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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Race to Nowhere: Playwright 'Kash Goins' speaks on Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS

Philadelphia native, Kash Goins is the founder of GoKash Productions, a full scale entertainment production company which has seen recent success receiving 'Best Play' honors at the 2009 Downtown Urban Theater Festival for his "VI Degrees"; which takes the look at the lifestyles his characters engage in and how the spread of HIV/AIDS thrives from these interactions.

Kash has also produced and written "Man I Shoulda Put a Ring On It!", which takes an unfiltered look at a woman and her struggles with domestic abuse. Kash sat down with THE RACE TO NOWHERE to talk about his production company and social stigmas that affect the African-American community in ways that no other community has and possibly will ever see.

“VI Degrees” is a stage play based on colorful characters who engage in unprotected sex, prostitution, and what-have you and how their actions may contribute to the high rates of HIV/AIDS. I’ve had conversations almost on the daily about the spread of HIV in the African-American culture; at record breaking numbers. Give us brief overview on the play.

Kash Goins: “VI Degrees” falls right into what you’ve just talked about. The AIDS epidemic does spread amongst African-Americans towards epidemic proportions. And for some odd reason, it’s not broadcasted as much or enough in the media. And it’s not as widely talked about as I believe it should be. African-Americans make up 12% of this country’s population, and 50% of the recorded cases of HIV. So in launching GoKash Productions, it was paramount that we bring true high quality entertainment to our audiences abroad. And naturally my audience draws this demographic. So in entertainment our vast audience of anywhere from ages 18 – 50, we also wanted to bring messages of social awareness. HIV was just one of the topics on my heart to talk about. Delivering this message in an educational yet entertaining way will help to remove the built-in barriers that African-Americans tend to have against information of this sort. I’ve done as much research about HIV as I could in regards to the spread of the virus and its treatment options available. I also researched the disparity in testing between African-Americans and other ethnic groups. Most importantly, I studied the REASON for the disparity. Why is it that African-Americans, mainly women are the quickest growing sector for HIV/AIDS? So I took a look at some of those factors that may have attributed to it and found that a large part is due to the activity that are going on behind prison walls. Basically, people that are coming home from prison, engaging in sexual activities as if they weren’t engaging in activities during their time spent behind bars. Homosexually that is hidden from heterosexual partners is a factor. Infidelities from both sides are a factor. Exotic dancing, as well as the prostitution that often goes along with it, is a factor; once again, that can happen from both sides. In “VI Degrees”, we look at that from a black perspective.

Where do you believe we fail as a nation, in African-American culture especially, in slowing down the spread of HIV/AIDS?

Kash Goins: This is not to single out White America, but when I do research on HIV in their communities, it doesn’t appear to have the same stigma in tact to getting tested, treated or learning more about HIV. Even in the homosexual sector of White America, it doesn’t seem to be as many “down low” occurrences. Certain things in the African-American community have been embraced as being taboo. With that, I believe that there is a general lack of liberation that helps to keep an epidemic like HIV circulating. The stigma’s that have been embraced that needs to be removed is where the failure thrives.

As for “Man I Shoulda Put a Ring On It!” talk about the components in place that not only builds the platform for it… and also, how could it be so painful for children to watch it happen, yet grow up and continue to cycle whether giving or receiving the violence.

Kash Goins: That’s a fantastic question. The platform of domestic violence as we examine it in “Man I Shoulda Put a Ring on It” is the lack of self love within the abuser and the abused. Abusers have something very deficient within themselves. So they lash out as a means of dealing with their deficiency. Ultimately it stems from a place of anger and hatred that is self directed. Instead of unleashing this self hate on his or herself, they act out as actions of regression towards others. On the side of that, the abused must be in a perpetual place where you must diminish your self worth in order to be accepting of the abuse. Whether fear, convenience or public perception is the reason why the abused stays in the relationship, it is clear that they have not determined that they are too good to be in such a hurtful situation. Loving yourself is the first step to breaking that chain. It is also the first step to not allowing it to happen from the start.

As far as a child growing up in an abusive atmosphere, unfortunately, as painful as it is, those children might go to sleep in the fetal position crying because of the violence. But over time, there is a decreasing sensitivity to the violence where the child will accept it as being normal. So when these children are old enough to engage in their own relationships, even if the hand holding and the poem writing is there, at the moment that the inevitable conflict does arrive, their subconscious will go back to what it is that he or show knows. So even if it’s not a conscious decision, subconsciously the acceptance of this violence is what can drive it to continue on.

Chris Brown recently pleaded guilty to lesser chargers in regards to his physical altercation with Rihanna. People have chosen sides ever since the incident. Sources have said that Rihanna incited the altercation. To you, does it matter if she incited the altercation or not looking at the end result?

Kash Goins: It doesn’t matter who incited it. There are basic rules to applied here. I am sure that there are certain instances in society where the woman is physically dominating to her male partner. I am going to leave that one small caveat. Across the board, I believe that there is absolutely never a reason for a man to inflict the level of damage on a woman that Chris inflicted on Rihanna. And what I mean by that is that I don’t believe a man should inflict any level of damage on a woman. However, if a woman is being aggressive towards him, he does have the right to restrain her. He should not sit there and take a busted lip or a black eye for the sake of not fighting. He should restrain her to stop her from doing what she is doing then escape from that situation.

In Closing…

Kash Goins: I am very excited that GoKash Productions is in the second year of its existence. We run a full scale production of two self written pieces. And I have already opened up opportunities for other playwrights’ visions to adapt their novels into plays. On July 18, we’ll be doing “Man I Shoulda Put a Ring On It” at the big 1800 seat Forum Auditorium in Harrisburg, PA, while looking forward to taking this show out of town to different regions. Right on the heels of that, from July 27 to August 7, we’ll be running “VI Degrees” at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.

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