In the bustling neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn an innovative and transformative event is set to take place on Monday, June 26. The Men's Session: Grounded in Growth event at Moxy Williamsburg, curated by the Weed Auntie, Solonje Burnett, aims to redefine masculinity, foster healing, and build a supportive community for men.
A Caribbean-American multi-hyphenate, culture curator, creator, brand strategist, space-holder and experience producer, Solonje Burnett focuses on creating inclusive and intersectional containers for holistic wellbeing rooted in connectivity and care while amplifying marginalized + melanated practitioners, creatives, and entrepreneurs in cannabis and beyond. Solonje speaks, partners, and consults on brand education + marketing, social equity, sustainability, self care, sexual health, racial injustice, gender discrimination, and community empowerment. In addition to her role as the Weed Auntie, Burnett also serves as co-founder and Chief Culture & Community Officer of erven.ai.
The Bluntness had the opportunity to sit down with Burnett to discuss the origins of this groundbreaking event and its significance and relevance in today's world.
The Men's Session was born out of the initial success of Womxn's Sessions, a series of events that Solonje produced previously which catered to women, wellness and empowerment featuring insights from the cannabis industry's most dynamic women and nonbinary leaders. Recognizing the need for a similar platform for men, Solonje organized the first Men's Event in 2019. The event garnered immense interest, with more than 60 men attending and ending the evening with a resounding standing ovation.
"The response was remarkable. Men from diverse backgrounds and age groups attended, ranging from 25-year-olds embarking on their careers to seasoned professionals. Several attendees approached us afterward, asking if we could make this a monthly occurrence. We realized there was a real need for men to engage in holistic wellness practices and connect more deeply with other men in a supportive community."- shared Burnett.
The upcoming Men's Session aims to address the prevailing cultural norms that discourage men from exploring their emotions and seeking personal growth. Solonje emphasized the importance of providing a safe and accessible space for men to heal, communicate their needs, and find accessible ways to embark on their wellness journey.
Solonje highlighted the resistance rooted in societal expectations and cultural conditioning when discussing the challenges of introducing experiences like the Men's Session. It’s no secret that men often find it daunting to step outside their comfort zones and explore unfamiliar territories of emotional expression and communal healing. Breaking free from the constraints of traditional and toxic masculinity can be a difficult journey, but it is one that Solonje hopes to facilitate through the Men's Session.
"The biggest resistance comes from men's fear of the unknown. Society has conditioned them to suppress their emotions and adhere to rigid gender norms. By providing a space that challenges these norms, we create an opportunity for men to embrace different ways of being and connect with others who share similar experiences."- Burnett observes.
As such, the event offers a wide range of activities and experiences designed to foster connection and personal development and growth. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in partner exercises, connect with community-centric groups such as Modern Renaissance Man, which empowers self-led men to master themselves and create the life they love; and, All Kings, which creates diverse and intergenerational communities of men to support and empower men impacted by the criminal justice system and young men at risk of being impacted.
Attendees will explore a variety of wellness practices, including cacao ceremonies, journaling, and yoga and features experts in sound healing, body movement, meditation, and cannabis, all chosen for their commitment to inclusivity and intentionality.
"What sets the Men's Session apart is the focus on creating a safe space where men can be vulnerable and express themselves freely. It's about moving away from traditional networking and business-centric environments and embracing genuine connections. By actively listening and being receptive, men can discover their own strength and deepen their understanding of others."- Burnett explained.
The event is expected to have a “long-tail” beyond its duration, emphasizing the importance of post-session follow-through. Attendees will have the opportunity to form accountability partnerships and connect with each other as well as existing men's groups. Solonje expressed her desire to see participants carry the lessons learned during the session into their everyday lives, embracing new ways of being and engaging with the world and people around them.
Weed Auntie hopes that her work will inspire others to take action, create differently, and form intentional partnerships, rather than simply following mainstream trends. She envisions the expansion of these efforts and making them more accessible, including the possibility of organizing retreats in natural environments.
She sees the potential for incorporating physical activities beyond light movement and yoga, such as running, hiking and other wellness-focused practices, which may require more space than what the city can offer. She dreams of retreats on farms or other serene locations where participants can engage in various activities and explore the limitless possibilities of growth and connection in natural and dynamic settings.
A key part of the programming for the Men's Session involves a unique format called, The High Seat: Leading from the Heart Space, which intends to foster an atmosphere where vulnerability and authentic sharing are encouraged. High Seat participants include ConBud’s Coss Marte; NYC NORML’s Ryan Lepore; ARTET’s Xander Shepard; Magic Hour Cannabis’ Will Perry; Drew Martin Gosselin; Aroma Culinary’s Leighton Murdock; Union Square Travel Agency’s Dave Vautrin; Rose LA’s Daryl Moseley; oHHo’s James Stevenson and Come Back Daily’s Waseem Ghattas.
For Solonje, leading from the “heart space” means:
1. Embracing and Trying Something New
It's important not to be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things. Exploring unfamiliar territories can lead to personal growth and open doors to new opportunities. By being open to new experiences, you increase your chances of finding people with whom you can truly connect.
2. Being Honest About Your Needs
Take the time to reflect on your own needs and desires. It's easy to get caught up in societal expectations or fall into a pattern of behavior without considering if it aligns with what you truly want. By being honest with yourself, you can identify what you need to thrive and be fulfilled.
3. Recognizing the Impact of Your Actions
Understand that how you show up in the world doesn't just affect you, but also those around you. Your words, actions, and energy have a ripple effect on the people you interact with. Being mindful of this interconnectedness can help you cultivate more positive and meaningful relationships.
4. Seeking Personal Growth and Improvement
Instead of relying on automatic responses or default modes of behavior, focus on self-improvement and personal development. Find tools, resources, and strategies that can help you become a better version of yourself. This process of growth benefits not only you but also contributes to the collective well-being of those around you.
5. Avoiding Disruptive Behavior
Recognize that excessive disruption, aggression, and anger can be detrimental to yourself and others. Instead of causing harm, seek ways to create a positive impact and foster a supportive environment. Strive for harmony and empathy in your interactions with others.
Ultimately, by being open, honest, and considerate, you can cultivate meaningful connections, contribute positively to the world, and create a more harmonious and fulfilling life for yourself and those around you.
Looking ahead, Solonje envisions the Men's Session as a starting point, where she reminds us of the importance of starting small and focusing on key partners and elements that work, rather than forcing experiences on people who may not even enjoy them.
By modeling different behaviors and encouraging alternative ways of being, Solonje aims to integrate new practices and elements into events and experiences, promoting a shift in behavior and opening minds about collaboration possibilities beyond a homogeneous group of individuals.
The next Men’s Session is on Monday, June 26, 2023 at 6pm at the Moxy Williamsburg. You can get more information about the event and purchase tickets by clicking here. Use code BLUNTLOVE at checkout for a 15% discount.