• Liz Venerable

Thank you, Henrietta Lacks

Photo courtesy of the Crosswalk.

Do you know who Henrietta Lacks is? Don’t feel bad if you don’t because, like most women of color, Henrietta Lacks' achievements are not noted in our history books. However, you can finally watch Henrietta’s story unfold on HBO on April 22 at 7:00 p.m.

The movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” stars Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne (from "Bridesmaids" and "Neighbors"), and is an adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s bestselling nonfiction book of the same name.

This movie tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells (later known as "HeLa") were used without her consent to create the first immortal human cell line. The story is told through the point-of-view of Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah Lacks (played by Winfrey). The film follows Deborah and journalist Rebecca Skloot's (played by Byrne) search to find out about the unauthorized harvesting of Henrietta's cancerous cells in 1951, which led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs and changed countless lives and the face of medicine forever.

I don’t want to give away all the details of movie, but the New York Times explained that Henrietta’s cells helped create the first polio vaccine and produce drugs for numerous diseases, including Parkinsons, leukemia, AIDS and influenza. As of now, scientists have grown 20 tons of Henrietta’s cells and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells, according to researcher Denise Watson-Batts’s article “Cancer cells killed Henrietta Lacks – then made her immortal.”

For the longest time, Henrietta’s story has gone unheard... But hopefully with this movie that will change.

“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty?”…― from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (book).

The movie is set to air on Saturday, April 22, at 7:00 p.m. If you can't wait that long to hear her story, you can by the novel here.

You can buy the book here

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