- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

WTTK isn't the name of a radio or television station. It's the moniker for a group of men and women who want to find out the truth about what is causing the breakdowns in their relationships.

The initials stand for When the Truth Knocks Inc., a group of mostly black men and women who come together once or twice a month to talk about weighty issues, give advice and testify about their personal experiences in their relationships and marriages.

"The lack of communication between black men and women is what is causing our relationships to break down," Anissa Freeman says as she finishes debating why she thinks relationship forums are important for both singles and couples.

"I like to come here and get some insight of what men are thinking in a relationship," says Miss Freeman, 31, who has participated in WTTK relationship forums for almost a year. The self-help discussion group meets in restaurants and lounges throughout the District.

The participants range in age from twentysomethings to those older than 50. They are married, single, divorced, living alternative lifestyles. Everyone gets along "for the most part" and has a good time, says WTTK founder Lorraine Graham-Brown.

"We have people of all races come in, and most of our clientele are regulars who come back again and again," Mrs. Brown says.

Although the venues usually are packed, there was a light crowd last Saturday for most of the discussion at the Cada Vez Restaurant in the District's U Street corridor.

"The topic for discussion [probably] scared people away this time," says Mrs. Brown, 37.

HIV/AIDS in the black community was the topic. A movie social featured the independent black film "One Week." The film's main character is terrorized for one week after a long-past female acquaintance calls him from a free clinic to tell him he should get tested for the deadly virus that causes AIDS.

"We usually get about 150 or more [people ] to come out, but this was the first time we had ever tried to tackle this issue," says Mrs. Brown, whose husband, Derek, 33, assists with the WTTK events.

Marc Funn, 35, served as moderator. Mrs. Brown and Mr. Funn decide which topics will be discussed at the meetings.

"I work in the field dealing with HIV/AIDS cases, and I thought it would be good to hear other people and give my own insight," says Lamont Clark, 30, of New Carrollton, who came to WTTK for the first time for the HIV/AIDS discussion.

Mrs. Brown says Mr. Clark's knowledge of the issue helped a lot of people in the group educate themselves on the touchy subject of AIDS in the black community.

"How many people actually know there are two types of the HIV virus?" she asks rhetorically.

For that matter, Mr. Funn asks, how many people know that the fastest-growing population of AIDS cases in the U.S. is made up of black women?

"That is what these groups are all about," Mrs. Brown says, "education and understanding through discussions of values and ideas."

Mr. Brown, who is a records manager for the law firm of Covington & Burling, says the groups have become lifeblood for him and his wife.

As an added bonus, Richard Campbell, the distributor of "One Week," and Kenny Young, the film's lead actor, were on hand to take questions and give their opinions about the subject.

The group, which is seeking nonprofit status as a self-help medium for black men and women, decided in April to start recruiting consistent membership. The dues are $20 for the year.

Mrs. Brown, a legal secretary for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP, says she hopes to get at least a quarter of the people from the more than 1,200 member e-mail list to sign up.

The organization got started through word-of-mouth a year and a half ago.

"I thought that people who are past the [nightclubbing] stage were looking for something different that would challenge them intellectually and give them an opportunity to meet new people," Mrs. Brown says.

Since then, the group has blossomed. It has developed its own Web site (www.WTTK.org) and is moving to get its discussions on the air via cable access channels.

"We talk about everything from your sex life to dating to how to manage children spirituality, finance, health, you name it, if it deals with relationships," says Mr. Funn, who formerly worked in the information-technology field.

Getting people to come out for last month's discussion, titled "And You Say He/She's Just a Friend," was much easier than attracting a crowd for the HIV/AIDS session.

In March, WTTK met at the 18th Street Lounge in Dupont Circle, and for more than two hours, the group talked about what spouses and significant others think about their partners' friends of the opposite sex.

"Now that was a good forum," Mr. Funn says. "We didn't have any trouble getting people to talk about that."

Participants continue their discussions on the way home after a session has ended "and we get on the phone when we get there and keep it going," says Miss Freeman, who lives in Hyattsville.

She says Mrs. Brown recruited her to head WTTK's efforts to get their forums on television after she had come to a number of events.

Today, WTTK is traveling with a group to Atlantic City, N.J. for some weekend fun and to conduct part two of the "just a friend" discussion.

"We expect a good turnout for this weekend," Mr. Funn says.

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