Helllllllllo mummies possums!
So it's Black History Month and despite those who believe we have "overcome" there is still a need to remind "them" and "us" that we have so much more to learn. So each day this month I will do my very best to post contributions of Negroes, Blacks, Afro Americans, Coloreds, African-Americans, Afro Caribbeans, Afro Europeans and any Polynesians...because their skin is dark too. #wink
Some of the people you'll recognize--some you may not. Feel free to share my link to friends, families and co-workers. Especially the ones that think they know Black women after viewing Good Hair. #nope
Class is in session. (Writes on chalkboard). I am your professor Dr. Slick. Do not be late to my lectures, or you shall face a stiff fine of purchasing my weekly gallon of Tito's Vodka from the liquor store. Be seated fuckers. Today's lesson: HeLa--a code name given to the worlds first immortal human cells. Henrietta Lacks (nee Loretta Pleasant) should be mentioned in grade school science courses along side the great men of science: Charles Drew, Aristotle, Louis Pasteur, Einstein-- so for and so on. I'm glad Sir Issac Newton dabbled in alchemy and physics. Because of him, I don't fuck around and sit under apple trees. But Henrietta Lacks is the reason why most of us have to visit the gyne only once a year. You see, Henrietta Lacks was a woman who died of cervical cancer. Scientists cut cells from her cervix months before she died. The cells from her cervix were bought, sold, packaged, shipped by the trillions around the world to laboratories around the world. Her cells helped to advance the study or cure for the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization.
Her story isn't a fairy tale...she was not a noble woman set out on a mission to "save lives" and advance science with her cells. She didn't sign the back of her drivers license thinking "hey in the future I can help rich celebrities have babies and settle in a Jim Crow free Santa Monica. Awesome." You should know class that scores of nameless, faceless black women were subjects of expirements at the hands of doctors and scientests back in the day. Back to HeLa. Henrietta was born in 1920, married with children and she was a tobacco farmer. But can we just pause for a minute and note that this heifer was fierce?!
Back to the lesson plan...sadly she died of cancer in 1951and a surgeon took pieces of her tumor and put them in a petri dish. Now quacks for years had unsuccessfully tried to keep human cells alive--they all eventually died. Until Henrietta showed up--her cells were unlike anything they'd ever seen before. Her cells reproduced an entire generation every twenty four hours, and they never stopped. Thus giving her the title for having "immortal human cells" ever grown in a lab. #catchesholyghost
Her cells lived outside her body far longer than they lived inside. Because of her cells researchers were able to look into genes that caused cancer and those that suppressed it. HeLa helped develop drugs for herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson's disease. Wait the list goes on: lactose digestion, STD's, appendicitis, human longevity, mosquito mating---mothafucking mosquitos.
Hey you! Wake up!In the second row. Yes, herpes lip. You don't have Carmex to thank for your healing sore, you have a black woman to thank! And you, sipping on that lactose free latte--your barista didn't save us from farts slapping out of you, a black woman did! And the next person that misses class because they have "the flu" had better make a big fucking contribution to the United Negro College Fund. In the memo line write: A BLLLLLAAAAACCCCKKK WOOOOMMMAAAN SAVED ME.
Now let me reiterate, this was no Cinderella story. Vials of her cells were sold at $25 a pop--after her family denied the use of her body for science. Articles were printed and published without their knowledge--naturally they felt the press and science had taken advantage of them.
What can I tell you class? This wasn't the first time science pimped a woman. They may staked their claim that her cells lasted forever, but I believe her spirits will outlast us all.
Before I dismiss you class, your assignment is to write to congress and demand that all black women get free gyne health care. You will also write to network television and demand the removal of Sherry Shepard from The View. And the first person to question my motives will be smited. Next class, we will discuss whether or not Halle Berry finally feels "good."
recommended reading: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot