Hollywood will arrive in Charm City on June 17 as Baltimore-based {Heart & Soul Magazine kicks off its “Heart & Soul Awards” weekend. The two-day event will spotlight notable African-American women in the community and will feature a bevy of local and national celebrities, all coming together to promote the magazine’s mission of enhancing the lifestyles of Black women across the globe.

“There are so many people that are doing outstanding things to make life better for our community, particularly a lot of African-American women,” Edwin Avent, publisher of Heart and Soul told the AFRO in a recent interview. “We could give them recognition on the pages of the magazine, but I wanted to bring them together in person so a larger community could celebrate them.”

The event, held in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), will be hosted by actor Boris Kodjoe and feature celebrity appearances by actresses Nicole Ari Parker, Robin Givens, and Vanessa Williams, among many more.

The weekend will commence with the “Women of Substance Gala” at the Renaissance Baltimore, which will highlight the work of top women from corporate America government and academia in addition to women involved in nonprofits. Proceeds from the gala will be given to the Heart and Soul Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate health, wealth and education disparities among Black women.

“Quite often, these women are not celebrated as much as they should be,” Avent said. “They are doing things that make our communities healthier, wealthier and wiser at a time when we’re suffering from so many disparities in health, wealth, education and more. I think It’s a great time to acknowledge those who are closing gaps and helping to eliminate those disparities.”

The following day, Heart & Soul and UMMS will host the “Healthy, Wealthy, Wise & Beautiful Conference & Expo” at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Following a presentation by health expert Dr. Michelle Gourdine, attendees of this segment will participate in a list of workshops with UMMS experts and writers of the publication.

Topics will include self- esteem, nutrition, and preventative health care and participants can also interact with specialists to discuss issues such as diabetes, breast health, financial coaching and mental and spiritual health. Attendees can also receive health screenings, fitness advice and beauty and finance consultations.

“All these programs are designed to help women to lead more healthy and beautiful lifestyles,” Avent said.

Capping off the weekend will be the Heart & Soul Awards, taking place at the Renaissance Hotel. During this red carpet event, various women will be recognized for their outstanding contributions they have made to improving the lives of African-American women. Among the honorees will be first lady Michelle Obama for her “Let’s Move” Campaign and actress and entrepreneur Raven Symoné. A list of other Hollywood stars and personalities are set to attend the event.

“It’s so many celebrities from the big screen and music…we’re trying to this event other big award shows that might be on television and bring it to Baltimore,” Avent said. “We expect to draw hundreds.”

Heart & Soul, nearly two decades deep into the publishing industry, has aimed to educate and entertain African-American women with informative articles and information since its inception. Avent explained that the magazine is moving into the future and staying ahead of the digital divide by maintaining their website and rolling out iPhone and iPad applications. Additionally, he said that the publication will also debut a television show in the fall entitled “Heart and Soul for Life.”

“We just want to expand the brand as far as we can to continue to promote healthy living content and products to African-American women and their families,” Avent said.

For more information on the Heart & Soul Awards Weekend or to register for events, visit: www.heartnadsoul.com.

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor