Campaign urges black donors to step up
College students in Pittsburgh will use their hands and feet to get out the word that Pennsylvania needs more black organ donors.
"Stepping" blends dance and chant with rhythmic slaps as a means of storytelling that is a tradition in black fraternities and sororities. The decades-old art form will be the centerpiece of an event at 8 tonight in the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown.
"Step Up to Speak Up" is part of a statewide Donate Life campaign by the Department of Health through its two organ procurement organizations -- Gift of Life in Philadelphia and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, or CORE, in Pittsburgh. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation for blacks and to inspire more blacks to become donors.
"I was unaware of the statistics ... and the need in the African-American community until recently," said Victoria Byrd, 20, who heads New Beginnings Ministries, a religion-based student organization at Duquesne University that features choir, step and mime ministries. Byrd, a junior, and two other step performers will participate.
"This is something that we as young leaders have the opportunity to address," she said.
Blacks constitute 11 percent of the state's population but 32 percent of Pennsylvanians awaiting organ transplants. Of 8,061 people on waiting lists for organs in Pennsylvania, 2,551 are black, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nearly all blacks on the lists -- 89 percent of them -- are awaiting kidney transplants.
Blacks make up 30 percent of the nation's dialysis population, a trend that is mirrored in the Pittsburgh area, said Dr. Jerry McCauley, medical director for the kidney and pancreas transplant program at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"The rate of organ donation among African-Americans has gone up some recently, and that's good ... but there's still limitations on the use of certain organs because of the histories of hypertension, diabetes and other kidney diseases in the community," said McCauley, the former chair of the Diversity and Minority Affairs Committee at the American Society of Transplantation.
Many blacks stay on waiting lists for organs longer than whites because of the difficulty of matching tissues and because blacks generally cannot afford health care comparable to whites, McCauley said. Some patients wait five years for a match.
Jamiliah Beverly, 14, of Garfield has waited 10 years to receive a bowel, liver and pancreas transplant. To raise awareness about her case, students carried a torch for her through the Torch for Life program organized by Step By Step Organ Transplant Association, a Canadian nonprofit.
"There's a huge gap between the need and the people who actually receive organs they need," said Holly Bulvony, a CORE spokeswoman. She said people donating and receiving organs do not need to be of the same race, but the likelihood of successful transplants increases among members of the same ethnic and racial groups.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
- Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays