia – a GLAAD Media Award winner for her reality TV program “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” – then nothing is.
If you go:
Saturday, June 3, 9 p.m. at UArts, 320 South Broad St., $10. Visit http://www.mazzonicenter.org/hardcandy for more info.