One thing that excites Mothyna James-Brightful is marriage. The passion is evident in her voice when she talks about it. Today, as a married women and a promoter of sisterhood, James-Brightful wants to spread the importance of marriage to more women.

That’s why “relationships” is the theme for this year’s Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation (HWHN) conference. Now in its eighth year, the one-day event of workshops and activities will focus on teaching women how to build and strengthen relationships on April 16.

“We truly believe that healthy individuals and healthy families are the cornerstone of our communities. And so, keeping with our mission of building families, we wanted to take this year to focus on relationships. We haven’t really dealt with that issue previously and we wanted the chance to deal with various kinds of relationships,” said James-Brightful, founder and visionary director of HWHN.

James-Brightful launched the first HWHN conference in 2004 on the campus of Morgan State University. Following its success, she decided to start a non-profit organization under the same moniker. From there, James-Brightful worked to rejuvenate women from all walks of life.

Past conferences have focused on single parenting, healthy living, and financial management.

For the first time this year, however, the conference will tackle the issue of sexual violence and abuse with a support workshop for survivors coping with the trauma of sexual assault while in a relationship.

“When they begin to enter into relationships, having that moment of honesty with their partner does become a part of that process in that relationship sharing with their partner what they learned about what works for them and their healing ,” said James-Brightful, who is also the community educator for TurnAround Inc., a non-profit organization that works with survivors of sexual assault.

HWHN also added “You Are the Prize” workshop for adolescent girls ranging from ages 14-16. This forum will give teen girls tips on how to develop better relationships with their mothers and self-esteem building.

Tracy Eaddy-Ward, co-founder of the sexual abuse non-profit group Phoenix Rising Baltimore, was tapped by HWHN to lead the discussion with the young girls. As a one-time teenage mother, she believes it is vital to teach young girls about healthy decision-making early.

“You know when you teach a woman something, you’re not just teaching an individual, you’re teaching the whole entire community. She’s the future mother, she’s the future doctor…she’s the future, period,” said Eaddy-Ward. “If there weren’t any women…pouring into young girls, there would be a lot of, you know, hurt young girls becoming grown women.”

Every HWHN conference features a panel discussion; this one will include relationship experts Nisa Muhammad, founder of the Wedded Bliss Foundation and Black Marriage Day; and psychiatrist Dr. Melva Green. Author and radio personality LaDawn Black will be the moderator for the panel discussion that will cover relationship building with self, youth and spouses.

“One of the things that a lot of the speakers are going to talk about and what I would like to get out there is…changing the perceptions that we have when it comes to relationships. Are we able to look about the things that we want versus the things that we really need in order to have love in our loves,” said Black, host of the poplar WERQ 92Q’s radio segment “The Love Zone.”

HWHN plans to do more with relationships throughout the year, particular with marriages. It’s all a part of her ambitious goal of rebuilding, James-Brightful said.

“Our goal, our sole goal is to build strong families,” she said. “And for us that starts with building strong, healthy, whole women and young ladies who will grow up to be young women.”

Bobby Marvin

Special to the AFRO