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COVID-19 Online Summit: Resource and Action looks to connect leaders, bridge gaps between resources and people in need


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend daily lives of millions of Americans – and thousands of Madisonians – there has been momentum building to try and figure out how to stay safe while serving those who need it most. The COVID-19 Online Summit: Resource and Action, which will be held April 19-24, will be all about connecting leaders and bridging gaps between resources and the people in the community in need. 

The summit is being put on by Woke Sessions, a group of grassroots people of color-led organizations including the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment, Council of Communities, Economic Empowerment WI, and Law Advocacy and Racial Justice. COVID-19 Online Summit: Resource and Action will feature 30-plus presenters across a number of industries and presentations encompass a broad range of focus areas, from family and children to mindfulness, to business and economics.

Eric S. Upchurch, Chief Visionary for Opportunity Inc., and Brandi Grayson, founder and CEO of Urban Triage, will serve as hosts of the event.

Brandi Grayson

Upchurch says that his Opportunity Inc. was planning on launching a big event when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We were literally getting ready to launch this program course on social impact program design and collaboration and really helping people to connect and build their things … and then the impossible and the unthinkable happens,” Upchurch tells Madison365. “ It just did not feel right for us to be calling businesses about a high-ticket mastermind group or about a costly coaching program and workshop when everybody was suffering.”

“After some reflection and soul-searching, we asked ourselves: how can we pivot what we’re doing to serve and speak to what is happening right now? It didn’t feel right talking about anything other than the coronavirus and what people are dealing with and the uncertainty that we’re all experiencing right now. Anything else felt disingenuous.”

 They began to organize a summit that could bridge gaps between problems and solutions, resources and people, and shifting the individualistic paradigm toward collective action.

“We really wanted to pull together something that would help people improve their impact and well-being but focused on leaders and people who wanted to serve but didn’t have the tools to do that and needed to focus on the challenges that we are experiencing now through this pandemic,” Upchurch says. “That was the motivation for the summit.”

Some of the presenters at COVID-19 Online Summit: Resource and Action

COVID-19 Online Summit: Resource and Action presentations are aimed at inspiring community leadership and bridging gaps between resources and the people so that people can take action today with the steps needed to serve those who need it most. Some examples of presentations will be “Mental Health with COVID 19,” by Myra McNair, executive director of Marriage and Family Therapist; “Our Health At Home and On the Front Lines of COVID 19” by Grayson; “Our Health At Home and On the Front Lines of COVID 19” by Dr. Jasmine Zapata; and “Impact and Response from Small Businesses by Zach Brandon,” president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

 Attendance is free, but for those who can, Upchurch invites attendees to purchase tickets at a level that aligns with their means. 

“We have quite a bit of content and we believe that people will be able to gain value from this,” he says. “Once you sign up, you have access to all of the recordings from all of the sessions for life.

“And we’re going to keep adding to it as this continues. I’m continuously searching for new materials and new presenters,” Upchurch adds. “With every presenter, we’re asking them to share in their networks so we can have a greater impact.”

Funds will be collected through Summit sponsorships and ticket sales. Sponsorship information can be found here. All profits will go to support individuals and families with emergency funds.

“We really want to raise funds for people in need.  This came out of the need to connect people to information …. But also to resources and to money,” Upchurch says. “People need to pay their rent, they need to get from a to b, they need to feed their families. The current structure has so many processes to go through before that money trickles down.

“We want to do something that allowed us to raise money quickly and get that to individuals quickly – specifically those who are most impacted – low-income, people of color and black folks, who we have learned are among the highest-impacted by the coronavirus,” he adds.