Breast Cancer Advocate Switches from Fundraising to Education

by Amelia Old
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After two years of riding her motorcycle across 32 states and 3 Canadian provinces with a pink bra strapped across the windshield to raise money and awareness for breast cancer causes, author Tamela Rich is switching the focus of her efforts. Why? She watched the powerful new documentary film, Pink Ribbons, Inc. 


The film exposes the breast cancer establishment's unwillingness to cooperate with environmental groups, the need for coordination between cancer researchers, and the lack of transparency on how profits on pink-ribboned merchandise are distributed. 


Rich is bringing Pink Ribbons, Inc. to Charlotte, NC on Thursday, May 3 at 6:00pm at the Jewish Community Center's Gorelick Hall. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Tickets are $10 for individuals and $8 each when purchased in blocks of 10 or more, with proceeds from the event benefit Charlotte-based DRUMSTRONG.

Charity Navigator doesn't tell the whole story

Rich, who wrote a book based on her motorcycle travels with women affected by cancer, explains her change of heart: "Two years ago, when I joined the breast cancer cause, I checked the Charity Navigator scores of the beneficiaries I raised funds for, and thought my due diligence was complete. But as I deepened my understanding of the cancer charity landscape I learned that a well-run, high-scoring charity could nevertheless be pouring money into programs that have nothing to do with preventing or curing the disease," she said.


"I wondered why there was so little money being spent on the environmental and nutritional factors that contribute to cancer rates, and why so much money was channeled to pharmaceutical companies, which make drugs that don't prevent cancer at all. I started digging, and my research led me to the Pink Ribbons Inc. documentarybased on a book of the same name. Pink Ribbons lays bare the conflicting interests of those claiming to have a passion for curing breast cancer, including some of the most-recognized breast cancer charities. The movie also examines the pink ribbon culture–the sisterhood that has proliferated along with the incidence of the disease itself–and how people have been lured into shopping for a cure instead of holding charities, companies, governments and other institutions accountable for reducing the incidence of all forms of cancer."

Rich decided to bring the film to Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday May 3 at 6pm, and to round it out with a panel discussion with these experts:

  • Tracy Cook-Brewton, of the Sisters Network Carolinas, Inc., which serves the breast health needs of African-American women, will address the point that breast cancer is marketed as a disease that strikes middle-class Caucasian women. She will provide information about how this affects access to care and treatment.
  • Ann Fox, PhD,  Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies Concentration Coordinator at Davidson College, who is interested in the "prettiness" versus "power" factor of the ubiquitous pink ribbon.  
  • Neel Stallings, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Outstanding volunteer of the year (2012) and Interim Director of the Charlotte Komen affiliate, will address the role of Komen affiliates, their degree of autonomy from the parent organization and the $5m granted in the local area to underserved breast health needs.
  • Rosemarie Tong, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Health Care Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics at UNC Charlotte, will speak to the ethical questions raised in the film. 

What about this year's road trip? 

Rich will once again adorn her BMW motorcycle with a pink bra, but this time, when tourists and townsfolk across the US and Canada ask what she's doing, her message will be educational. "Pink Ribbons, Inc. made the point that less than 20% of chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products have been tested for safety by the industry‚Äôs safety panel. I want to help people prevent cancer or decrease their chance of contracting it, so I'll hand them cards with links to both the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database and to Good Guide, where they can research the products they buy for health, environmental and social responsibility."


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