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Over 200 Deltas Visit Toledo For Regional Founders’ Day Conference

By Tricia Hall
The Sojourner’s Truth Reporter

The women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Toledo Alumnae chapter organized the sorority’s bi-annual Founders Day statewide meeting for Ohio sorority members. The gathering was held the weekend of March 16-18 at Toledo’s Renaissance Hotel.

“It is an honor to be here and deliver greetings on behalf of our city. I felt warmth and energy as soon as I walked into this meeting room. Welcome to the Glass City, ladies of Delta Sigma Theta. Thank you for gracing our city with your presence and have a wonderful weekend,” said former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson during opening ceremonies.

The weekend’s focus was cancer health awareness and the contributions of Henrietta Lacks. On Friday, the sorority held a book discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and a screening of the movie based on the book.

On Saturday, the events included a panel discussion on cancer prevention and detection which featured Rochelle Hall Rollins, PhD, of Mercy Health; Dr. Marceda Wilson-Coleman, MD; Bessie Mack; Bertha Richardson; Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes and Dr. Tanya Baldwin, MD of Mercy Health.

After lunch on Saturday, members of the Lacks family were invited to speak.

During the sorority’s last national convention in 2017, a resolution was presented. “We presented a resolution and continue to advocate for legislation. We don’t want what happened to Mrs. Lacks to happen to anyone else,” said Toledo Alumnae President Angela Siner.

“It’s an honor to have the Lacks family here this weekend. The family will discuss Henrietta’s life and contributions to the medical field,” explained Siner.

Jeri Lacks Whye, Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter, and Veronica Robinson, great granddaughter, along with interviewer Doni Miller, discussed Lacks’ life, how the family uncovered the fact of her donation to science and the status of the family’s relations with Johns Hopkins University currently and over the decades.

Lacks had cervical cancer when she went to Johns Hopkins seeking medical assistance. Unfortunately she did not live for more than a few months after being diagnosed but her cells lived on forever and were of use in such medical advances as the vaccine for polio, , in vitro fertilization, radiation treatments, medications to control HIV and HPV infections.

Lacks died at such an early age that, beyond her children, following generations did not have first hand knowledge of her. She died at such an early age – 31 – that even her own five children could barely remember their mother as the years passed. What subsequent generations learned of their now-famous ancestor, they learned from the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by science author Rebecca Skloot that was published in 2010 and later turned into an HBO film starring Oprah Winfrey as Lacks’ daughter Deborah.

So much about Lacks’ death was shrouded in mystery said Whye and Robinson because even though Johns Hopkins, a research hospital, made it a point to treat people of color and those of low-income, the African-American community in Baltimore never felt comfortable with the institution. Rumors abounded of tales of people disappearing and other nefarious occurrences.

After Lacks died in 1951, her cells, named HeLa cells, were harvested and the family, said Whye, was not told about the extraordinary discovery. Some 25 years later, they uncovered the truth. “My aunt was at dinner at a friend’s home,” said Whye, “and another guest heard the name ‘Lacks’ and he talked of research being done at Johns Hopkins with that name.”

Lacks’ daughter-in-law went home and reported the exchange to her husband, Lacks’ son, who went to the university and confronted authorities. The secret was out.

Unfortunately, the secret being known – around 1976 – did nothing to benefit Lacks’ descendants. The family, many of whose members are plagued with high blood pressure and diabetes, could not even obtain health insurance. Even today, while the late Henrietta Lacks has been celebrated and memorialized in many places in the United States and around the world, even by Johns Hopkins University, a simple apology has not been forthcoming from the research hospital. “No, if they say ‘I’m sorry’ it opens up grounds for a lawsuit,” said Robinson. “They want to appease the family but they don’t want to compensate the family.”

In addition to the cancer awareness and advocacy focused activities, the weekend included several social events for sorority members.

The local chapter executive officers and state meeting committee chairs are: Angela Siner, president; Linda Ewing, first vice president; Rochelle Hall-Rollins, PhD, second vice president; Jazmeika Spinks, recording secretary; Tene Jackson, corresponding secretary; Gina Thompson, financial secretary; Stacey Jackson-Jones, assistant financial secretary; Tonia Pace, treasurer; Janaver Kyser, assistant treasurer; and Ardenia Jones Terry and Linnie Willis, Statewide Founders Day co-chairmen.



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:10 -0700.



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