October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and survivor Ericka Hart has been surfacing on every corner of the internet.
In 2015, Ericka Hart was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer, a different type in each of her breasts (one was triple negative, and the other was HER2-positive). At just 28-years-old, Ericka underwent a double mastectomy. As Ericka started looking into reconstructive surgery for her breasts, Ericka and her plastic surgeon realized that there were no surgery references for a black woman's breast reconstruction.
Ericka’s desire to change how breast cancer survivors are portrayed and the lack of visibility for black women led her to declare her status as a survivor in a massive way. In late August of 2016, Hart went topless to a music festival in Brooklyn. In an interview with Refinery29, Ericka said, “I still feel really sexy with my body this way, and I want to be received as sexy, not just as a survivor… I want you to see my kinky hair and I want you to see my scarred tits.” Scars and all, Ericka’s photos struck a chord across the internet and surfaced with the hashtag, #blackgirlmagic.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the leading cancer amongst women in the United States. Black women are less likely to develop the disease, but more likely to die from it.
The ACS reports that Black women have the highest breast cancer death rates of all racial and ethnic group. Black women with breast cancer are 41% more likely to die from the disease than white women. This is why Ericka Hart’s story and photos are so important. Ericka is just one of the many faceless women of color who are fighting against or who have lost their battle to breast cancer. Although the end of October is near, breast cancer awareness should always be spread, and the USF Encounter encourages you to remember to give regular self-exams to check for cancer. Here is a step-by-step chart to help you get started!