DANCE—Hill District Dance Academy Theatre Ju. B. Lation performed a spirit filled feet dance under the artistic direction of Ayisha Morgan Lee. (Photos by J.L. Martello).
In a celebration of our talented youth, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force Fighting AIDS Inspires the Heart (FAITH) Initiative held the fourth annual Youth Gospel Explosion, Feb. 3, at Destiny of Faith Church.
The FAITH Initiative was formed in 2010 to further the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s mission by building and sustaining relationships with area religious communities to address stigma, awareness, education and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
“Our youth represent not only faith in the future and all that is beyond each of us individually, but also hope that this future will be brighter and endowed with health and happiness,” said Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd, executive director, the FAITH Initiative.
Reverend Brenda Gregg, pastor, Destiny of Faith Church, welcomed those in the audience, saying that churches must come together in ministry to move past the stigma of AIDS and assist in the educating of young ones about AIDS and prevention.
Under the theme of the Bible verse Isaiah 11:6, “And a little child shall lead them,” the program included moving performances from the Boys Choir of the Afro-American Music Institute, a liturgical dance by Precious Jordan, mime performances by the Spiritual Up Lifters Mime Group of Baptist Temple Church, and the Hill Dance Academy Theatre’s Ju. B. Lation Spirit Filled Feet exploded with their inspiring dance ministry.
As Mistress of Ceremonies, Kezia Ellison, founder and president of Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS Inc., kept the audience informed citing sobering HIV and AIDS statistics:
•From 2005 to 2008 African-Americans have the largest increase in rates of HIV diagnoses than any other race or ethnicity. The rate has increased from 68 per 100,000 to 74 per 100,000.
•There are 1,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 24 infected with HIV every month.
Betty J. Tilman, FAITH Initiative member, spoke about the Obama Cash Incentive competition, urging the audience to take the matter of HIV seriously. The Obama Cash Incentive Competition challenges young people to get tested and encourage their peers to get tested as well. “HIV was the fourth leading cause of death for Black men and third for Black women between the ages of 25 to 44,” Tilman said. “Why, because we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about AIDS and safe sex in our communities.”
“The wall of stigma that surrounds HIV AIDS need to be eradiated which in turn will eradicate this deadly illness,” Shennod Moore, director, Community Outreach, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force said. Referring to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” Moore said “We are that village. From politicians to church leaders to janitors, we are that village. We can not let our youth down by letting something that is 100 percent preventable if we educate. This is our future we are talking about.”