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Jasmine

By Jasmine Stewart

I have thought about the Urban Retreat quite a bit since we have left DC.

The whole experience made me have a whole new perspective on rights, respect, and responsibility; what those three words means to me and everyone around me; what it  really takes to gain those words and obtain them; but most importantly what it means to share these words with each other.

Coming to DC, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions felt and friends gained outside of the workshops, training sessions, and the events.  Yes, we literally spent hours learning, thinking, and training, but after each day, session and second spent together I have gotten to know a little bit more about each person around me.  I felt grateful, and just more than happy to know we have youth from all over the United States and outside of the United States that had a passion just as I for the world to change, and simply by one thing we consider to be so taboo where we live. Lets talk about sex. Lets talk about a comprehensive sex education.

This brings me back to one of my favorite moments: introductions from each youth organization. CAMI CA, started off by singing ” Lets talk about sex baby..” a song originally by Pretty Ricky and Oakland related it to having a comprehensive sex education. I believe each and every youth organization performed and introduced themselves in a unique way. We were all vulnerable, and we all felt nervous going up on stage for the first time in front of faces we didn’t find familiar yet, but we did it for a cause. To remember each face that took the stage to say who they were for a cause, in the most informal way to do so made it the most memorable moment to start off with at the Urban Retreat.

The last night spent at the Washington Court Hotel was our last performance to put on within the hotel, but individually. It was a talent show/ open mic night and I was deciding whether or not I should do drag. My group was excited for me to do so and I was nervous. I felt great that I had people supporting me, even outside of S.W.A.R.M. My roommate and another friend I made on the retreat totally thought I should do it, but my roommate is the one who truly pushed me to do so, saying ” I won’t regret it”. Earlier that day my roommate had a situation she was dealing with and I was there for her and I felt great that she believed in me as much as I believed in her. During the show I saw many people perform and truly put themselves out there and everyone was so supportive as well. As I went up to perform to Chris Brown “Strip” I was a bit nervous and thought that maybe the song wasn’t appropriate enough, but then I remembered one of the things we focused on this whole time was feeling free to express sexuality. Everyone had  gotten up, and clapped while I was performing, and a lot of love was shown after the performance. I felt at ease, I felt as if I had a place where I was truly accepted and where everyone was for the most part accepted no matter who they are. After that we all danced together to celebrate our accomplishments, and future accomplishments. We were celebrating the meaning of rights, respect, and responsibility…because during this trip we have realized we haven’t gained these words… We have always obtained them. Through sharing this time together we have shared with each other the true meaning of a youths rights, respect, and responsibility.

The last day was the most nerve wrecking performance of all.  It was Lobby Day and we all had to spread the word about The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. On Lobby Day the faculty and some youth veterans told us that we have the power. We have the choice to elect these people, and without us they wouldn’t be where they are. And I never thought about lobbying in that way. I know it was my first time, but I can say that day has really changed my thoughts on policy change and what us as a youth can do to make a difference. It makes me feel that as a youth we all have the right and responsibility to take stances even politically to change our social structure. Because we do respect ourselves, and others as well to do so.

This Urban Retreat helped me realize I can come back to South Carolina and share with others what was shared with me. Our rights, respect, and responsibility. And it can all start with talking about sex… =)

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