Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org
Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org

Happy Internet Tuesday!

Today’s blog discusses how I use my digital presence for social good and to support Zuri Works for Women’s Health, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that creates national beauty, arts, and health programs that enhance the quality of life, improve their survivorship rates, and increase the health knowledge of women of color impacted by cancer.  Click here to listen to my audio blog which includes a short excerpt from my new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online (available on Amazon).

Zuri Works founder Andrene Taylor (in pink shirt) and her Zuri Works team; Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org
Zuri Works founder Andrene Taylor (in pink shirt) and her Zuri Works team; Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org

Through its founder Andrene Taylor, a three-time cancer survivor and “THRIVER, Zuri Works does four things:

  • Empower women to prioritize their self care.
  • Collaborate, share knowledge, and partner with individuals, communities, and organizations committed to finding solutions to address cancer’s impact on the vulnerable populations we serve.
  • Develop creative, new ideas that address common and unique problems  of women in order to increase their use of screening, reduce their delays in treatment, and improve their cancer survival rates.
  • Use evidence-based solutions to engage women about their health and address health care disparities in their communities.
Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org
Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org

My Connection to Cancer and Why I Love and Support Zuri Works

I love the meaning of Zuri. It is a Swahili word that means beautiful. It reminds me of my beautiful, bold, and brilliant grandmothers, Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin (“Nanan”) and Frederica Stanley Roberts Leeke (“Freddie). They both lived with breast cancer. A few years after my grandmother Freddie died of breast cancer, I searched for ways to honor her memory through my wire sculpture artwork. In 2001, I discovered the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, a DC-based nonprofit health, education, and arts organization that develops and promotes healing practices that explore physical, emotional, and mental resources that lead to life-affirming changes for people affected by cancer. I started working as a Smith Center artist-in-residence in 2002.

Howard University Hospital
Howard University Hospital
Ananda working at HU Hospital in 2009
Ananda working at HU Hospital in 2009

My first artist-in-residency was at Howard University (HU) Hospital from 2003 to 2009.  During that time, I shared my gifts as an artist, poet, writer, Reiki practitioner, and yoga teacher with patients living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other illnesses.  I also conducted staff workshops with the HU Hospital nurses. Click here to read my Flickr blog and see photos of my work.

Interactive Breast Cancer Awareness Wall Collage at Walter Reed, 2012
Interactive Breast Cancer Awareness Wall Collage at Walter Reed, 2012

After my contract with HU Hospital ended, I began working with wounded warriors, their family and friends, patients, and staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. For the past two years, I have created interactive Breast Cancer Awareness Month wall collages (see 2012 collage above) for the Walter Reed staff to pay tribute to their family and friends impacted by breast cancer. Staff use the collage to write their thoughts about breast cancer and their loved ones.

Photo Credit: http://stephanieisfabulous.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: http://stephanieisfabulous.blogspot.com

In addition to my Smith Center artist-in-residence work, I have also taught yoga classes as a volunteer and used my digital presence to support social good campaigns like Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year, I was introduced to Zuri Works by Xina Eiland, my digital sister, PR coach, and publicist. I immediately fell in love with the organization’s mission and work right after I watched Andrene’s video about her cancer journey which began at 25 when she was a second year graduate student. Her story inspired me. Her cancer advocacy work that marries two of passions — health & art — moved me to donate a few hours of my coaching time to help Xina develop crowdfunding strategies for Zuri Work’s Indiegogo campaign.

Photo Credit: Indiegogo.com
Photo Credit: Indiegogo.com

The Indiegogo campaign will support The Exposures Project, a photo education exhibit shot by cancer survivors and THRIVERS which depicts survival stories of women that would otherwise go untold. Watch the powerful campaign video to learn more. I know you will be inspired like I was to give a financial donation. Click here today and make a donation before the campaign ends on October 24. Tell your family and friends to donate too!

Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org
Photo Credit: ZuriWorks.org

This week, I get to show my love for Zuri Works in person at its Big Chop to Stop Cancer Anniversary Benefit. It will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 1133 15th Street NW, Suite 1200 in DC. If you are in DC, join me for an absolutely fabulous event. Register here.

What’s Next for Me & Zuri Works

In a few weeks, I will launch my fundraising campaign for Zuri Works. It will invite my family, friends, Digital Sisterhood Network, clients, colleagues, and social media network to make a donation in honor of my December 18th birthday. Click here to learn how you can create a similar campaign.

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