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Kalamazoo names Oct. 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day, honors local ties

Henrietta Lacks Day poster
Posted at 7:12 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 19:31:22-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The city of Kalamazoo declared October 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day, in hopes of honoring a Black woman whose cells have become instrumental in medical research

“It was a simple ask that the city of Kalamazoo would honor her life and her legacy by creating a day that will be set aside to recognize her,” said Jermaine Jackson, who sits on the Kalamazoo school board.

A simple ask became monumental for Jackson, because he's also the grand nephew of Henrietta Lacks.

“I think sometimes you can get so deep into science, it can sort of become dehumanizing. And so, I wanted to bring the humanity back to it by letting them know that though her cells have done like amazing things for the world, that she was a mother, she was a wife, a daughter, a sister, she was a human,” he said.

Lacks was a Black woman with terminal cervical cancer. She was treated at Johns Hopkins University where her cells were taken and experimented on without her knowledge.

“One of those samples were cancerous. And at some point, they discovered that the cell wouldn't die. That cell stayed alive, and it became the basis for modern day science,” Jackson told FOX 17 News.

Her cells became known as HeLa Cells, which grow rapidly and can multiply.

Tuesday night, the Kalamazoo City Hall will be lit purple in her honor.

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