On Saturday October 20, over 120 people, including women of color and their supporters affected by cancer, volunteers, performers, and Fenway Health staff, gathered in community at the NonProfit Center for the 20th Annual Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch. Every year, Fenway’s Women’s Health Team hosts the brunch as a celebration of women of color and their supporters whose lives have been affected by cancer to share, network, and rediscover their resilience and strength. Started in 1999, the brunch is named in memory of Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” She was also a cancer survivor who bravely documented her 14-year battle against the disease in The Cancer Journals and her book of essays A Burst of Light.
This brunch was particularly special as attendees marked 20 years of community, celebration, and growth. In 1999, Denise Bentley, a former Fenway Health employee, founded the event in honor of her late wife Lorraine “Faye” Fayette Johnson and Audre Lorde. Watch Denise’s story to learn more about the event’s history, the inspiring legacy of Audre Lorde, and our incredible community of women of color cancer survivors.
Situated near South Station, The NonProfit Center marked a new, spacious location for the momentous occasion as it was more accessible to communities of color by public transportation. The art and performances represented the diversity of the community. The event featured the Afrocentric musical ensemble Zili Misik, Japanese Taiko drumming group Genki Spark, multicultural storytelling collective Red Sage Stories, and an Afro-Latina spoken word artist Queen Laura. The attendees enjoyed these performances to the taste of vegan Dominican Food by Coco Verde Vegan.
The event was also a reflection on the past and a picture into the present. Lula Christopher, a past community partner, performed a remembrance ceremony to honor those who we have lost in the community. Rixy Fernandez, a local artist, created a community artist for attendees to color in their image of the event.
In addition to art, the brunch also provided health education workshops to empower the community with resources. Tanekwah Hinds, the Women’s Health Coordinator at Fenway Health, and Sarah Peterson, the Senior Community Outreach Specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, presented on the disparities and cancer risks that LGBTQ women and women of color face. The event also introduced resource tables from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Facing Cancer Together, Cancer Care Center at Boston Medical Center, and YMCA.
The brunch also celebrated the accomplishments of community leaders who embody Audre Lorde’s strength. Transgender activist and researcher Erin Ebony as well as cancer survivor and community activist Dianne Austin received the Audre Lorde Trailblazer and Spirit of Fire Awards. janhavi madabushi and Kamaria Weems Carrington won the Judy Bradford Community Grant to fund Cultivate: Queer Healing Lab, a program that provides workshops for Boston queer and transgender people of color to heal in collaboration with local healers, art makers, and space holders. The grant is in honor of Fenway Health’s own Judy Bradford, the Co-Chair of the Fenway Institute who passed away last year after a courageous battle with cancer.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Asian Women for Health, and Flashback Sunday as well as everyone who joined us for the 20th Annual Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch as speakers, entertainers, volunteers, and community members. Check out photos from the event by Ellie Nguyen here. You can also access local resources and survivors stories on the event’s website. We hope to see you all next year!
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