Despite a few outliers who say they “can’t trust women,” if there’s one thing black women have, it’s their “girls.”
Knowing that, a group of black women—including actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, who herself has battled breast cancer, and Alicia Keys, whose mother is a breast-cancer survivor—have partnered with the Susan G. Komen foundation, the Ad Council (the nonprofit behind the Love Has No Labels campaign) and Steve Stoute’s Translation agency to launch Know Your Girls, a campaign that will help black women understand their breast-cancer risk and take charge of their breast health.
Know Your Girls encourages black women to treat the “girls” below their neck with the same love and fierce loyalty they share with the women in their lives.
“This is a campaign that speaks to black women, but the goal was really to have a conversation and build a community,” Shyrea Thompson, senior director for strategic initiatives at Susan G. Komen, told The Glow Up. “While it’s true that we die more from breast cancer, we wanted this to not just be about the disease, but be about the community, so it comes from an empowerment place, not about fear or stigma about dying.”
Thompson explained that though black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, it’s not something that is readily spoken about.
“So if you think about it from a numbers standpoint, everybody, often in the black community—someone they know, someone they work with, someone in their family or church—has been impacted. They might not be talking about it, but we really want to change that,” Thompson said.
Thompson noted that Komen was very strategic in not launching Know Your Girls during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because the foundation wanted this black-women-targeted, for-us, by-us campaign to stand on its own.
Thompson shared several key takeaways:
“First, we want black women to understand their breast-cancer risk; we want them to have conversations with their families because then they understand their family health history,” Thompson said. “Then, you go to your doctor with those two pieces of information; you can have an informed conversation with your doctor, understand your breast-cancer risk. That’s really the goal.”
Knowing is half the battle, and the Know Your Girls website is chock-full of information, connecting women to online resources and fostering community through stories and prompts that encourage dialogue.
Thompson said that younger women, especially, are sometimes turned away or dismissed when they go to their doctors with abnormal issues concerning their breasts, but black women, in particular, are diagnosed younger and with more aggressive types of breast cancer.
The Glow Up tip: In addition to the website, you can get to know your girls on Instagram and Twitter. Know Your Girls will be holding events in 10 key African-American markets—Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Tidewater/Virginia Beach, Va.; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Dallas; Houston; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; and Chicago.