Ana Forman is from Orinda, CA and attended the University of California, Davis. As a Washington, DC Corps member she is working as a Volunteer Coordinator and HIV Prevention Educator at Metro TeenAIDS which works to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through outreach and education and identify, treat, and improve the lives of those who are already infected.
The house is quiet right now, which is rare because ten people live here. Two of my housemates are grocery shopping, two are enjoying the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, one is at work, another with her family, and the final three likely enjoying Washington DC’s first snow flurry. Right now, I need the quiet to process the events of this week.
In honor of World AIDS Day Metro TeenAIDS, hosted two events – The Golden Ticket: Party for Prevention, and a World Ball. As a volunteer coordinator it is my responsibility to recruit and utilize volunteers to ensure that the event runs smoothly and the youth enjoy themselves. Both events were ultimately successful, but also incredibly eye opening.
At the Golden Ticket event individuals from various DC youth focused organizations performed original spoken word poetry, skits, and songs, and films. All of the performances reflected realities for the performers. Relationship violence, sexual transmitted infections, rape, teen pregnancy, HIV, and drug abuse were common themes in the performances. Youth welded their hardships (the word ‘hardship’ hardly justifies the difficulty and pain that many youth face) into beautiful art that was insightful, powerful, and hopefully a constructive outlet for them. As youth sang, rapped, and acted out their fears and experiences, the MTA staff worked hard to test all interested youth for HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. The juxtaposition of the emotional performances and the testing reminded me that while the sexual health, violence, and drug issues do exist, organizations like Metro TeenAIDS are helping to put an end to the perpetuation of hurdles that youth face.
Two days later Metro TeenAIDS hosted World Ball. The event was a holiday themed runway walk and vogue competition between the houses (communities) within the larger LGBTQ community. Youth came with impressive costumes, make up, hairstyles, and talent, and the competition was fierce. But towards the end of the evening the competition turned sour and the safety of the space was compromised. Two fights broke out, threats were made, knives appeared, and youth were dismissed. Minutes later I escorted a young man to one of the testing stations. I later learned that he had recently been raped. By providing him with HIV testing, I had introduced him to a social worker – giving him the opportunity to share an experience that he had kept to himself for months.
The events that occurred at World Ball opened my eyes to the realness of the performances at the Golden Ticket: Party for Prevention. Today in the quiet of my house I reflect, I question our societies reality.
Can emotional outlets such as artistic performances and competitions end the horrific reality so many youth in DC face?
Why did seemingly healthy competition lead to violence at the World Ball?
Is there an alternative to dismissing violent youth? Won’t their violence only be transferred to the streets, and perhaps put them or others in danger?
Why are children raped?
Is the work I am doing really making a difference?
The house is no longer quiet. I can hear the grocery shoppers laughing in the kitchen while putting away this week’s communal food. But I am grateful for their noise. There needs to be a pause in reflecting and questioning society, and what greater pause than my housemates’ laughter.