For the 17th year in a row, those whose lives have been touched by cancer gathered to honor the courage of survivors and celebrate the legacy of a poet and social justice advocate. The 17th Annual Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch brought together approximately 100 people, who filled the 9th floor of Fenway Health’s Ansin Building with an atmosphere of friendship, community, and above all, incredible resilience.
The event was highlighted by several powerful presenters and performers. Jackie Harris recalled her battle with breast cancer and the power that she found in community, particularly through the support she found from the Facing Cancer Together group. Za’Cari Thomas performed a spoken word poem about his struggle to accept his diagnosis of cancer, discovering new priorities in his life, and the strength he has found through battling cancer. Musukulla Massaquoi spoke about her breast cancer and how she found meaning after her diagnosis by mentoring young girls about body acceptance.
Two community members were honored during the brunch for their tireless work to improve the health and lives of others. Dr. Yvonne Carrion-Gomez, gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was this year’s Spirit of Fire Award Recipient. Dr. Carrion-GomezYvonne believes in a holistic approach to health care, caring for patients with medical and social challenges such as hypertension, diabetes, seizure disorders, autoimmune diseases, obesity, domestic violence, substance abuse and homelessness. She is deeply devoted to her patients, clinical work, and education of future clinicians, working to educate all about their bodies’ functioning and resilience.
Adrianna Rosembert received this year’s Trailblazer Award. Rosembert is the Self-Advocacy Organizer at Rosie’s Place, a shelter for poor and homeless women in Boston’s South End. Her mission is to empower the women of Rosie’s Place to work towards and achieve self-sufficiency by building their knowledge and confidence through interactive workshops and trainings that explicitly ac knowledge overlapping systems of oppression. As a queer woman of color, Rosembert understands the impact of systemic oppression on quality of life, as well as the importance of safe spaces, and is currently working towards educating Rosie’s Place guests on how to be informed, effective allies for LBTQ people.
Trailblazer Award winner Adrianna Rosembert and Spirit of Fire Award winner Dr. Yvonne Carrion Gomez holding one of their awards.
The brunch also gave attendees the opportunity to express themselves and reflect on their experiences. Many posted quotes or mantras on the wall, sharing thoughts that inspired them throughout their battles with cancer. Quotes included:
“I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and I lost my breasts. I have not lost my power and strength and I continue to grow stronger.”
“Power can come from small things and big things, from smiles and kind words to lifelong caring and loving relationships with others.”
“I am not my cancer. It is an experience that has helped me reprioritize my life.”
Created in 1999, the Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch is named in memory of Audre Lorde, a self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia. She bravely documented her 14-year battle against breast cancer in “The Cancer Journals” and in her book of essays “A Burst of Light.” Throughout the course of her life, Lorde battled a medical establishment that was too often ignorant of cultural differences and insensitive to women’s health issues.
In her spirit, the Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch is held annually at Fenway Health as a place for cancer survivors and their supporters. Fenway is proud to provide this space for community members to connect, learn about cancer-relates issues, celebrate, and heal.
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