Inspiration can strike at any time. Just ask Deerfield Beach’s Islah Abdul Aziz.
She is the director of “A Devastating Impact: Revealing the Perils of HIV/AIDS in South Florida,” a play about a college student who never had sex, never did drugs, never had a blood transfusion and yet became HIV-positive. It will be staged Saturday, Nov. 2, at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.
“I woke up one morning, I think it was 3 o’clock in the morning,” Aziz recalls. “I keep my TV on PBS. And what happened to be on was this interview, and the lady was talking about HIV and how a large amount of people under the age of 25, a lot of the youth who are still in high school, had been diagnosed HIV-positive.”
Aziz, founder of the Theatre of Creative Consciousness of the Arts (TCCA), says the television interview hit her hard because, “I had just done a play for about 200 youths. That’s what I do. I work with children [doing] plays about drugs, gun control, abortion. Now, at the time, I didn’t know that statistically Broward was No. 1 [in the nation for HIV cases per capita].”
Co-starring Khalilah Camacho-Ali (the former wife of Muhammad Ali), the play was written in Philadelphia by Aziz’s ex-husband, Akbar Abdul Aziz, and Mamie Lee Young.
“The first time I saw it was at a rehearsal,” says Alfreda Upshaw, a member of the Friends of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, which is co-sponsoring the production. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ My goodness, this really is a unique way of getting the awareness lesson out there by using entertainment to do it rather than … facts and statistics. An entertaining musical production with this kind of message is wonderful. I think it’s going to go all over the state.”
That would be in accordance with the mission of TCCA, to combat negative forces in society with performance art.
“Akbar is a kind of activist,” Aziz says. “He is a cousin of Richard Wright. He’s a writer, too. As a matter of fact, his whole family is prone to the entertainment industry. You know this ‘A Devastating Impact’ is also a movie that is in the hands of Alicia Keys.”
Upshaw believes the play can reach a wide audience. “It consists of a diverse group of many ethnicities working together in a theater group,” she says from her home in Oakland Park. “And the audience will be a wide variety of people, different ethnicities of people will come to see it. HIV does not discriminate.”
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Broward County will offer free testing on-site from noon to 6 p.m. at the cultural center
“We have the Insti [HIV-1 Antibody] Test, and it’s pretty quick,” says Eric Boyd, manager of the foundation’s mobile unit. “It’s very accurate. We can usually get results in one minute. We have brochures. We give out condoms and T-shirts. We provide counseling and [provide links] to clinics and doctors. We’re a one-stop shop.”
Aziz says all she wants to do is get accurate information out there.
“There’s a real need for it. It’s not a death sentence. They have a stigma. They think, ‘If I get tested and find out I have HIV, then I’m dead.’ So people aren’t getting tested, and they are spreading it,” Aziz says. “But with the drugs nowadays, it is no longer a death sentence. … Get tested. This is what the play is all about.”
IF YOU GO
“A Devastating Impact: Revealing the Perils of HIV/AIDS in South Florida”
When: 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
Where: African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Cost: $20 general admission and $15 for students and seniors
Contact: TCCAFlorida.EventBrite.com, TCCAflorida@gmail.com or TheatreOfCreativeConsciousness.org.