Two members of the Henrietta Lacks family will speak at Edmonds Community College on April 23 at 7 p.m. as part of the EdCC Community Read program. The community is invited to read the book, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ by Rebecca Skloot, and participate in the discussion.
The story of Henrietta Lacks is notable for the medical research that grew from her immortal tumor cells which were dubbed HeLa cells and used for decades without her family’s knowledge. Edmonds Community College’s Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement (ACCE) director Ksenia Koon provided this preview of the April 23 talk.
“We are very much looking forward to this event and hearing the story of Henrietta Lacks from her family’s perspective. Veronica Spencer and Kim Lacks will tell us, firsthand, what it meant for their family to find out that Henrietta’s cells were being bought and sold in laboratories around the world. Their message is meant to convey the pride and honor that their family has for Henrietta Lacks and her unparalleled contributions to science. Because her family is such an important part of the narrative, the Lacks family visit will bring the book alive for students and our community.
“Veronica Spencer is Henrietta Lacks’ great granddaughter (Lawrence Lacks’ granddaughter). Inspired by Henrietta’s story, she is currently studying to become a Registered Nurse at Baltimore City Community College. She represents the Lacks family on the National Institute of the Science’s panel that reviews applications to conduct research using the HeLa genome. Veronica is also a mentor at Johns Hopkins for Dunbar Scholars and a very active member of the Lacks Family Foundation.
“Kim Lacks, a banking representative in Baltimore, is Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter (Sonny Lacks’ daughter). She has traveled with her father and other family members on dozens of trips around the country, adding her own perspective on the legacy of Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cells. She is also one of the family members consulting on the highly-anticipated HBO film based on ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ produced by Oprah Winfrey and Allan Ball.
“The presentation will be moderated by Vivian Phillips, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Seattle Theatre Group. The talk will be followed by a Q and A session so attendees should definitely come with their questions. A book signing with the Lacks family members will follow the conversation.
“Conversations like this help us begin to grapple with how race, gender, ethics, class, economics, science and medical treatment affect us all individually and intersect in US society. The Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement program at Edmonds Community College enables members of our shared communities to experience and interpret our rapidly changing world through a variety of platforms. By stimulating our imaginations, ACCE gives voice to diverse and under-represented communities, promotes cross-cultural understanding, helps us foster a rich and varied quality of life, and encourages participation in civil society. We believe the Edmonds CC Community Read and the Lacks Family visit to campus accomplishes this and much more!”
For more information on the April 23 talk at 7 p.m. in the EdCC Black Box Theatre, visit the college website.