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Hampton Roads Community News

At ODU Theater, Dec. 11: Drama Portrays Alarming HIV/AIDS Statistics Among Blacks

NORFOLK

While accounting for only 13.2 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans account for 41 percent of all HIV infections in the U.S. and 44 percent of all new cases. The incidence of HIV and AIDS in the African-American community is alarming. Yet, 1 in 8 of all HIV-positive Americans don’t even know their status. On Friday, December 11, 2015, at 7:00 p.m., the Illuminating Good Health Coalition, in partnership with a host of local Ryan White and community-based agencies, will be staging the inspirational drama RAILINGS!, at the ODU University Theater. This compelling stage play offers adept portrayals of the African-American HIV/AIDS experience. Admission is free.

The rate of new HIV infections among African-American men is more than 6 times the rate for white men and more than twice that of Hispanic men; while African-American women account for 64 percent of all new HIV infections in women. Further, 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Additionally, Black youth account for 34 percent of HIV infection amongst young people aged 13 to 24.

Set between Washington, D.C. and Norfolk, VA, RAILINGS! tells the story of “Kamal Cole,” a 16-year-old, HIV-positive runaway with a horrific secret, one that haunts him anew with the recent revelation of his health status. Engulfed in a tempest of disillusionment and desperation, he embarks on an adventurous escape from reality, eventually finding himself taking a nocturnal train ride with the spirit of “Obadiah Walker,” a late 19th Century cowboy outlaw.

Written and directed by Terrance Afer-Anderson, RAILINGS! is an inventive, mixed-media production with important topical themes. It has been celebrated by adult and youth audiences alike as an inspired story that paints an insightful portrait of HIV and AIDS, its impact on the African-American community. According to The Virginian-Pilot (Jan. 16, 1998), “Railings! stands out as a work of real value.”

Trent Abernathy and Ahmad Rasean portray protagonists Kamal and Obadiah. Kamal’s spiritual sojourn begins on the Washington, D.C. Metro subway. While later standing on the King Street, Alexandria, VA subway platform, he spies a phantom freight train, with an open boxcar, sitting on parallel tracks. He climbs aboard the train and cries himself to sleep. When he awakens later, the train is barreling through the night and the tormented youth finds himself confronted by the loquacious, cantankerous “Obadiah.”

The cast also features Sarita Scott and Jeffrey Phillips as Kamal’s parents “Sylvia,” a D.C. Public Schools teacher, and “Willem,” a successful Washington attorney; Broadway veteran (Mamma Mia!) Angela Ara Brown, who portrays Cole neighbor “India Bailey,” who has her own health challenges; Tony Britt, as Kamal’s uncle “Wynton Cole,” a popular, no-nonsense D.C. Metro Police officer; and B. Adrian Shorter and Josh Kern, as D.C. police officers “Sergeant Isaacs” and “Private Andersen,” respectively.

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Numerous community-based agencies are assisting in mounting this special Illuminating Good Health Coalition production of RAILINGS! These include the Norfolk Department of Public Health, Wealthy Place Ministries, the Eastern Virginia Medical School AIDS Resource Center, ACCESS AIDS Care, Urban League of Hampton Roads, Norfolk Community Health Center, Hampton Roads Community Health Center, Garden of Hope Development Corporation, International Black Women’s Congress, Southeastern Virginia Health System, Minority AIDS Support Services, Greater Norfolk Medical Society, and Norfolk State University Project Choice.

The ODU University Theater is located at 4601 Hampton Boulevard. This is a free event, but tickets are required.

For further information, call (757) 683-8836.

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