Take 3: I Got The Booster Yesterday

It’s time to Break It Down!

A year ago, I penned one of my shortest posts ever; 194 words. We were days away from one of the most consequential Presidential Elections ever. What may now sound like hyperbole landed then like outrageous understatement. Four more years of Trump? Come on man!

Today’s post is personal. I secured my COVID-19 Booster Shot yesterday. This is not a message in a bottle. You don’t want the shot? Do you. But if your bravado results in a case, be just as bodacious in declining a hospital bed needed by someone who adhered to medical protocols. “Take 3: I Got The Booster Yesterday!” (191 words)

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

There4 are no other links for this post:

WHO Honors Henrietta Lacks: Better Late Than Never

It’s time to Break It Down! 

On February 3, 2010, I posted a blog about the story of Henrietta Lacks. Mrs. Lacks is a little known (to much of the world) legend (in the fields of cervical oncology and cellular biology). If you haven’t heard of her, it’s likely due to the fact she earned her fabled status on the patient side of medical miracles, not the scientist or physician side.

Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization honored the late Henrietta Lacks, whose cells have been used for innovative scientific research for decades, with an award in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of medical science.

Lacks, a Black woman, was suffering from cervical cancer when she was being treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. A surgeon removed cells from her cervix without her consent during a procedure and that sample enabled a doctor at the hospital to create the first human cell line to reproduce outside the body.

The cell line, now known as HeLa cells, allowed scientists to experiment and create life-saving medicine including the polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization and gene mapping as well as helped advance cancer and AIDS research.

Lacks, 31, died that same year from cancer, but her influence on the medical science field lived on, leading to the WHO Director-General’s award.

In his statement on the matter, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “In honouring Henrietta Lacks, WHO acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past scientific injustices, and advancing racial equity in health and science. It’s also an opportunity to recognize women — particularly women of colour — who have made incredible but often unseen contributions to medical science.”

Several of Lacks’ family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, attended the award ceremony at the WHO office in Geneva. Her 87-year-old son, Lawrence Lacks, Sr., accepted the award on her behalf.

Lawrence said, “We are moved to receive this historic recognition of my mother, Henrietta Lacks — honouring who she was as a remarkable woman and the lasting impact of her HeLa cells. My mother’s contributions, once hidden, are now being rightfully honored for their global impact.

My mother was a pioneer in life, giving back to her community, helping others live a better life and caring for others. In death she continues to help the world. Her legacy lives on in us and we thank you for saying her name — Henrietta Lacks.”

Below, is her story, as conveyed in my initial blog on the subject:

This past Monday was the first day of February. As we all know, February is the shortest month of the year, having 28 days, with every fourth year, a Leap Year, having 29 days (the next one in 2012). But did you know, during one period, February had 29 days, and 30 days during Leap Years? Augustus Caesar is said to have taken a day from February to add to August, so that the month named in his honor would have 31 days. Moreover, February has had several names, and has only been known as February for a little more than a century.

You also probably know that February has the distinction of having been designated Black History Month in the United States and Canada. As such, there is usually an infusion of ethnic TV programming, media coverage, civic, and religious observances.

In framing topics for exploration, I have seldom settled on a topic, or even a theme, the day before posting. It is most often the truest expression of “just in time” delivery. However, I have decided to depart from my pattern. Over four Wednesdays in February, I plan to explore of four African Americans who made outstanding contributions to this Country; their Country…our Country; America, and frankly in some cases, the world!

  • Who? There are many African Americans, who not only have made enormous contributions to society, but who garnered a fair share of fame and notoriety for their pursuits. Today’s subject is not among that list. Yet, Henrietta Lacks is a giant in terms of the relative importance of her contributions to life as we know it today. Ms. Lacks lived only 31 years, and has been dead nearly twice as long as she lived; succumbing to cervical cancer in 1951.
  • What? Ms. Lacks, a mother of five (2 daughters and 3 sons) died from a virulent strain of cervical cancer. During the course of her treatment, doctors removed cells from her, for research purposes…without her knowledge. This was a common practice then and now.
  • When? On February 1, 1951, shortly after participating in a march in New York to support finding a cure for polio, Ms. Lacks visited Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Though treated for the disease, she would live only 6 more months. 
  • Where? Ms. Lacks was born Henrietta Pleasant, in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1920. After marrying David Lacks, they eventually migrated to Baltimore County, Maryland where David worked in a shipyard. Ms. Lacks was buried in her native home community, in Halifax County, Virginia
  • Why? In most folks’ blueprint of choice, they would acquire fame and notoriety in life, if at all. For some though, it comes, only through death. This was the case with Henrietta. She was posthumously catapulted to what measure of notoriety she has attained because of the unique characteristics of her cells. 
  • How? Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a scientific breakthrough related to Ms. Lacks’ cells. In a departure from anything the scientists had seen before, the cells culled from Ms. Lacks continued to grow, outside of her body, and after her death. In fact, they did not just survive, they multiplied. In a circular irony, cells from Ms. Lacks’ culture were used to help Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vaccine for polio in 1955. Of course, Ms. Lacks had marched to help find a cure for that disease just four years earlier.

