The Big and the Small of It

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Last week, I got on cats about using condoms and getting tested for HIV. You’re welcome.

This week, I’m on to other things. You see, I think that so many of the problems that ail urban communities require a special balancing act that we’ve long struggled with: the push and pull between personal responsibility and taking care of the community at large. Since I implored you to handle your individual business last week, I figure it’s time to fry some communal fish.

I’m on, like, every cause list there is—seriously, I feel as if I’ve signed petitions for everything from gay rights (marry who you want!) to immigrant rights (ripping apart families is abhorable!) to reproductive rights (get your hands off my uterus!). Why do I sign? Because I believe there is strength in unity. This week, I was hit with a ton of health-related info, and I have to pass it on and ask you to take action on the bigger-picture issues that matter to you. Here goes:

Cheaper isn’t always better: We’ve heard a lot of awful stuff about how Walmart treats its workers, but let’s be real: it hasn’t stopped you from shopping there. And then with the advent of their $4 prescription plan, lots of folks are looking at Walmart in a new light. But have you ever asked yourself how Walmart can sell a 30-day supply of any generic medication for just $4? Turns out they’re doing it, in part, by putting your health at risk. That lovely pharmacy is buying generic drugs from a company currently under investigation by the FDA for repeated selling contaminated batches and falsifying records. I read a Self article about Ranbaxy last month, but I had no idea that Walmart was putting the lives of poor folks in danger (’cause let’s be real, people with adequate insurance aren’t switching their scripts to the smiley-face company). What can you do about it? Check out the details of the FDA investigation, get your scrips filled elsewhere, then use this easy tool to write a letter to the editors of your local newspaper. Oh, and alert anyone you know who goes to Walmart for their medicinal needs.

Choice matters: Congress has been mud wrestling with President Obama’s health plan for weeks now, and the biggest issue right now is that Republicans and some asshole Democrats are trying to block the “public option”—the very thing that sold the plan to Americans during the election. And with Black folks twice as likely to be uninsured in this country, this is kind of a big deal. It’s not as if Americans don’t want the choice of a government-funded insurance program; a poll last week showed that 75% of people are all for it. What can you do about it? We have to tell our elected officials what we want, and threaten to elect the other guy if they don’t bend to our will. Seriously. ColorOfChange.org makes it easy.

Represent all day: I’m not trying to deal in fear, but here’s a scary fact for you: Though Black women are less likely to develop breast cancer, we are 67% more likely to die from it than our white sistren. One way to close this mortality gap is to volunteer for research that helps pinpoint the treatment differences between the two groups. What can you do about it? Tell every African-American woman you know who is currently fighting breast cancer about the Gap Study. There’s no chance of Tuskegee shenanigans here; participants only commit to a 30- to 40-minute phone interview and a review of their medical records.

Think that signing petitions and writing letters doesn’t matter? I know it’s hard not to be cynical, sometimes it does help. Case in point, I bring some good news about a cause that many Parlouristas care about: Remember the Jena 6? You know, the kids—Jesse Ray Beard, Carwin Jones, Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis and Mychal Bell—in Jena, Louisiana, who were charged with attempted murder following a fight with a white classmate (after a dizzying volley of racially-motivated events polarized their town)? Well, after nearly two years of court dates and $275,000+ in contributions for legal fees and protests and phone calls and letter-writing campaigns, the case was finally settled. The five kids who hadn’t yet resolved their cases (Bell pled guilty to battery last year) received a week of probation and $500 fines (except for Shaw, who was spared the fee because he was temporarily stuck in jail when he was unable to raise bail money back in ’07), after pleading no contest to misdemeanor simple battery charges. It ain’t perfect, but they didn’t serve time or walk away with felonies on their records.

Any issues close to your heart that other Parlouristas need to know about? Just clicked through and supported one of these causes? Tell us all about it!

—Kenrya

If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

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  • Sal

    You always make me think. thank you for that.