What do black music and the American Cancer Society have in common? As an African American woman (and a lover of music), in my opinion, it’s the opportunity to bring the cancer awareness and prevention message to a community with a high burden of cancer. The Essence Music Festival, which is expected to attract 200,000 music lovers to New Orleans this weekend, is described as the largest annual gathering of African Americans in celebration of black music. As I – along with the American Cancer Society’s More Birthdays Crew – prepare for our third trip to the Festival (July 6-8), I have in mind the sobering statistics about the disproportionate burden of cancer on my vibrant, fun-loving community:
- African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers.
- In 2007-2008, half of African American women were obese – obesity increases the risk of many cancers such as cancers of the breast, colon and kidney.
- According to the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, about half of African American adults reported no leisure-time physical activity, with African American women more likely than men to be physically inactive – studies have shown that regular physical activity is associated with lower risk of several types of cancers.
Music lovers from across the US will come to New Orleans not just for the Essence Music Festival, but for the delicious food, block parties, and other entertainment the city has to offer. As the More Birthdays Crew heads to New Orleans, we hope to help our community and festival attendees stay well by providing them with tips to prevent cancer, such as fun physical activities (yes, dancing is one); we hope to help them get well by sharing resources and programs in their communities, such as our 24-hour call center (1.800.227.2345) and our Road to Recovery® program for those currently going through cancer and needing rides to treatment; we hope to celebrate with those who have survived cancer; and we hope to reflect with those who have lost their loved ones to the disease.
The theme for this year’s Festival is “your life, your party, and your purpose.” So I’d like to add another cause for celebration – celebrating More Birthdays as we aim for a world with less cancer in every community including ours. Reducing the burden of cancer in our community will be music to our ears, and certainly music we’d like to do “The Wobble” to!
To follow the More Birthdays crew’s activities at the Essence Music Festival on Twitter – @MoreBirthdays (hashtag #EssenceFest)