The story of Henrietta Lacks is powerful in its simplicity. Viewed in the absence of the critical lens of inquiry, it has the sound of saga about a young woman who died too soon; but whose death provided the gift of life, and healthier lives for countless others. In reality it is that…and so very much more.

Henrietta was a poor black woman who was treated in some instances as incidental to the research conducted by the staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Eventually, as the story gained traction and became more widely disseminated, the precious cells Ms. Lacks “donated” given the name HeLa, in her honor. 

The chief researcher in this matter, Dr. George Gey, had been searching for a way to keep cells alive outside the body. The cells taken from Henrietta were so incredibly aggressive that in a few short months, the cancer had spread throughout her entire body. The very properties that led to Ms. Lacks’ demise, most likely served as the catalyst for Dr. Gey’s success in inducing cells to continue growing for more than a few weeks outside the body. Those properties also led to breakthroughs in cancer research, drug testing, the development of Dr. Salk’s polio vaccine, insight into facilitating the survival of other cells, and ultimately, a new paradigm in biology.

It was discovered eventually, that HeLa cells are so ubiquitous that they literally took over countless cell samples, resulting in contaminating samples, and invalidating research results. That is unfortunate. But I would argue the real victims in the HeLa story are the Lacks. In addition to not gaining permission toextract Henrietta’s cell tissue for research purposes, the virtual explosion of the HeLa phenomenon had been unfolding for decades before the family ever learned of it.

The growth and sale of HeLa, which continues unabated today, has generated countless millions of dollars in sales revenue, lead to saving lives all across America, and around the world, and furthered medical research initiatives for nearly 60 years. So, what have the Lacks gained from this you may ask? 

Nothing; nada; zero; zilch!

Think on that “Profile in Black History: Henrietta Lacks!” Today, you got the remix. “WHO Honors Henrietta Lacks: Better Late Than Never!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com.

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:






































COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan

It’s time to Break It Down!

Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the reigning NBA G.O.A.T., has come down on the side of the NBA’s strategy for player vaccination. As the League’s preseason is underway, presaging next week’s Season Opener, lots of attention has been garnered by several of the League’s marquee players. 

Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving, stars for the Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets, respectively, have been cited in the last couple of weeks for their controversial stances on the vaccine. Wiggins initially, in interviews, stated his refusal to get the vaccine. Irving has declined to state his vaccination status, saying it’s personal. Both of their positions were more complicated than that of many other players because Health Departments in the cities of San Francisco and New York, where the Warriors and Nets play their home games, have established provisions that forbid allowing unvaccinated players from the home team from entering the arena. The proviso does not apply to players from visiting teams.

On September 28th, LeBron James told the press assembled at the Lakers’ Media Day, that he’d been vaccinated, despite his initial reservations. Ultimately, he concluded it was in the best interest of he and his family to get vaccinated. James said he did not plan to encourage other players to get vaccinated, calling it an individual choice. The Lakers Coach, Frank Vogel, indicated that the team is fully vaccinated. On October 3rd, Steve Nash, the Warrior’s Coach, announced that Wiggins had relented and gotten vaccinated.

There is no NBA vaccine mandate. The Players’ Union declared that a nonstarter at the outset of negotiations about determining and rolling out League-wide Covid restrictions. On October 10, Nets Coach Steve Nash announced the Nets expected to play home games without Kyrie; yesterday, General Manager, Sean Marks, released a statement indicating the team has suspended Kyrie Irving until he gets vaccinated. He added, the team concluded their players must be available full-time.

