Lack of African-American Donors

Lack of AA Donors One day as I was listening to one of my podcasts (I listen to quite a few so forgive me because I do not remember the exact podcast) and one of the hosts mentioned the lack of African-American donors. Because I have never had to experience a family member or friend need an organ donation I did not know that there was a shortage of African-American donors. I know, I know how did I not know when this is a problem that has been talked about and discussed before, but to be honest because this is not something that has affected me personally I was not educated on the issue.

For bone marrow and organ transplants patients are dependent upon finding a donor who shares a similar genetic makeup. For a bone marrow transplant, a treatment typically for blood related cancers where the bone marrow from the donor is used to replace that of the patients, hopefully in the likes of the patient getting better. But when you’re African-American or a person of color in general, there are not as many donors to choose from and your odds may become slim. There are millions of donors who are registered with the National Marrow Donor Program, but out of the millions of donors registered only 8 percent are African-American. When receiving a bone marrow donation it is closely linked with an individuals race, which means that African-Americans who do need a bone marrow donation have an extremely tiny pool of people who could be potential donors. A few experts have stated that African-Americans have rare genetic make-ups than Caucasians because their genes tend to be more racially mixed which makes finding a donor with a precise match that much harder. Dr. Willis Navarro stated during an interview with NPR that, African-Americans are not purely Africans and have a mixture and extremely broad and diverse group of different ethnic populations that will also make it difficult to find a donor. Although, these are not the only issues when trying to find a donor as a person of color.  In a few studies conducted by the Journal of the National Medical Association regarding the shortage of the availability of donors within the African-American community, historically, African-Americans donate organs at a much lower rate than their white counterparts. The study, “Differences in Attitude Toward Organ Donation Among African-Americans and Whites in the United States” studied and analyzed the reasons as to why many African-Americans choose not to be organ donors. In the study, one of the main reasons many African-Americans chose not to be organ donors was a lack of trust in the medical industry, which is not uncommon nor is it unwarranted. Between 1932-1972, a 40-year span, a syphilis experiment called “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service and misled 400 African-American males by withholding information regarding their illness. These men were purposely left untreated to see what would happen. The medical community used the African-American community and these African-American men as guinea pigs and put their health on the line to see what the effects would or could be. Since the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, there has been a strained relationship between the African-American community and the medical community where many African-Americans feel as though an experiment like the Tuskegee experiment could happen again. This idea that the medical community would once again harm or experiment on the African-American community has made many African-Americans choose not to sign up to become donors.

While there is a mistrust of the medical community amongst the African-American community, there is also a miseducation as many, not only African-Americans, do not know what they are in for when being a donor. Many think if they are donors and have to give blood or bone marrow to a person in need the procedure will be extremely painful, but that is no longer the case with an increase of technology in the medical field.

Being an organ donor or a donor in general regardless of if you’re just giving blood is extremely helpful to someone in need. I also urge, if comfortable, for more African-American people to become organ donors as this will benefit and help our community as African-Americans are the least likely to find one potential match. We must do everything we can to help one another.

Additional Resources:

*If you or anyone you know is searching or in need of a donor, the Black Bone Marrow website is an additional source. Link listed below*

Black Bone Marrow 

Self Care as an Activist

As an activist or “social justice warrior” which is what activist are now commonly referred to on social media, is a person who campaigns for some kind of change. For example, participating in a march or protest, you’re an activist. I am an activist. I know this, as a matter of fact I named my blog The Awkward Activist for this exact purpose. Each activist has a certain social issue they focus on when campaigning for change, for example, I focus on race, gender, and sexuality. But when blogging and talking about these issues, especially when talking about issues you personally identify with, it becomes emotionally and mentally draining. Reading every new headline or news report from a news outlet or tweets from my fellow followers on Twitter alerting me to another police brutality case, homophobic or transphobic rants from politicians, an increase in sexual assault on college campuses, or the influx of violence against the trans community can sometimes be too much to take or handle. Each day is another punch in the stomach for every new headline that comes across my mobile screen as most news nowadays is bad news. We are in the digital era where we can see and read every story, good and bad. And while many will say that it is an activist own fault that they have gotten themselves into this situation, the reason activists do the work they do is simple, it is because they care. I care about writing, educating people, and protesting these issues because I want the issues that I am writing and passionate about to get better or disappear all together (I don't see that happening anytime soon though).

