Breast Cancer Awareness Goes Beyond October

Breast Cancer Awareness Goes Beyond October

In case you missed the memo, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is officially over. However, the fight to bring awareness to the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women is a year-long battle.

That is why women like Ann-Marie Appiah have made it their mission to promote educate and promote early detection of the disease among women. “You shouldn’t wait until something bad has happened before you’re ready to fight,” Ann-Marie says. The founder of Painted Pink, an organization dedicated to increasing breast Cancer awareness among millennials, shares a few tips for our readers below:

The earlier you receive an exam, the better.

Research shows that 25% of new breast cancer cases are among patients under 40, which is why early detection is so critical. In addition to performing monthly self-exams a few days after your menstrual cycle, Ann-Marie recommends that you also request a breast exam during your annual gynecological exam. “Do not leave that table until they have also done a breast exam,” she says.

Then, of course, there is the traditional mammogram, an x-ray exam used to screen for breast cancer. In many cases, medical professionals do not recommend that women begin receiving regular mammograms, until they are at least 40 years of age. However, having a history of breast cancer in your family may warrant the need for earlier testing. “If you do know that someone in your family has had breast cancer, you can call your insurance company to make sure that they code you correctly [in order to receive a referral for a mammogram,]” Ann-Marie says.

And, don’t worry. The Painted Pink founder recognizes that mammograms can be a bit painful for some women, but the pain is so worth it. “Would you rather have five seconds of your life in pain, or would you rather have to fight for your life?” she asks.

Ann-Marie Appiah, founder of Painted Pink

Ann-Marie Appiah, founder of Painted Pink

A healthier lifestyle does make a difference.

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of breast cancer, but one factor that many medical professionals agree on is your lifestyle. Certain foods have been linked to the disease, so monitoring your intake of snacks that are loaded with sodium, caffeine, soy and cholesterol may be your best bet.

You should also make it a priority to remain physically active. Some activities that Ann-Marie suggests is soul-cycling, hiking with girlfriends, or even yoga.

But, regardless of how you choose to maintain a healthier lifestyle, the bottom line is to start today while there’s still time. “A lot of the warriors who are fighting for their lives now talk about how they are cutting out the [unhealthy foods] now,” Ann-Marie says. “They are now saying, ‘Had I known what I know now, I would’ve done this a lot sooner.’”

Being diagnosed doesn’t mean it’s all over for you.

“Having cancer is nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t indicate a death sentence,” Ann-Marie says. As if being diagnosed isn’t stressful enough, deciding on what to do next can be even more overwhelming. “The first thing you should do after being diagnosed, particularly for a woman of color, is to find a doctor that [you love],” Ann-Marie says. “It needs to be someone that you can almost consider as part of your extended family.”

The second step is to find someone to serve as your constant support throughout the entire process. It should be someone that you are able to be completely vulnerable with about what you are going through. “There are so many millennials who are sick, who aren’t letting people know, and aren’t taking the days off,” Ann-Marie says. “They are literally fighting for their lives at their desk or cubicle [for many reasons], and it’s really sad.”

Black women are often taught to be strong for others, but Ann-Marie says being diagnosed with Breast Cancer is one of the few times when you are allowed to get support from someone else for a change. “It’s all about your mindset,” she says.

 There’s a seat for all of us at the table.

Perhaps you are someone who would love to participate in the fight against breast cancer but have no idea where to start. Well, Ann-Marie says sometimes it’s as simple as expressing interest and being supportive. “Solange [Knowles] has a new album that is about having ‘A Seat at the Table,’” the Painted Pink founder says. “Invite yourself to have a seat at the table.”

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be directly affected by breast cancer in order to promote awareness. It can be as simple as volunteering at a local clinic or participating in a fundraiser. “It’s all about loving yourself to the tenth degree and doing everything you can to support yourself and the people you love,” Ann Marie says.

For more information about Painted Pink, visit PaintedPink.org.

 

Tell us what you are doing to support breast cancer awareness below.

 

Spotlight: Bringing Ministry to the Streets through Spoken Word

Spotlight: Bringing Ministry to the Streets through Spoken Word

Anthony “BreevEazie” Lowery is no stranger to the world of Christian hip-hop. In addition to being a member of a rap group, he is also an advocate for youth and a soldier for Christ. Find out what the husband, father, youth minister and veteran lyricist has to say about some of his past and current projects and even a new style of poetry he’s been working on lately below:

How did you get into spoken word?

