Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jim Crow 2012?


The Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and enacted by the 89th United States Congress. The President felt inclined to bring about the Act because of the blood shed that occurred during that year and the martyrs that were born because of it. Additionally, the Act was the result of the hostilities of those who felt African-Americans should not have the right to vote. Anti-discrimination laws were in place at the time, however, they were not enough to combat the resistance of state officials when it came to the 15th amendment. Prior to the Voting Rights Act, poll taxes and literacy test were imposed upon voters who would otherwise be able to vote. Terror was also a tool used to stop the African-American vote (and it still is).
The Act was extended in 2006 by President George W. Bush for another 25 years. (Although why the Act should ever have to be extended is far beyond my intelligent grasp. If you can give me a legitimate reason, then I’ll wait) By the end of 1965, over 250,000 Black voters had been registered to vote because of the Voters Rights Act. The years of harassment, intimidation and brutality were supposed to end. The years of sacrifice because of the effort on the part of those who thought it an African-American’s God given right to vote, were supposed to end right? Right. ("Voter Suppression by State," 2012).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gene Patenting: The Commodification of Nature

The ensuing biotechnology gold rush saw thousands of patents being granted over human genes, viruses, proteins, and the processes of their biological manufacture, and it had become evident that perhaps things had gone too far.
- Luigi Palombi
Remember reading about the Human Genome Project (HGP) back in Science class in middle school? If you were like me, then you probably barely retained any of the information while skimming the chapter (just enough to bullshit your way through a pop quiz and just enough to pass a test). If you were like me, then you probably overlooked the section in the chapter that mentioned the HGP was an ongoing project that had been initiated since about the time of your birth. And if you were like me, then you probably did not even recognize the relationship between genomics and genetics until years later in your Biology class in high school. Unbeknownst to me (and you apparently), there existed this complex world of genetics...and that world was trying to patent me (us).

OK, so maybe that was an exaggeration.

No one is literally attempting to patent humans ("they're" working on it), but genetic researches are patenting human genes along with plant and animal genes. Confused? Let us go back to Science class in middle school where you—we—should have been paying attention instead of goofing off with our friends. In 1865, an Austrian priest by the name of Gregor Johann Mendel discovered that certain traits are passed from one generation to another while conducting hybridization experiments on garden peas (World Health Organization, 2005). Today, we know the passing of these traits as hereditary or genetic inheritances also known as Mendelian inheritance or Mendelian genetics. Delving even deeper, molecular biologist, James Dewey Watson, along with his partner Frances Crick discovered deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), or rather, the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. DNA is the equivalent to a set of instructions in each cell in an organism that causes them to grow and develop as they do (Koepsell, 2009). For instance, humans have their own set of DNA as do monkeys, birds, and fish. That is why fish look and humans look like...humans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Does a Black Lesbian Look Like?

Black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that. 

- Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll

When Jennifer Carroll was asked about an incident in which she was allegedly found in a compromising position with a female staff member the above was her response (view video response here). The response ignited a firestorm of criticism (as it should have) and prompted me to wonder what exactly was a Black lesbian supposed to look like? Are we supposed to be ugly, or not married, unfaithful, etc? Is our sexuality labeled as some form of abhorrent behavior? As a response to the statement the hashtag on twitter #whatablacklesbianlookslke went viral. And after much debate I decided to write a letter to the Lt. Governor myself in which you all will be able to see below. I figured some of my frustrations are quite similar to my sisters around the world.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Henrietta Lacks: Unwitting Contributor to Medicine

HeLa will live forever, perhaps. The dance of HeLa continues; they're all dancing out there somewhere...the stage is very broad and wide, and the curtain has by no means gone down on them. The music plays on.  
- George Gey

It’s an early Wednesday morning and you are procrastinating to get out of bed for that appointment you have at the lab. Several weeks ago, you met with your doctor (after waiting 45 minutes past your scheduled appointment time) for those nasty headaches you’ve been having only to be told that she was going to send you to get some blood work done...somewhere else. Grrrrr. So here you are being prodded by a complete stranger who is failing at attempting to make you comfortable (what happened to the other girl who usually worked there?). The only that is on your mind at that point is how much blood is being drawn from your arm. Do they really need that much? Now they need a urine sample. Great. After that (traumatic) ordeal you are told that the results will be sent to your doctor. Another appointment....

We are all familiar with this scene, right? Those annoying doctor’s visits that make us wish we just treated ourselves at home with some aspirin instead of doing the run-a-round from one medical facility to another. There is the random people poking and prodding at us that make us want to scream (unless the person is a total hottie...then they can poke and prod all they want). And of course there is the incessant collection of our bodily fluids and cells. But do any of us actually stop and think about what is being done with our “parts.” Are they only being used for diagnoses or is there something else going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of? What was that? You never thought about it? Well that goes for you and millions of other people. We put a lot of trust into someone wearing a uniform authority whether it is a navy blue police uniform or a starch, white lab coat.

HeLa and the Immortal Cell Line

From the Black woman came life, and as much as some would like to forget that it is an undoubted truth. We are a beautiful people.

- My mother, 1997 (The year she passed from breast cancer)

The most amazing thing about Henrietta Lacks is that very few people know about her. I can include myself in such a statement as I had to do a little research and digging about Mrs. Lacks. She had only been discussed briefly in a biology course of mine (I can credit my H.B.C.U. to that). However, I did not know to what extent Mrs. Lacks contributed to science and to the study of cells. For those of you who are as ignorant as I was about Henrietta Lacks I’ll proceed to giving you all a bit of a history lesson.

Henrietta Lacks was a rather poor tobacco farmer in Virginia. She was married and had five children. After the birth of her fifth child she noticed a knot in her stomach. Family members thought this to be the signal that she was pregnant again, however she knew this to be different. Lacks sought out medical attention and after going to her local doctor she was referred to John Hopkins Hospital as they were the only hospital in her area that treated African Americans at the time. Unknowingly, two samples of her cervix were removed and sent to lab to study. Mrs. Lacks passed on from cervical cancer at age 31. However, the cells from her tumor were given to George Gey. Unlike any other cells studied prior to Mrs. Lacks, her cells stayed alive. Her cells were put into production to make a vaccine for polio and her cells brought about the first ever cell production plant. However, her family remained poor not knowing what had happened to their mother or grandmother’s cells. Recently a book was been published pertaining to this. (The book)