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WSU Common Reading Welcomes Lacks Family for Jan. 23 Discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s Common Reading Program will host a moderated discussion with David “Sonny” Lacks and Jeri Lacks-Whye Wed. Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum. They are the son and granddaughter of the woman who is the subject of “This Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” this year’s Common Reading book for freshmen. Her cells have been used over the past 60-plus years in countless scientific pursuits worldwide.

The event marks the sixth annual Common Reading Invited Lecture for the popular program. It is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow on the Beasley Concourse.

“We are delighted to welcome the Lacks family to give a more personal insight into the life of Henrietta and her lasting impact,” says Karen Weathermon, co-director of the Common Reading Program. “The book, written and published by Rebecca Skloot in 2010, raises topics that have inspired countless discussions among students and faculty here at WSU, both in first-year classes and in programming beyond them. We are excited to learn more about her from her son and his daughter.”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” describes how cells were taken without permission from the main character, who died at 31 of cervical cancer in Baltimore in 1951.  Those cells became the first immortal cell line when they reproduced successfully and rapidly in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Named “HeLa” cells—derived from the first two letters of her names—they continued to divide and multiply, and went on to be used in the development of vaccines, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization, and were sent on space missions to test who cells react to zero gravity.

That HeLa cells came from Henrietta Lacks wasn’t made public until the 1970s. Her family was approached about giving their cells for research, which they did, also without their consent. They went on to discover that vials of Henrietta’s cells had become the first human biological materials ever bought and sold as part of a multi-billion-dollar industry. In her book, Skloot explores the family’s story. Some profits from the book go to a foundation to support families and victims of medical ethics violations. The Lacks family has never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells.

David “Sonny” Lacks has visited university campuses and libraries across the country talking to audiences about his mother’s important contributions to science. By sharing what it was like to find out about her immortal cells, he brings a personal touch to big issues such as medical experimentation on African Americans, bioethics, legal battles over informed consent and whether we control what comes from our bodies and control any profits. He provides a first-person perspective on the collision between ethics, race, and the commercialization of human tissue, and how the experience changed the Lacks family forever.

Jeri Lacks-Whye has traveled with her father on dozens of visits, adding her own perspective on the legacy of her grandmother, the family, and HeLa cells. She works for the judiciary system in Baltimore in the domestic violence unit. She is one of the Lacks family members who will be a consultant in the much-anticipated HBO movie produced by Oprah Winfrey and Allan Ball based on “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

For additional information about the WSU Common Reading and the Lacks visit on Jan. 23, visit the website at http://CommonReading.wsu.edu.


CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu1-10-13


 

 

WSU Global Campus Hosts Slave- and Slave-Trader Descendants Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf for Jan. 10 Presentation on the Legacy of Slavery and Racism

PULLMAN—Sharon Morgan is an African American woman living in Chicago’s South Side whose ancestors were slaves. Tom DeWolf is a white man living in rural Oregon with family roots in the largest slave-trading dynasty in U.S. history. They explored their common legacy of slavery over a three-year period, became friends, and wrote a book, “Gather at the Table.” On Jan. 10, they will visit Washington State University to share their story at a 7 p.m. presentation in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE), room 203.

The public is invited to this free event which will include videos, readings, and audience participation. It is sponsored by the WSU Global Campus, which provides campus-style events to more than 3,000 WSU Online students around the world through its Global Connections program. [http://connections.wsu.edu/]

The topics of the lecture tie to this year’s Common Reading book in use by WSU freshmen system wide, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Students in Pullman are invited to attend the presentation in person.

The Gather at the Table project details experiences when the authors pursued “using genealogy as an undercurrent to come to terms with the history out of which racism evolved.” Morgan and DeWolf traveled through 27 states and abroad visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, sites of racial terror, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. They visited with each other’s families and engaged in deep conversations about how the lingering trauma of slavery and racism has shaped their lives.

Their shared “healing journey” is documented in their book which was published by Beacon Press in October 2012.

In 2001, DeWolf discovered that he was related to the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history, responsible for transporting at least 10,000 Africans. His book, “Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History,” was published in 2008 by Beacon Press. It is his “memoir of the journey in which 10 family members retraced their ancestors’ steps” from their home in Bristol, Rhode Island, to slave forts on the coast of Ghana where DeWolf’s traded rum for African men, women, and children; and then to the ruins of a family plantation in Cuba where ships often left the slaves for sale and returned to Rhode Island carrying sugar and molasses to make rum. The family journey was filmed in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.” It premiered nationally on the PBS series P.O.V. and was an “Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival.”

Morgan is a marketing communications consultant, a nationally recognized pioneer in multicultural marketing, and a founder of the National Black Public Relations Society. She has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, and for more than 25 years has researched her family history in Alabama’s Lowndes County and Mississippi’s Noxubee County. An avid genealogist, she blogs extensively, leads workshops on African American family history, and founded the website OurBlackAncestry.com, devoted to helping “people appreciate and explore African American family history and culture.”

Her first book, “My Daddy is a Cool Dude,” was published in 1975 by The Dial Press and nominated for the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature. She also co-authored “Real Women Cook: Building Healthy Communities with Recipes that Stir the Soul.”