I’ve always been into hip-hop, but the thing that made me want to do spoken word specifically was when Deaf Poetry Jam came out on HBO. I was a big fan of that show and that’s when I really ventured off into poetry. Spoken word kind of met hip-hop right there in the middle. I was also a battle rapper, and that’s where I got my roots. A lot of rap battles are done acapella, so [spoken word] rhymes like poetry but you get to slow it down a bit. Once I gave my life to Christ, I sort of got away from battle rap. I saw it as a form of tearing people down, so I kind of got away from it.

Do you have other projects that you’ve worked on in the past?

I do other material, but it’s never anything that would go against my Christianity. I’m in a group called Verbal Kwest. We put out an album awhile ago called Batman and Batman. It did pretty well. But my first album was called Baby Food, and it’s a classic as far as Christian hip-hop now. For a lot of people, it was considered one of the first good gospel rap albums. I was the first one from Chicago with nationwide distribution.

Tell us a bit more about your creative process.

Right now, I’m working with a new style of poetry, and I’m actually happy because I got to flex it on these new videos. I get to put some sort of music track behind the lyrics. The music isn’t complicated. It’s something you can flow to but not have to stay on beat where you’re married to the beat like hip hop. The music allows me to get a better feeling for everything, then I create a track that matches that feel. The less instruments, the better, which allows you to travel around the track. Then I stop and think about what it is that God wants me to say, what needs to be said, and what I’m trying to convey. Then, I just get there with the words and write until I get the product I’m looking for.

What inspired the lyrics for the videos you created for the Back to Church campaign?

I’m actually a “people studier.” I’m kind of the person that everyone talks to, because I know how to shut up. (laughs) I’m a youth minister and I work with a lot of people in social services, so I take the ministry to the streets. Social services has always been my thing. I’ve seen and heard a lot of things, so I wanted to get that out there when it was time for me to talk. For me, it was about “What do the people need to hear?” or “What have I not heard out there?”

Tell us a little more about your life as an advocate for youth.

In the past I was the youth director at my church in Chicago. But I’ve also worked with companies and organizations that are specific to youth ministry, including youth events and youth revivals. I’ve also run mentoring programs and was the director of a recreation center. I’m all for anything involving youth!

What advice do you have for future Christian artists who have something to say but no idea where to start?

I would definitely tell them to listen to God more than you listen to other people. As an artist, you have to be able to tap into God directly. People will push their visions on you and say what they think you should say [in your lyrics]. Let God confirm your words. And also, I would say to just be you. Be yourself, and you’ll be different.

Check out one of BreevEazie’s videos on getting the community back to church below:

Terence Crutcher, Kaepernick, and Social Injustice: Where Do We Go From Here?

Terence Crutcher, Kaepernick, and Social Injustice: Where Do We Go From Here?

When will this nightmare end? On Monday, our nation added another hashtag to our timelines and newsfeeds after learning of yet another unarmed Black man being gunned down by police.

But, Terence Crutcher was more than just another hashtag. He was active in the church choir, a father of four, a son, and a twin. In fact, he and his twin sister celebrated their 40th birthday a month ago, but you probably won’t hear about much of this on the news. Instead, for the next several weeks, our lives will be inundated with media coverage of Terence’s final moments at every turn.

History shows that we are only left with two options here. We can either watch the video footage that has already been shared thousands of times on social media or continue scrolling down our feeds, only to find an abundance of statuses and memes addressing the incident.

Although this story is still developing and we do not have all of the details on exactly what happened this week, I think we can all agree that this scenario is becoming all too common.

Recent studies show that although Black Americans make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, we are 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers. But instead, we have turned our attention to burning football jerseys and waiting to see who will be the next athlete to join Colin Kaepernick in his quest to bring awareness to the social injustice that is plaguing our nation.

Acts 17:26 says, “ From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth.” Yes, we are all created equally in God’s eyes, but the above statistics paint a different picture.

Kaepernick addresses his supporters in a recent Instagram post and ends his caption by saying, “I believe in the people, and WE can be the change!” We may agree with his statement, but how many of us are really willing to do something to see that this change is manifested?

Instead, many of us seem to be losing sight of what really matters.

Yes, Kaepernick made the decision to exercise his freedom and leverage his platform by kneeling during the national anthem, and no, some of us may not agree with it. However, I think we can all agree that something must be done to show that enough is enough.

But, the lingering question is, “What?”

When will we, as a nation, get to the point where we say, “Something has to be done,” and work to find a solution that truly does provide liberty and justice for all, regardless of their race?

When will our voices be heard? And, what can we as individuals do in order to help bring justice to Terence Crutcher and so many others whose lives have been reduced to yet another hashtag?

