If you pretty up how people spoke and change the things they said, that’s dishonest.
Perspective of a member of the Lacks family
The book club at Courtney Park branch of the Mississauga Library system had an interesting discussion on “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.
The discussion made me remember the discussions we used to have in Shara Jraba , Tripoli, where we had a reading group, and we would try to tease out the differences and similarities between Medical refugees and Subalterns. This is where I met Nigerians –who used to be active in the Church at Dahra and Medina, who would help the community in different ways- from visiting hospitals to jails, to get medicines and set the papers right. That was in the times of the previous regime, over ten years ago. Now people are wondering whether having a Regime is better than having no Regime.
VOICES AND AUTHENTICITY
One of the Lacks family members told Rebecca Skloot not to pretty up what the people spoke.
“If you pretty up how people spoke and change the things they said, that’s dishonest.” Throughout Skloot is true to the dialect in which people spoke to her. The Lackses spoke in heavy Southern Accent, and Hsu in non-native English. What impact did the decision to maintain the authenticity have on the narrative? This was a topic of discussion, in a system where the world of medicine is affected by insurance, law. There was a criticism of the way the cells were used without proper knowledge of the Lacks family. However, in the past fifty years, medicine has advanced such a way, that Henrietta would have survived the cancer which killed her in 1951.
HENRIETTA LACKS FOUNDATION
The mission statement of the organization says
We provide financial assistance to individuals in need, and their families, who have made important contributions to scientific research without personally benefiting from those contributions, particularly those used in research without their knowledge or consent.
The Foundation offers those who have benefited from those contributions — including scientists, universities, corporations, and the general public — a way to show their appreciation to such research subjects and their families.
The discussions in the Book Club made me remember earlier perspectives regarding research, science, ethics and availability of medical facilities
1983-English Classes-Army Public School-Dhaula Kuan Delhi
Remembering my English Teacher- Mrs. Majumdar- (Army Public School-Dhaula Kuan-Delhi) and how she asked us Biology stream students in Class 11, how many of us want to follow pure science, rather than go into applied fields. That was in the India of 1983-84, the year of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the killing of Indira Gandhi. Very few thought of pursuing research in pure sciences in India then.
2011-September- Discussions at Shara Jraba-Tripoli
Revisiting the question of medical refugees- we saw in post-revolutionary chaos how workers from Subsaharan Africa were targeted. They still live a perilous existence in North African coastline regions.
The workers from the Sub-saharan Africa are in danger of being targeted as mercenaries. They are from the countries where neither capitalist democracy nor Marxist socialism have a foothold. There are no resources to be marketed, no working class that could serve as a revolutionary avant-garde, just starving people. French post colonial post structuralist philosophers became their advocates.
For more detailed narrative: See Blog