|Third annual O.M.G. Conference participants.|
|Nicolette Gordon, SU Ag Center Assistant Area Agent, stands beside a display during the 3rd annual O.M.G. Conference held on May 30. The conference was held on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus.|
|Actress and HIV/AIDS Activist Jurnee Smollet-Bell, standing on left, poses with an O.M.G. Conference participant and the event's keynote speaker HIV/AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent, standing on the right.|
Baton Rouge, LA- Over 400 girls were pre-registered to participate in the Outstanding Mature Girlz (O.M.G) Conference, which was held in honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Saturday, May 30 on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus.
The conference was started as an awareness tool for young ladies, ages 10 and older; to better understand the disease, learn about prevention, and to discuss other useful information via a girl-talk style outlet.
“I feel the O.M.G Conference is also a great conversation starter for parents, who may have a hard time talking to their kids about HIV/AIDS/STDs,” Sashika Baunchand said. “We are not taking their place, we are simply a safe tool they can use to help build upon what they may already have in place.”
The daylong free event included live entertainment and guest speakers, including Eugene Collins, from Louisiana’s Office of Public Health, who spoke about the youth HIV/STD rates and Pastor Angel Nicholas who shared a personal story.
The keynote speaker was HIV/AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent. Known for her childhood appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey” Show, the now 31-year-old activist was born HIV positive and developed full blown AIDS by age 5.
HIV/AIDS Activist Jurnee Smollet-Bell was among the celebrity guest who made appearances at the conference. Smollet-Bell has been featured in several films, such as Eve's Bayou, The Great Debaters and Tyler Peery’s Temptation. She also appeared in many television series including Friday Night Lights and True Blood. Internet sensation CeCe of “The CeCe Show,” also stopped by to teach the young ladies a new dance craze!
Free HIV testing was available during the event.
The first O.M.G. Conference was held in Ponchatoula, La. in 2013 with 100 girls in attendance and received support from both the mayors of Ponchatoula and Hammond, La. Since moving to Baton Rouge in 2014, the attendance has grown and received a proclamation from Mayor-President Kip Holden.
(Article and photos by Nicolette Gordon, SU Ag Center Assistant Area Agent for St. Helena & Tangipahoa Parishes.)