Both Morgan and DeWolf are members of Coming to the Table, an associate organization of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University; DeWolf serves on the board of Coming to the Table. It “provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery,” according to the website at http://www.comingtothetable.org.

Two additional guest events follow on the heels of the authors’ visit. At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, David “Sonny” Lacks and Jeri Lacks-Whye, the son and granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, will be special guests for a moderated discussion on this year’s Common Reading book in Beasley Coliseum, followed by a book signing. It is hosted by the University College at WSU, in which the Common Reading is a program. More information is available online at http://CommonReading.wsu.edu.

At 7 p.m. Feb. 6, Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves and a consultant to the United Nations, will speak in the CUB Auditorium. His visit is sponsored by the WSU Global Campus.

All of the events are free and open to the public.


CONTACT: Charlie Snyder, Program Specialist, WSU Global Campus, 509-335-2433, snyder_c@wsu.edu

Karen Weathermon, Co-Director of the Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu


 

WSU’s Bill Kabasenche Discusses the Market Value of Human Tissues at a Common Reading Lecture Tuesday, Nov. 13

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University Philosophy Assistant Professor Bill Kabasenche will present the final Common Reading Tuesdays fall lecture Tuesday, Nov. 13, entitled “What’s Your Body Worth? The Ethics of Commodifying Human Tissues.”  His presentation is set for 7 p.m. in Todd 130. The public is welcome.

His lecture springs from topics raised in this year’s Common Reading book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. It details how cells taken without consent from Lacks have been grown in labs and used in a wide variety of applications around the world; the book raises issues about race, culture, economics, ethics, and more. Throughout this academic year, thousands of students are using the book in first-year classes across many disciplines.  Topics from the book are also springboards for Common Reading Tuesdays guest lectures by faculty and other experts.

“Contemporary biomedicine and biotechnology make use of human tissues in a variety of ways,” says Kabasenche, who researches the ethics of biomedical technologies—both the ethics of research and the implications of the application of such technologies.  “Some are used in assisted reproductive technologies.  Some are used in research.  In both research and fertility contexts, market values have come to determine the worth of these tissues.

“What does this imply about the worth of those from whom these tissues come?  What, from an ethical perspective, counts as properly valuing human beings, and what does this imply for tissues taken from them?”

His Common Reading lecture will consider these issues and look at a few prominent cases where these questions come to light.

Kabasenche earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee. In addition to philosophy, he is a participating faculty member in WSU’s Center for Reproductive Biology. He is also co-director of the ethics committee at Pullman Regional Hospital and the director of WSU Global Campus’s Bioethics Graduate Certificate, which is online and course-based.

His is the final presentation in the fall semester lineup of Common Reading Tuesdays lectures and special events. Early in spring semester programming is the Jan. 23, 2013, visit to campus by David Lacks, the son of the main character in this year’s Common Reading book, with a second family member.  An evening moderated discussion that day will be in Beasley Coliseum.

Visit http://CommonReading.wsu.edu for the latest information.


 

CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, University College at WSU, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu

Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu


 

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Historian Presents WSU Common Reading Program Lecture Nov. 5 in Pullman

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s Common Reading Program welcomes its next guest lecturer, Patricia Heberer, to present “Giving a Face to Faceless Victims: Profiles of Disabled Victims of the Nazi ‘Euthanasia’ Program” at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in Todd Hall 116. The public is welcome to the lecture, co-sponsored by the WSU Department of History.

Heberer has been a historian since 1994 at the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.  She is a specialist on medical crimes and eugenics policies in Nazi Germany.

She indicates her lecture will explore the victims of Aktion T4, the name used for Nazi Germany’s “Euthanasia Programme” during which physicians killed 70,000-275,000 Germans judged to be incurably sick from 1939 to 1941, extended unofficially through 1945. These included physically or mentally handicapped people killed by medication, starvation, or in gas chambers. T4 is said by some to be the precursor practice that evolved to the Holocaust of Jews in Europe.

“Dr. Heberer’s lecture will relate well with the topics of research ethics and the effacement of those used as research subjects, as raised in this year’s Common Reading book, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’” says Karen Weathermon, co-director of the program. “In the book, which is being used in first-year classes by thousands of WSU freshman in first-year classes this year, Ms. Lacks’ daughter Elsie died at the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane, likely after having been subjected to gruesome experimentation.”

In an abstract describing her presentation, Heberer asks, “Who were the victims of Nazi ‘euthanasia’ policy?  Until recently, relatively little research has attempted to reconstruct the lives and fates of T4 victims.  Scholarly preoccupation with the over-arching killing apparatus has helped to overshadow the individual identities of these individuals. Lack of adequate documentation has heretofore presented a major obstacle: many patient files have been lost or destroyed, while German privacy laws have ensured that the bulk of these records remained inaccessible to researchers…from what economic, educational, and social backgrounds did these persons stem?   Which kind of illnesses and conditions most often warranted inclusion in the killing operation?  Did a patient’s age, gender, or behavior determine whether that individual lived or died?  Why did the ‘end phase’ of the ‘euthanasia’ program witness an increase in instances in mortality of victim who had little or no pathology, a phenomenon documented in anecdotal evidence at a number of T4 institutions?”

