Guest Post by TGP Athlete Spencer Kelly (Howard U, Men’s Tennis)
On March 27, The Grassroot Project invited me to attend a MTV Premiere I didn’t know much about. I was excited to see and hear something that was new to me. I understood The Grassroot Project advocated about HIV/AIDS awareness and sexual health, but I never really knew that there were several other people coming together to put that kind of awareness on such a larger stage. This premiere was to showcase the fifth series of MTV Shuga, MTV Shuga: Down South, that features a host of social, sexual, and reproductive health messages aimed at generating positive changes in young people’s behaviors and attitudes.
After a series of exclusive clips from MTV Shuga: Down South was shown, the floor was opened up for a deep and candid discussion about sexual and reproductive health, women empowerment, LGBTQ community, and other topics and issues. One question arose that was brought to Given Stuurman, who is one of the lead characters playing Reggie in Shuga, about him playing a gay character in show even though he identifies as straight. What came out of his mouth drew me in: “Reggie’s story is someone’s story.” Given let the audience know that he wanted to make his character as normal as possible, showing that difficulties in life is a reality. He wanted to challenge himself as an actor, to push his craft and to make an impact after doing this series. Furthermore, he talked about how there won’t be some pushback with this series tackling such serious topics: “Our government has legalized same-sex marriage… but you can put a law there but if the law doesn’t reflect on the society then it has no purpose. I think it’s going to bring a lot of positivity because Reggie’s character is manifesting on what our legal system has done in society.”
The reaction from the event was immense, including other guest stars who made up the panel like Georgia Arnold, Executive Producer of the show, Dr. Angeli P. Achrekar from PEPFAR, Ross Murray from GLAAD, and the moderator Lisa Stark, a broadcast correspondent for Education Week.
I would like to thank The Grassroot Project for giving me the opportunity to experience such an event, and to meet some amazing people during that night.