Pastor preaches "safe sex" through new billboard campaign

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - "Sex is for a moment. Motherhood is forever."

"Live life before you give life."

"Sex sounds cool, but don't be a fool."

All three quote are from billboards bought by St. Andrew A.M.E. church, using state grants.

"The billboards are just up," said the church's pastor, Rev. Kenneth Robinson, M.D.

Robinson said he anticipated mixed reaction to those phrases.

"They're very simple messages saying it's great to wait, don't have to do this now," says Robinson.

Several of the nearly one dozen billboards placed above busy streets like Elvis Presley Boulevard do take an abstinence-based approach.  But one of them is much more direct.  It reads, in part, "Don't make love without a glove."

Teenagers like Marquez Curtis know what that means, and he believes using condoms is a smart thing.

I would say it is for the young crowd, because they gonna do it anyway," Curtis said. "So encourage them to use condoms instead of doing it raw."

Zchkulsha Newberry estimates about a quarter of her high school classmates ended up pregnant.

"Some religions say you shouldn't have sex til you're married," Newberry said. "But if you do decide to make that decision, you should have safe sex."

A former Tennessee Commissioner of Health, Rev. Robinson currently serves as Chief Health Officer for the Memphis & Shelby County Health Department.  He also knows first hand the problem of teen pregnancy.

"We have to address it," he said.

His church has a long-standing program aimed at educating young women.  But, he admits, some members were skeptical at first.

"I think nobody in any congregation or any family wants to see a young lady, adolescent, someone still in school, get pregnant," says Robinson.

Robinson said prevention is his only prescription.   Right now, the billboards are placed in South Memphis neighborhoods.  Robinson believes urban inner city areas are at the greatest risk.

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