Heberer has been a historian since 1994 at the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM in Washington, D.C.  A specialist on medical crimes and eugenics policies in Nazi Germany, she has written and edited articles and presented numerous lectures and keynote addresses around the world. She authored the book “Children During the Holocaust” in 2010.

Heberer earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University, and her Ph.D. in German and Central European History at the University of Maryland-College Park. She held an exchange doctoral fellowship at the Free University of Berlin.

Heberer’s visit is sponsored by the University College, Common Reading Program, and the Department of History at WSU, and by the Campus Outreach Lecture Program of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies supported by the generosity of Alan Solomon, M.D. Her visit to WSU was arranged by C. Richard King, professor of comparative ethnic studies, who conducted research at the USHMM in summer 2012.

On November 13, the Tuesday following Heberer’s presentation, WSU’s Bill Kabasenche will present “What’s Your Body Worth? The Ethics of Commodifying Human Tissues.”  This will be the final Common Reading Tuesdays presentation this fall semester, with a new schedule of spring 2013 speakers and events set to begin in January. Kabasenche will speak at 7 p.m. in Todd 116.

On January 5, 2013, David Lacks, son of Henrietta Lacks, will visit WSU. He plans an evening lecture in Beasley Coliseum. Details are forthcoming.


 

CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, Common Reading Program, part of the University College at WSU, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu


 

 


 

“Race, Racism, and Science” Topic of WSU Common Reading Lecture by C. Richard King Aug. 28

PULLMAN, Wash.—The social force of racial difference from 1900-1950 and the history of race and science will be explained by Washington State University Professor C. Richard King as he presents the year’s first Common Reading Tuesdays lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, in Todd 116. The public is welcome.

The year-long lecture series features faculty and guest experts who share information on topics raised in the common book in use by thousands of WSU freshmen in dozens of first-year classes across campus. The 2012-13 Common Reading book is the award-winning “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” written by non-fiction science writer Rebecca Skloot.  It is about Lacks and her “immortal cell line” known as HeLa, derived from the first letters of her names.

Cervical cancer cells were taken from her without her knowledge prior to her death at 31 in 1951 for use in scientific research. HeLa cells were used to test the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, and since have been used worldwide for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and much more. The book was published in 2010 and also covers the lives of Lacks’ five children and raises issues about racism, scientific ethics, poverty, and cancer, among others.

“My presentation seeks to put Henrietta Lacks in context and places a special emphasis on issues of race and racism,” says King. “Ultimately, the presentation will deepen understandings of Lacks and her lingering relevance for us.”

A professor of comparative ethnic studies, King researches the racial politics of culture with special interests in the theories of race and racism, white supremacist movements and ideologies, and the forms of memory, representation, identity, and power animating race relations. He teaches many core courses in his department, and has teaching interests that involve the intersections of race, culture, and power. He regularly offers courses in the area of Native American studies and cultural studies, and is developing new courses on race and racism in a global context and race/culture/power in the Pacific Northwest.

King has been on faculty at WSU since 2002 and has served in numerous leadership positions; he recently completed a term as chair of the Dept. of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to WSU he was on faculty at Drake University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Kansas. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Kansas and his doctoral degree from Illinois; all are in anthropology.

The Common Reading Program is a program in the University College at WSU. For more information and upcoming events and speakers, visit http://CommonReading.wsu.edu .


 

SOURCE: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5448, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu


 

WSU Common Reading Lecture Series Kicks Off Tues. Aug. 21 with Showing of “Law & Order” Episode Linked to This Year’s Book

PULLMAN, Wash.—How do television shows base stories on people in the news or in books? Washington State University freshmen reading “The Immortal Story of Henrietta Lacks” in dozens of first-year classes can see for themselves when the Common Reading Program sponsors a showing of an episode from the popular show “Law and Order” Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. in Todd Hall 116.

While the show’s credits state the episode is not based on the lives of real people, the characters and plot in “Immortal” seem to align pretty closely with the facts surrounding the life and times of Lacks.

The common reading book, by non-fiction science writer Rebecca Skloot, is about Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cell line known as HeLa, derived from the first letters of her names.  Cervical cancer cells were taken from her without her knowledge prior to her death at 31 in 1951 for use in scientific research. HeLa cells were used to test the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, and since have been used for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and much more.

Skloot’s book was published in 2010 and covers the lives of Lacks’ five children and raises issues about racism, scientific ethics, poverty, and cancer, among others. It has won numerous awards and has been used for common readings at many universities.  In May 2010, it was announced that Home Box Office (HBO), with Oprah Winfrey‘s Harpo Films and producer Alan Ball, plan to create a film version of the story. With some of the proceeds from the book, Skloot has created a non-profit public charity called The Henrietta Lacks Foundation.

The book is used this year at both WSU and the University of Idaho as their common reading for students.  The Common Reading Program is a program in the University College at WSU.

For more information on the WSU program and upcoming events and speakers, visit CommonReading.wsu.edu.


 

SOURCE: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5448, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu