By Jacob Marsh
On June 11, 2011, HBP staff member Jacob Marsh spoke to the D.C. City Council at the D.C. Youth Hearings. The following are excerpts from his speech.
I grew up in northeast D.C., just down the street from Trinidad Avenue and adjacent to a corner that was labeled a “red zone.” Just about all of the friends I grew up with did not fare with the area as well as I did. But I was lucky. I have both parents and a lot of siblings who not only cared about me but also kept me busy. Today, I am a student in George Mason University pursuing a degree in sociology, and a member of a 5-member R & B group called Nu-Era.
Just because my hands have always been pretty full does not mean I have been separated from the troubles in D.C., such as violence, HIV, and teen pregnancy. Throughout high school, I saw countless young ladies fall in love with guys who were usually 4-5 years older – and then become pregnant. I thought these guys used their age to attract girls. Then one summer I worked at a little agency on 17th Street called Healthy Babies Project and learned that these guys can be a serious threat to girls.
What’s really going on with young people in D.C.
At Healthy Babies Project, I saw the epidemic of teen pregnancy and the raw number of young teens coming in for pregnancy and HIV tests. There is a serious lack of guidance for these young people. D.C. is a very economically polarized city. You can see it for yourself when you cross the 11th Street Bridge from Pennsylvania Avenue and travel into Anacostia. I say this to note that here in D.C., either you have it good, or you don’t, and a lot of young black teens in the nation’s capital don’t. When you don’t have a place to live or your house is not a place you want to be because of poor conditions, then you turn to one of the most notorious parental figures this world has ever had…the streets. And the streets have nothing to offer but sex, drugs, and violence.
HBP attacks the problem head-on
Yet, there is still hope out there in the form of agencies like Healthy Babies Project. The staff at HBP attack the issue head-on in the core of the community, supplying their clients with a family support worker and a nurse that fearlessly go in neighborhoods for home visits to help these young people in places where carry-outs refuse to deliver and even police hesitantly patrol.
And while there has been a 54% decrease in teen pregnancy in D.C. since programs like HBP have begun, our rates are still above the national average. Why don’t our governments see this as being an important issue? They continue to cut budgets for HBP year after year.
HBP provides a solution to the dilemma
I’m considered to be a true Washingtonian because I was born here and have grown up here. Not many can claim those roots because this city is so transient. But I’m faced with a major dilemma. Will I raise my children here? I don’t want to move. Although I am confident that I will raise my child to be aware and not to make the wrong choices, nevertheless I realize that peers can be even more of an influence than parents. This is frightening. I have to hope my child gets the right message, even if the cool kid is a hustling street dude or the mean girl builds a reputation for being promiscuous but makes it seem like “the thing” to do.
But what about the kids that don’t have a father or mother to care, or who grow up in a single parent home, or who grow up homeless? They won’t get the attention they needed to make good choices. We need agencies such as Healthy Babies Project to help. Sadly, programs like HBP won’t survive if their resources are steadily drained and not replenished. HBP takes the role of guidance in countless lives. I’ve seen HBP literally help turn lives around. Please help this agency continue to change this community. There is hope if we stand behind these people who are making a difference.
If you know a pregnant woman or expectant family who needs help, please refer them to HBP at (202) 396-2809.