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HIV takes center stage

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By Stephanie Holland

By Stephanie Holland

A cross between a Sunday sermon and an after school special, Nosente Uhuti’s “You Passed Me By,” is the story of a small church’s decision to educate its members on HIV/AIDS.

On March 8 in the Digital Library Auditorium the Ujima project in conjunction with the Black Women’s Leadership Forum of Riverside presented writer/director/producer Uhuti’s first stage production.

HIV/AIDS is among the leading causes of death for young African-Americans, so this play is designed to educate.

Within the story the church decides to offer courses on HIV prevention and testing. While some members of the church are in favor of educating its members, several are against discussing such a taboo topic in the church.

“I’ve been working with HIV since 1989 and our numbers aren’t going down. The most powerful entity we have is the church and the church passed us by. I don’t believe that god wants us to decide who we should help,” Uhuti said.

Even though the play dealt with a sensitive subject, there were plenty of comedic moments to break the tension. Edna Sims-Hughes portrayal of church gossip Evelyn Crawford was realistically hilarious. Her performance brought to mind women that could be found on any given Sunday at any church in America.

Terry Evans as Deacon Ryder used his great comedic timing to steal every scene he was in.

To make sure young people got the message, Uhuti enlisted members of Riverside City College’s Ujima Project to participate in the production.

Ujima members Jayson Washington and Tishawnna Hamilton portrayed the Crawford siblings who persuade the church to begin offering the new classes.

“We couldn’t do this story without having young people represented because they’re the most at risk group,” Uhuti said.

The play was also a fundraiser for Foothill AIDS project. Pledge cards were available at the door and the audience was informed that a donation of forty dollars could feed a person for a year. Without a steady diet it is impossible to take HIV/AIDS medication.

In “You Passed Me By” Nosente Uhuti made HIV/AIDS education a priority for all churches. She hopes that the play can be used as a stepping stone for how to introduce the subject into the church.

Uhuti’s next production looks to be just as controversial, as she tackles the hot button issue of healthcare in the black community.

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