But when you’re an activist everyone’s struggles are more important than your own, but who is there for you when you’re struggling?

As an activist one of the most important things is practicing self-care as this constant absorbing of information, especially bad news from police brutality to rape culture can lead to an activist not only becoming burn out, but also, depressed. Burn out is a state of emotional and often physical exhaustion (newtactics). It is not a matter of spending too much time on a task or issues, but rather that an activist feels as though they have invested a significant amount of time and emotion into a task regarding a certain issue, but no results have stemmed from that task. They feel they have nothing to show for all of the work they have put in. Activist burn out is real and caring for yourself as an activist is not selfish, but is self-preserving as you can not help or serve others if you yourself are also struggling mentally and emotionally.

What is self-care exactly and how does one go about practicing self care, especially as an activist? Self-care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is unique to each individual person as that person has to find what works best for them, but self-care is extremely beneficial to activists. As activists our activism is our self-care; discussing and talking about the issues we feel most strongly about helps us care for ourselves as we are then not keeping these emotions in, but we also find support systems and networks through our activism. We find people who we can not only discuss these issues with on an almost daily basis, but also people who we can discuss how these issues are affecting our emotions and feelings.

Activists also need to remember that our feelings are valid. Good, bad, or in between all the feelings we feel are valid and real. Meaning just because you feel angry or sad about something does not mean those feelings are irrelevant just because a person may advocate for the issue that they are emotionally reacting to. Their emotions are still valid.

A few self-care tips is first figuring out and doing what makes you happy. If that is painting or drawing, working out, taking a walk around the neighborhood, or even just pampering yourself by doing your nails or soaking in a bathtub with a bath bomb in it, it is all self-care. Self-care should and needs to work best for each individual person, there is no linear or general way of self-care so do not feel pressured to do what may work for someone else. As an activist, but also a regular person who experiences and is affected by life happening on a daily basis I encourage everyone to start practicing self-care in their daily routine.

Self Care As An Activist Image

Mental Illness In The Black Community

I was 23 before I started going to a counselor for my actions and symptoms that were very similar to the same symptoms of depression. I was depressed most days of the week which caused me to not eat for most days of the week. I lost weight and was awake for more than 12 hours of the day with 4 -5 hours of sleep thrown in here and there. My partner at the time also dealt with issues with mental health and rarely focused on me. I spent most of my time trying to make sure he was doing okay, emotionally and mentally. To make sure he didn’t slip into the mindset where he may have felt as though his life had no more meaning and tried to end it. When I wasn’t doing that I was studying. I was in the library for 7-10 hours at a time and even once I left the library I would go straight back to my dorm room to study until I had to go to class again or I would head straight to class to learn new information. This was my life the last year and a half I was in college. I was always alone and even when I wasn’t alone, may be hanging out with friends I wasn’t mentally there. I always tried to find a way to be alone in my dorm room so that spent more time studying as I could then have an excuse to tell my friends as to why I didn’t show up to have lunch or an event. I felt empty and numb most of the time wondering why I even woke up most mornings. I didn’t tell anyone about these feelings, not my mom or my sister and I felt like if I did they would ask me why I felt this way when my life was so good. When I had more opportunities than most young adults my age get, why would or how could I be depressed?

Mental health or mental illness is rarely discussed within the black community. In the black community, mental illness is thought of as a “white person’s disease” it is nothing that affects black people. But mental illness is not dependent upon race or gender. Mental health is extremely important for any and everyone, no matter their race may experience or deal with mental health issues. Without mental health, we can not be healthy. Everyone experiences emotional ups and downs, including black people.