It is within this context that Jordan’s statement emerges. The six-time Champion and Finals MVP, and current Charlotte Hornets team owner made his statement in the wake of James’ overcoming his vaccine skepticism, Wiggins’ reversal, and Irving’s criticizing the League’s Covid Guidelines and resisting vaccination (which led to his suspension). Jordan, who is 58 years-old, voiced his support by saying:

“I am total in unison with the league, and I think everybody, you know, has been speaking about the vaccinations. And, you know, I’m a firm believer in science and, you know, I’m going to stick with that and hopefully, everybody abides by whatever the league sets as the rules.

I think once everybody buys in, we’re going the be fine.”

Despite the lack of a League-wide mandate, the NBA reports that over 90 percent of the League’s players have been vaccinated, including several entire teams. Andrew Wiggins recently received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after holding out until the start of the NBA’s preseason this month. He admitted, he’s still a skeptic, saying in a press conference after the Warriors and Trailblazers played a preseason game:

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA. It was a tough decision. Hopefully, it works out in the long run and in 10 years I’m still healthy.

It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that’s going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was kind of forced to.”

In the overall scheme of things, it sounds as if the NBA’s vaccination plan will succeed. Its Ninety percent participation rate dwarfs that of the nation as a whole. It also appears that arenas across the League are implementing protocols to protect fans, players, and anyone who enters the facilities. It’s a long season; it will take time for it to play out in all relevant dimensions. Considering all that has unfolded to date, it’s refreshing to know that while some of the players remain unconvinced regarding the viability of this matter so vital to the health and welfare of all of them, as well as all of us, the G.O.A.T. and the King (and perhaps future G.O.A.T.) are on the same page. “COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:





And The Winner Is: Bubba!

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m a southerner, all day long. As the saying goes, “I’m a Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, and when I die, I’ll be a Tar Heel dead. Speaking of the Tar Heels, the nickname for University of North Carolina (UNC) sports teams, and alumni, and more broadly, for denizens of the North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, the name Bubba has been indelibly integrated into our lexicon of appellations. Since November 14, 2011, Lawrence R. Cunningham, familiarly known as Bubba, has served as UNC’s athletic Director. I digress.

This post is about a different Bubba, Bubba Wallace. Meanwhile, I’ll spare you my varied contemplations about guys called Bubba.

Back to the story. Bubba Wallace made history Monday, becoming just the second Black driver to win NASCAR’s Cup Series race, the association’s top series. Wallace is the first Black man to win the Cup Series race since NASCAR Hall of Fame racer Wendell Scott, in 1963. It would be nearly impossible, and totally inappropriate to omit noting that when Scott won the race, he never took possession of the Trophy. Only this past August, NASCAR presented Scott’s family the winner’s treasure.

On December 1, 1963, Wendell Scott won the Cup Series at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Scott didn’t get to celebrate his win and didn’t receive a trophy as part of the standard post-race presentation. At the end of the race, Buck Baker was flagged the winner and it wasn’t until the official scoring review that race officials determined Scott had won the event by two laps – with Baker finishing second.

Even with that revelation, it took nearly 58 years to approximate righting such an egregious wrong. Scott, who died in 1990, never received the spoils of victory. That Wendell Scott lived more than a quarter of a century after winning the race, and still didn’t get his trophy is an abomination. The fact that it took another 30 plus for NASCAR to award the Trophy posthumously is in a word, shameful. But, if they could wait more than half a century, it’s conceivable they could have somehow rationalized never doing it. I guess such abuses of all things civilized are the bases for the aphorism, “better late than never.”

Bubba Wallace is an Alabama native. Though he claimed not to often think about matters in terms of his being just the second Black driver to win the race, he conceded that when he did, he recognized his win brought a lot of joy and emotion to his family, friends, and fans. He deemed it, “Pretty fitting that it comes here in Talladega.”

Wallace came to notoriety last summer when a noose was found in his garage at Talladega. To come full circle from the circus that broke out over that occasion, had to be satisfying. In 2020, he was NASCAR’s lone Black driver, and drove for racing royalty, Richard Petty’s team. After the kerfuffle, he left Team Petty, and later signed with a new team, that was literally a “new team.” Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin formed a team and made Wallace it first driver. The Cup Series win at Talladega was a breakthrough moment for driver and team. Jordan and Hamlin were both already winners. Monday, however, belonged to Wallace. “And The Winner Is: Bubba!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below: