The History of Pink and Black
In 2000, the REACH Coalition started bringing together community residents, public health leaders, community organizations, and others to educate the community about breast cancer disparities. REACH stands for Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, and was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support projects that focused on a coalition-based approach to addressing health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities in six priority areas, one of which was breast and cervical cancer screening and management. Between 2000 and 2007, the Boston REACH 2010 Breast and Cervical Cancer Coalition conducted community workshops to encourage people to talk about their health and share information.
In 2005, former Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission launched the Pink and Black campaign, placing posters and billboards all across the City to draw the public's attention to the fact that Black women had a higher death rate from breast cancer than women of other races. The campaign included photos of real women from the community and stressed the importance of early detection and screening for breast cancer. These brave, passionate and pioneering women were referred to as ambassadors, and became known as the Pink and Black Ambassadors, referencing the color Pink which is associated with breast cancer, and representing the Black women in our City who were disproportionately experiencing the worst outcomes from breast cancer.
The original Pink and Black Ambassadors are: Reverend Quensella Cooper, Stephanie Parrot, Carmen Johnson, Augusta Williams, Ollie Cunningham, Deanna Gross, Connie Reid-Jones, Helen Span, and Debra Groomes.
This one-of-a-kind group of pioneering women were very successful in their purpose. In the years 2008, 2010 and 2013 combined, Black women had the highest rates of mammography in the entire City of Boston, reversing the low screening rates prior to the 2005 launch.
Our Current Network
Over the years, members have circled in and out of the group, and in October 2017, the group was relaunched as the Pink and Black Education and Support Group. The new name signals the expansion of the group's focus. The group continues its efforts to promote breast cancer early detection. The group also supports female breast cancer survivors by promoting existing and emerging local resources that are available to improve quality of life in survivorship, and by participating in activities on the local breast cancer landscape in support and service to others.
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Each month, we publish a short article written by a member of Pink and Black about what is happening on the breast cancer landscape in Boston. Check out this month's feature below.
In Honor and Loving Memory of Carmen Johnson
Carmen Karene Johnson was educated in the Baltimore School District and graduated from Western High School in 1968. Carmen loved learning as she was a rarity student. As a star pupil she maintained and straight A average from elementary school throughout her senior year in high school. As a women of brilliance Carmen began her collegiate education courses early at Loyola University of Maryland as well as a maintaining a Clerk Typist position with the Social Security Administration Offices. While working, finishing senior year and taking college courses, Carmen excelled and received exemplary awards in English & Chemistry as earning honors in English and French. Carmen was also the champion winner of the Peabody Medal. With outstanding wisdom Carmen became Senior Class President and Senior Class Valedictorian, and honor which made her parents proud. With her studious diligence Carmen graduated from George Washington University, Washington, DC in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and International Affairs. Her scholarly accomplishments were all published in the Baltimore Sun Newspaper.
Carmen joined the Boston Public Health Commission in 2004 as a Community Outreach Coordinator. A researcher at heart, she complied healthcare statistics and coordinated diverse health fairs and workshops. Carmen organized a special project at the Commission, backed by the late Honorable Mayor Thomas Menino called the Pink and Black Campaign. Her impeccable team leadership presented diverse health awareness city-wide through public speaking and teaching with organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, DEAF Inc., REACH Boston Elders, and many others. Through her heartfelt work, Carmen earned many awards and citations for her public service and outreach. Carmen retired after 11 years at the Commission.
Debra Groomes, an original Pink and Black Ambassadors member, talks about her friend Carmen Johnson:
“I met Carmen back in 2005. At the time, I was the youngest of the original Pink and Black Ladies- Breast Cancer Awareness Organization. Carmen was a leading force amongst the members and she quickly became one of my dearest friends and mentor.
She was a dynamic woman. She was a beacon of hope, strength and courage. Her faith was steadfast, which made her a strong advocate for herself and others. She knew how difficult it was for black and brown women to have a voice of advocacy, so she pushed us to ask questions, to take care of ourselves and to never give up.
Carmen, was also a terrific organizer and she helped to keep our group close so that we could build a solid foundation together. Her efforts helped us to become pioneers in Breast Cancer awareness and advocacy in the city of Boston.
We needed her and women like her to not only fight against Breast Cancer but to also fight against healthcare disparities and racial health inequities.
I learned so much from Carmen and everything that I've learned I've shared with other women stricken by cancer. Carmen Johnson was an amazing woman, friend and confidant and she will be greatly missed.”
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