ASHE keeps ‘TABS’
For more than two decades, the ASHE Performing Arts group has been using entertainment to educate. Through productions such as Safe, Stupid or What!, Vibes in the World of Sexuality and their musical dubbed Full Circle, ASHE has tackled the issues of safe sex, masculinity and dating in the modern world. As they continue to fulfil their mandate of ‘edutaining’, ASHE has embarked on a new outreach programme dubbed The TABS Project (Talk About Yuh Business Safely) where they encourage young people to speak out about the issues that affect them in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
Speaking with The Gleaner in a recent interview, ASHE’s integrated marketing and communications lead, Ifidel Williams, expressed that as the group continues to gain new audiences, they wanted to ensure that their roots were not buried. “People are familiar with ASHE through the dancing, singing and acting, but what a lot of people don’t know is that we are a civil-society organisation that works with vulnerable groups to confront and highlight the issues that affect them. ASHE started out as the group that used drama, music and dance to talk about a lot of the issues surrounding sex that many deemed taboo,” he said. “We used to go into the schools, the communities and perform with the aim of educating these groups on safe sex, etc. The TABS project may be a new platform but the objective is the same. It is an extension of the commitment we have to ‘edutainment’.”
TABS has been using social-media platforms to connect with their core audience by hosting weekly online talk shows, through which they explore issues such as condom use, mental health, online dating, HIV and, of course, COVID-19.
Williams says the platform, which started a year and half ago, has seen some growth. “People have welcomed the platform and it is definitely growing and we are grateful. So far, we have had guests such as D’Angel, Dr Je-Vaughn Wynter and Alaine Haughton (Hilda di vibes builda). We’ve had some solid advice being issued to young people as they open up about the issues affecting them,” he said. “We created the platform to engage in the kinds of discussion we have been having, and so far we’re getting some great feedback. All we want now is for more people to log on and get involved.”
ASHE will be seeking to host its first-ever virtual dance and cheerleading competition. The contest, which will end on July 18, is part of a huge online health expo geared at educating the masses on not only sexual health but to also bring even more awareness to COVID-19. “Initially, we were going to have a big health fair where we would have people coming in and getting free tests and free check-ups done. But with the advent of COVID, we decided to make everything online, and you know ASHE is always about excitement and involvement, and so we thought, how better to engage the young people than to do some things that they love, hence the dance and cheer competition,” Williams said. “Crews will be asked to create routines and cheers on a particular theme. So it could be condom use, COVID-19, or HIV. Entertainment, as we know it, is not happening right now, and we don’t know when they’re going to fly the gate. So in the meantime, we at ASHE are trying to create ways and means, strategies, and outlets to encourage creativity and keep the space active.”