On October 27, more than 100 people gathered for the 14th Annual Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch at Fenway Health.
This event serves as a place for women to connect, learn about cancer-related issues, and nourish mind, body and spirit. This year’s theme “Sharing Stories to Build Community: Nurturing the Creative Parts of Each Other” inspired attendees to share their experiences, laugh, cry and celebrate strength and survival.
The program was emceed by Dr. Yvonne Gomez Carrion of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dean Renée White of Simmons College gave a keynote address, speaking to the importance of sisterhood and advocacy for our own health. Attendees danced as RN Debbie Lyn Toomey presented Healthy Steps, a movement program designed to improve overall wellness for anyone, including cancer patients and survivors who may have limited mobility. Youth performers from Books of Hope and the Young Women’s Health Leadership Academy offered a touching spoken-word performance that earned them a standing ovation and reminded everyone that Audre Lorde’s message continues to resonate loud and clear.
Audre Lorde was a self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who bravely wrote about her struggles with breast cancer, mastectomy, and a medical establishment that was insensitive to women’s health issues. Lorde emphasized the importance of women sharing their experiencing, speaking out about the issues that affect them, and building community for change. She wrote, “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
Each year awards are given to two leaders in women’s health, who, like Audre Lorde, have shown strong commitment to social justice, health advocacy, and care for underserved populations. Chien-Chi Huang received the Trailblazer Award for her inspiring work with the Asian Breast Cancer Project. Dr. Nancy Norman, now the Medical Director of Integration at the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership, received the Spirit of Fire Award for her career-long commitment to advancing women’s health and providing quality health care for all women. Denise Bentley, a former Fenway employee who founded the brunch, received special recognition as well.
Thank you to a huge group of volunteers, advisors, and community members who made this event a success. Take a look through the photos and you’ll see some of the joy, spirit, memories and emotion that make this event so special.
Simmons College, Facing Cancer Together, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and the Women’s Community Cancer Project served as community sponsors. Susan G. Komen of Massachusetts and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were premier sponsors.