Abstinence Awareness Youth Forum held in Washington, DC
Youth panelists and speakers discussed the benefits of abstinence, including how it can strengthen the family, during a youth forum held Monday night as part of the Fourth Abstinence Awareness Week in Washington, DC, March 8 to March 14.
The forum on “Marriage & Family Matter: Abstinence is a Core Strength of the Community,” at the Howard University School of Business Auditorium was organized by ULTRA (Urban Life Training & Reality Assessment) Teen Choice, a Washington, DC nonprofit that helps youth to succeed by encouraging them to abstain from sex before marriage, as well as abstaining from drugs and alcohol. The youth forum began with entertainment by the WAIT (Washington AIDS International Teen) Team, a performing arts group that educates youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The team gave a break-dance performance and sang. Howard University’s Alpha Omega Steppers for Christ and gospel singer Angelia Robinson also performed.
“Abstaining from sex before marriage and from drugs and alcohol will achieve positive results,” said the first speaker Diane Sims-Moore, Families First DC Executive Director. “We will celebrate the family and more children will achieve higher education,” she affirmed after saying studies show that children in single parent families are less likely to graduate from high school
One of the biggest problems facing our society is that of HIV among African-American women, said another speaker, Kenny Barnes, Root Inc. director.
If we want to straighten out our society we’ve got to get back to some good family attitudes, he added.
A youth panel was the highlight of the forum, which was co-sponsored by Wedded Bliss Inc., Families First DC, the National Council of Negro Women, Alpha Phi Omega, Zeta Phi Chapter-Howard University, and Embrace-Singles Wholeness & Marriage Strengthening Inc. The youth panelists, moderated by Howard University senior Jasmine Jackson, talked about why they choose to be abstinent.
“I made the personal decision to be abstinent because a friend of mine was a virgin and the first time he had sex the condom broke and his girlfriend became pregnant,” said Howard University student Ethleen Sawyer. “I saw his life completely shift in a different direction and he wasn’t able to go to school on a basketball scholarship,” she added.
Blake Poland, a University of Maryland graduate and director of Metro DC Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), says he believes that waiting for marriage for sex is best because high school and college is a time for your personal growth and to become a mature person. Ultimately, he says, that preparation will benefit the community the most.
I’m abstinent really for other people, my siblings, and ultimately the community, says Yun-a Johnson, an American University freshman. Abstinence isn’t just an individual issue, she explains. The choice you make affects others.
“I believe abstinence is important because condoms may protect against the physical consequences of having sex, but what about the emotional and spiritual, and mental aspects,” said Angela Minto, a senior at Howard University.
Ashley Walker, a business major at Howard University, quoted a Bible verse about men and women being God’s Temple and said it’s that simple. “You cannot let any and everything up in your Temple,” she added.
Nykee Hider, music producer and Life Coach, said he was married 35 days ago and “it’s a great place to be, especially when you arrived there purely.”
He urged young people to have a vision and be patient. He said he faxed a description of the woman he wanted to marry up to God in prayer and now, 15 years later, his wife fits that description.
“The consequences of pre-marital sex can be eliminated,” Ongel Dasilva, a junior at the University of Maryland, said of the abstinent lifestyle.
She said she wants to make God, her parents and the people around her proud.
Kristi Love, a graduate of Howard University and a counselor at Maya Angelou High School, urged all students to educate themselves about HIV-AIDS, to learn who they are, and to know that they are worth waiting for.
Richard Urban, ULTRA Teen Choice executive director, said he founded the program because “it’s important to guide youth in the right direction.”
Mr. Urban said that his program was blocked from D.C. Public Schools after he testified against proposed health standards that now include the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in middle schools.
He talked about how it isn’t right that the D.C. City Council has funded expensive, unproven HPV vaccines for young girls and yet doesn’t fund abstinence-centered programs.
David Reed, the father of four children, said the most important component in this issue of abstinence is parents. He emphasized the importance of the parents’ role in setting an example. He said parents should know what’s going on in the schools, and, as parents, take action if needed.