SUBTITLE: Founder Anana Harris Parris making black women aware of connection between talc powder use and ovarian cancer
No one within the halls of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm in suburban Atlanta were prepared for the heart-wrenching tragedy that would visit them until a mother of a deceased woman helped put new awareness on talc powder and the rise of ovarian cancer within the African American female community.
The mother explained that her daughter was a healthy, health conscious 33-year-old woman who was a vegetarian. But the daughter was now dead due to ovarian cancer that the medical practitioners said was caused by the repeated use of ovarian cancer.
When Anana Harris Parris learned of this and other cases, it was like she was punched in the gut. She was in a state of arrested breathing because, until she was handed a stack of papers by the Davis Bozeman Firm, Parris was unaware of the dangers of talc powder that she and millions of other black women used for feminine hygiene purposes.
After she recovered from her shock, Parris founded SisterCARE Alliance and SisterCare Coalition – which includes scientists, gynecologists, civic and civil rights activists – to put the connection of talc power and ovarian cancer on black women’s radar with all deliberate speed and purposes.
Paris and the law firm discovered that there was over 20 years of research that connected ovarian cancer and talc powder that was deliberately hidden from black women by respected multinational corporations
“I did see a couple of cases about talc powder,” Parris admitted. “But I really didn’t understand the gravity of the situation until a short stack of the papers supplied by the Davis Bozeman Law Firm. The short stack of papers outlined some things to me that made me gasp. It disgusted me. And I took it personally that me, as a woman of color who supported companies, that I know find out they were sneaking ingredients that can harm you. To say that I took I personally would be an understatement.”
Mawuli Mel Davis, the more vocal and visible of the two partners in the Davis Bozeman Firm, said “as we did our research, we discovered that juries in St. Louis had made the connection between talc powder and ovarian cancer. And not only that, but they discovered that the companies failed to warn, and that angered the jurors more than anything else, for the failure of Johnson & Johnson to warn the consumer which has been predominantly women of color.”
What infuriated the Parris even more was the fact that they found out that Johnson & Johnson and other corporations were losing customers after white women were made aware of the dangers – therefore they purposely started marketing the products to black women, knowing they were unaware of the dangers and risks.
That was about the time Parris discovered an idea for making black women aware of talc and its potentially dangerous properties.
“If every product in this country showed us the picture and made the warning clear of what could happen if you used this product. Then the healthcare decisions that you make are your own,” she explains. “But what we’re dealing with right now is that we’re not making self-care decision fully informed.”
“So what we’re doing is starting a campaign to shift the self-care behavior of an entire mass of people who are targeted by companies.”
Noreen ‘The Science Queen’ Raines, scientist and founder of Big Thinkers Science Exploration, said “we black female scientists have been wanting something like this for a long time. We read the labels, we understand the labels, but we know there are large groups of women of color do not. And we wished we had a way to launch an initiative to women of color to do this,” she said. “We should know what’s in (the products). We shouldn’t have to worry about our safety and our health when it comes to the things that we use. And this campaign is designed to let us know what we’re using and what the risks are.”
Parris created a powerful coalition of professional women in Atlanta make black woman more aware of talc powder and ovarian cancer. This includes:
Noreen ‘The Science Queen’ Raines, Scientist and Founder of Big Thinkers Science Exploration ; Monica Simpson, Executive Director of Sister Song ; Anne Collins Smith, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Charity Jordan, ArtisticDirector Media, Leah Jones, Sister Song; Valerie Randolph, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter, Vanessa Saez, R3b3l M3dia, Kareena Cumberbatch, R.N. & Doula; Veleda Cofield, Jack & Jill of Greater Atlanta; Malika Redmond, Women Engaged; Dr. Zenobia L. Day, Heartbeat Markets & Joe Beasley Foundation; Dr. Haiba Sonyika, Exclusive Women’s Healthcare Obstetrics and Gynecology, Natasha Allrich, Vision Manifest, Lovette Kargbo-Thompson, National Domestic Workers Association, Attorney Roodgine Bray, Deborah Woods, Nia Walker & Marlie Mahogany, Revolutionary Moms Club and many more.
According to Parris, the campaign has three parts:
- “First there is the behavioral change … ‘ReadTheLabelSis’
- “The second thing we’re asking you to do is ‘TossTheTalc’.”
- Third thing is: “Everyone within the sound of my voice, go home and into your bathroom and look at the labels of the products. And we want you to post that you are reading the labels, and if you find talc, then show that you ‘tossing the talc.’ That’s how you become self-care advocate for others,” Parris said.
Dr. Haiba Sonyika of Exclusive Women’s Healthcare Obstetrics and Gynecology, said “studies have shown that talc can be a causing factor in ovarian cancer. Talc can go in as far as the ovaries. And when it reaches there, it can cause inflammation. This is really a healthcare crises and something that women need to empower ourselves.”
“It is a shame that we in the African American community are just hearing about this,” Parris said. “So, please, all of us, spread the word.”