With the 3-day multi-marketed exhibition having recently concluded in Soho of NYC, there is more talk of the woman people now call the ‘mother of modern medicine,’ Henrietta Lacks. She was a woman diagnosed with cervical cancer, having sought treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 1950’s. During her treatment, cancer cells were extracted from her tumors unbeknownst to her and shortly after was discovered to have been a treasure to medical research, and remains that way to the present day. Henrietta had what other living organisms do not, an immortalized cell line. Unlike most cells, which eventually stop reproducing, her cells, under fair living conditions, reproduce themselves indefinitely. Those cells were cultivated and later titled the HeLa line.
In 1951, Henrietta passed on, but what was taken from her lived on and was pivotal in the discovery of the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, is used for gene map testing, and so much more. Her family was unaware of this remarkable finding for well over 20 years, but now the world celebrates her.
The exhibit was filled with art of different forms dedicated to Henrietta describing the impression that was left upon them of the gift she has given everyone.
Grammy award nominated recording artist, Jasmine Sullivan attended the private reception of the exhibition whilst having recorded a rendition of the Blind Willie Johnson blues record Motherless Children.
Not knowing much about her [Henrietta] I felt was criminal. As an African American, we are often unnoticed for our contributions. How can you X someone out who is responsible for having saved so many lives?
The HBO Film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks stars Oprah Winfrey, Courtney B. Vance, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Rose Byrne. It premieres on April 22nd at 8pm EST.
Check out its trailer: