Pageant delivers anti-drug message BALTIMORE CITY

December 24, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

The Christmas pageant at Perkins Homes this year ignored the Nativity and focused instead on modern times.

Children who live in the drug-plagued public housing project near Fells Point put on a three-act play yesterday that ended with the funeral of a young AIDS victim who failed to say no to drugs.

"We are trying to save the young children -- to show them to always look at the positive side of life and you will be the person you want to be," said Mary Knox, a 53-year-old Perkins resident who wrote "Hanging With Mr. Wrong" with her 31-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who also lives in Perkins.

The play is about a young woman who ignores the advice of her best friend and, pressured by her boyfriend, uses heroin intravenously.

In the next act, the woman contracts the virus that causes the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome because the needle she used to inject drugs was contaminated. In the last act, the curtain comes down as the girl's friends mourn over her body at a funeral.

"Just say no to drugs," the children say in the closing scene, after singing "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye."

The play was put on by the Just Say No Club at Perkins, which has 45 members between the ages of 3 and 15. There are 1,600 members in Just Say No Clubs in the city's housing projects.

The Christmas pageant featured other anti-drug skits, dances and songs. The playbill contained the club's "Just Say No Pledge" thatreads, in part, "I know who I am and I know that I want to stay healthy and happy. I can stand up for myself and stick to my decision to live a drug-free life."

Mary Knox has lived in Perkins for 30 years and has seen her community fall victim to violent crime because of heavy drug trafficking. She said she worries about the young children who are constantly exposed to the violence and illegal activity.

"Drugs are bad here," Ms. Knox said. "The kids see drug peddling, they see needles all over the ground and they see people standing on the corners for drug activity. We wrote this play because they are young. Around Christmas, the children go to a lot of parties and they try to do what their friends do." Perkins has 688 units, some 2,500 residents and a lot of drug trafficking, said Barbara Green, a social worker at the East Baltimore complex.

Ms. Green said the pageant was a perfect forum to present an anti-drug message. "We want the kids to know that you don't do drugs and, if you do drugs, you'll end up dead," she said.

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