If you haven’t seen the “The Purification Process,” at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, your chance ends this weekend. The dramatic-comedic play tackles everything from breast cancer to work, marriage, friendships and those cringe-inducing mother-daughter tensions – all of this viewed through the lenses of African Americans.
There’s a reason to focus on black women. While white women are more likely to get breast cancer than any other group, African American women are more likely to die from the disease. Race is appropriately inserted into this conversation. Racial differences in breast cancer survival rates are real and are attributed by researchers to a number of factors, including access to health care and the biology of different kinds of breast cancer. Research into genetic links may also help explain some of the differences.
Local theatre should serve a dual purpose, at once entertainment but also a reflection of the dialogues and tensions of its surrounding communities. Langston Hughes is a small theatre in the Central District fulfilling its role as a venue for art, ideas, politics and pop culture. “The Purification Process,” will have you laughing at some parts, crying at others. I’m compelled to write about the play and recommend it because of its power to inspire important conversations, and action, about cancer and health in African American communities.
There is a lot to discuss. Consider that:
Breast cancer diagnoses are on the rise in black women.
A Harvard study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research medical conference last year reported that within three years of a breast cancer diagnosis, black women were 50 percent more likely to die than white women.
In June, a Journal of the American Medical Association study found that black women are less likely to survive a breast cancer diagnosis within five years because they undergo fewer screenings, have poorer health and by the time the breast cancer is found it is often at an advanced stage.
Check out the You Tube clip below as one couple, Nate and Leslie Miles, offer their post-performance view of the play.