Colin Kaepernick and many others have found peaceful ways to express their frustration with the recent injustices that plague our nation. And, although Kaepernick is one of the more famous figures who have decided to use his platform for social justice, hundreds, and even thousands, of people of all races are working tirelessly to bring awareness to this ever-growing, national problem.

So, instead of only opting to be vocal on social media about the death of Terence Crutcher and so many others, what do you plan to do to ensure that your voice is heard?

Share your thoughts below. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t Believe the Hype: Keeping It 100 About Abstinence

Don’t Believe the Hype: Keeping It 100 About Abstinence

Let’s set aside our inhibitions and have a real conversation about sex, relationships, and abstinence.

Despite biblical teachings (1 Thessalonians 4:3), tons of people would argue that, in today’s society, it’s almost unrealistic to think that anyone would wait to have sex until marriage. The world we live in today tells us that abstinence is an antiquated practice or that no one in their right mind would marry someone without determining whether the sexual chemistry is there first. The list goes on and on, but luckily, some people out there still advocate for waiting until marriage to share something so intimate with their future spouse.

Before we really dive in, I would first like to point out that there is, in fact, a distinction between abstaining from sex and just not having sex. A person might not be sexually active for a variety of reasons. However, abstinence is defined as an intentional and deliberate action to refrain from sexual activity; it is making the decision to save all sexual acts until marriage.

In her book The Naked Truth: About Sex, Love and Relationships, abstinence advocate Lakita Garth says that “abstinence is the art of self-control, self-discipline and delayed gratification.” I get it. You’re probably thinking, Who wants to work that hard for something that is supposed to bring you pleasure? But Garth reminds her readers that there is, in fact, a wonderful reward in the end.

“The fact is, the happiest sex lives are found among those who wait until marriage to have sex,” Garth says. “Those who wait are richly rewarded.”

Waiting to have sex has so many benefits, but here are a few points to start:

Abstinence is more common than you think.

Studies show that only 3%, or 1 in 30 Americans, waited until marriage to have sex. Sure, this number sounds a bit disheartening, but if you stop to think about just how many people that is, it’s not too bad. In fact, that figure means that about 10 million people in America, as we speak, have abstained until marriage. And of course, these stats are even greater within religious groups.

Secondary virginity is a real thing.

Yes, secondary virginity is “a thing.” More and more singles have made the decision to rededicate their lives—and bodies—to God by abstaining from sex. Regardless of their past, they made the decision to start over and choose abstinence even though they initially made the decision to be sexually active in the past. It’s no secret that having sex before marriage has its own negative consequences, including unplanned pregnancy, higher chances of being a single parent, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the list goes on and on.

In fact, studies show that 40 percent of children were born to unwed mothers, with nearly two-thirds of those mothers under the age of 30. Nine million new cases of STDs are reported among teens and young adults each year. And regardless of whether you have experienced these negative consequences, making the decision to be a secondary virgin means you can look forward to a future free from exposure to these previous hazards. After all, who has time to stress about an unplanned pregnancy or STDs?

The Wait” is so worth it.

Making the decision to be abstinent is so much deeper than the physical. It provides the opportunity for your relationship to become stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s the beauty in sharing something so intimate with your spouse and the idea of knowing that you are both truly committed to one another.

Hollywood couple Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin wrote an entire book on the power of abstinence in The Wait. In addition to being more spiritually and emotionally grounded, the couple is open about how amazing sex can be with your partner after making the decision to abstain until marriage. “There is nothing wrong with sex and sexuality,” the couple says in a recent interview with Essence magazine. “God created both for the enjoyment of married couples.”

The intimacy that happens within one’s marriage is much greater knowing that sex is something that is only shared between you and your spouse. It’s definitely the icing on the cake.

Can you think of a better option?

Let’s face it, you might have already tried other options besides abstinence, and none of them have worked. Then again, you might be one of those people who made the decision to be abstinent from the very beginning and chose to stick with it until your wedding day. Meagan Good actually chose the former and initially opted to do it her way instead of God’s way. “God had let me make my mistakes,” she says. “Now it was time to do it [His] way.”

In a society of instant gratification, abstinence certainly doesn’t seem ideal for today’s couples, especially people who are seriously attracted to one another. However, I think we all can agree that waiting to have sex until marriage just might be the best decision of your life.

 

Did you catch Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday? Check out what they had to say about the benefits of abstinence below:

 

Is it unrealistic to expect people to wait to have sex before marriage? Share your thoughts below.