by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Jamilah Clay and Khidhra Smith enter a sunny café and it seems to brighten. They’ve come to talk about their project “The A-List.” It’s a term synonymous with glamour and a natural association with these stylish 27 year old New Yorkers.
But in Jamilah and Khidhra’s mission, the “a” is for abstinence and they aim to convince girls that abstaining from sex will reward them into adulthood.
Khidhra, a clinician with Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, is originally from Queens while Jamilah is from the Bronx. The two met as soldiers at Fort Pickett, Virginia where they discovered similar spiritual values. Jamilah served in Iraq and later reenlisted while Khidhra went on to Virginia Commonwealth University to finish her degree in Psychology and earn a Master’s in Social Work. Around that time, she began to manage girl’s group homes. “I began to see how much more the young girls needed outside of what was generally provided in [traditional sex education programs],” she remembers.
So in 2005, she established Salimah’s House, a non-profit organization that works with girls to build self-esteem. “From doing self-esteem education, I was able to make the [abstinence] decision myself,” Khidhra admits. “I feel like you can’t make the abstinence decision unless you’re aware of the importance of self-esteem and self-worth.”