Keepin' It Real Program conducted by the author of Imani in Young Love & Deception during her St. Louis, MO visit.
Author "Keepin' It Real" for teens, their parents
By: Tiffany Ellis Of the St. Louis American August 01, 2002
Alesis Curry, Ascia Stewart and Lakisha Brown all listen to Jackie Hardrick as she shares ideas from her book. Photo by Maurice Meredith
In a time where more and more teenagers are sexually active, it seems that parents are finding it harder than ever to have a candid discussion with their kids about sex.
First-time author Jackie Hardrick has designed a way to open the lines of communication between parent and teen with her "Keepin' It Real" program. It made its St. Louis debut at the St. Louis Art Museum Saturday, July 27.
The program was specifically designed for St. Louis teens who have read Hardrick's novel, "Imani in Young Love & Deception," a contemporary young adult novel written primarily for youth 12-19 years old. "Keepin' It Real" is a two-hour program designed to provoke thought and conversation regarding issues such as teen sex, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and peer pressure that the novel addresses, and stresses the consequences of actions and responsibility thereof.
"It's a great way to open up the line of communication between parent and teen on some tough issues," Hardrick said. "It's a fictitious story dealing with real issues. Educators, librarians, parents and anyone who deals with teens should have this book."
The novel is accompanied by a discussion guide that is sold separately. The guide takes the book chapter by chapter.
Most of the participants were given two weeks to a month to read the novel. The goal was to read a little every week. Many finished it in two days.
"I can totally relate to Imani," said student Tamara Davis, who finished the book in one day. "I can't wait to read other books she's written."
The teens spent two hours in a rap session about the novel and one hour discussing a feature art piece by artist Kerry James Marshall that directly correlated to the novel. During the sessions, the teens discussed their concerns and confusions with Hardrick. She gave statistics of African-American teen pregnancies, abortions and African-Americans with HIV. She dispelled myths for the teens about avoiding pregnancy, myths such as jumping up and down after sex, standing on your head and douching with coke.
The program was organized by The Professional Organization of Women, Inc., and Girls Inc. Other participants in the program were Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club, Kilalo Rites of Passage and St. Paul Saturday.
Gail Holmes, in charge of public relations for POW, wanted to make sure there was male participation in the rap sessions.
"After reading the book," said St. Paul Saturday's Orlando Taylor, "I thought it was definitely a good idea."
"Gail was definitely the driving force behind getting this program to St. Louis," said Hardrick.
"Imani" was noted in EBONY Magazine's booklist as recommended reading for young readers and featured in the New York Times. Despite the acclaim, "Imani" is not available in stores.
"Her focus was not selling the book," said POW President Kimberly Charles. "She wanted to get it in schools and youth programs."
"My focus was to go where my audience is," said Hardrick. "Schools, churches and youth groups are my primary buyers right now."
Hardrick intentionally wrote the book for African-American teens, but believes that everyone can relate to it.
"There's not much out there that targets African-American teens," she says. "The issues are universal. Anyone of any color or age can relate to the topic."
Hardrick saw the importance and the need for her novel. She says that there was not anything out there like that when she was growing up. She describes herself as "just one author trying to fill that void."
"While teenagers are being bombarded with negativism and stereotypes, they are not getting enough positive information. I want to show them the other side, the consequences that they are not getting through music and movies. I want them to stop and think before they act. 'Imani' is a novel about actions and consequences."
Hardrick worked on the book for two years while working at Anheuser Busch Brewery. Now her book promotion and the "Keepin' It Real" program is her full-time job. She is also currently working on the sequel to "Imani."
"I am willing to go anywhere to discuss the "Keepin' It Real" program," she said. "I would love to come back to St. Louis. I had a great time in St. Louis."
Hardrick says she has to use her gift to do something positive for young adults.
"When you're fulfilling your purpose and love what you do, you can't put a price tag on it," she said.
Hardrick uses her writing to "inspire, inform and enlighten." Thus the name of her publishing company, Enlighten Publishing.