“According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.” (African American Mental Health. National Alliance on Mental Illness). The statistic is true, although black people are more likely to deal with psychological distress versus their white counterparts, black people are less likely to seek help when dealing with mental health issues. The stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community is heavy as black people feel as though choosing to seek professional help, such as a therapist is a sign of weakness. The topic of mental health is largely absent from discourse in the black community. It is not a topic that is talked about amongst friends or family given the stigma associated with mental illness in the black community. In fact, some family members may even ridicule or make fun of the individual dealing with the mental illness. As a result, individuals in the black community choose to suffer in silence rather than telling anyone what they may be dealing with.

One of the reasons psychologists say black people suffer more from mental illness versus their white counterparts is because of the “psycho-social reason, including socio-economic status, poverty, and crime in African-American communities.” (Nia Hamm. Black Folks and Mental Health: Why Do We Suffer in Silence? Ebony). Black people tend to feel as though their suffering is a normal and expected outcome given our history from slavery to present. But also dealing with the fact that in a country that is predominantly white, we are the outsider. As an outsider, we are more prone to discrimination and actions from the majority that may also contribute to mental illness developing at an accelerated rate.

But how do we as black people change the conversation of mental health in the black community? Well, that’s not going to be easy, but the first step is getting the conversation going. I have already seen young black millennials take the lead and start discussing the topic of mental health on a public platform. At the beginning of May, The Fader published an article on Victor Pope Jr, a comedian, and social media star, where The Fader interviewed Victor Pope Jr to discuss his YouTube video where he openly talks about living with Bipolar Disorder. You can find the link to the article here.  Also, providing the resources to black people in the black community of more affordable options that will help their mental health. Recently, more people are using virtual therapy such as talkspace, where a person is able to text or skype their therapist. This would allow for black people to not have to go into an office or force them to let family members or friends know where they are going, but also make therapy more accessible.

There is still a long way to go before black people may become comfortable and more open and accepting of the thought of mental illness as well as talking about it in comfortable spaces such as, barbershops, family functions, and events, but I think once black people are more educated on mental illness as well as therapy it will be easier for it to be talked about in the black community.

But just a reminder to everyone if it has never been said to you before:

It is okay if you are sad if you get depressed if you get anxious or have anxiety if you just can’t seem to find a reason to get out of bed on some mornings because of how you are feeling. Your emotions are valid and you are valid.

Mental Illness in BC Pic


Does Political Affiliation = Negativity?

Almost a month or so ago Franchesca Ramsey engaged in a conversation with a user on Twitter about the hate she receives. The conversation was focused on the fact that Franchesca receives a lot of hateful, demeaning and sometimes racist comments from various people on Twitter as well as on her YouTube videos. If you do not know who Francesca Ramsey is then you should check her out on YouTube and Twitter. Franchesca Ramsey is a writer for the nightly show with Larry Wilmore, host on MTVs Decoded and she has her own YouTube channel (@chescaleigh). Do yourself a favor and check out her YouTube video on 4 reasons why white pride makes people uneasy because you know that should be explained like people don't already know this. Francesca Ramsey is not afraid to talk about the issues a lot of people would prefer to act as if they don't exist or are silent about as to not make others uncomfortable. One of the reasons this is, is because people honestly don't like to hear anything that goes against what they believe. If you are saying something that goes against another person’s beliefs, people tend to buck and respond with negativity and sometimes even violence because they are now being pushed outside of their comfort zone. This negativity is usually associated with talking about race, religion, abortion, or any other hot topic.

What was really interesting about this conversation is that a Twitter user made the point that the hateful comments seem to come from mostly conservative voters or people whose morals and ideals would be identified as conservative. The conversation really got me thinking. Are conservatives more hateful when on social media? Do they tend to leave more hateful comments versus liberals or independents? Or is this another case of media bias- the bias or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported.

Most of the time when I am scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube I never think that a person being hateful could be political…except when the issue the person is commenting on is political. I see the point the Twitter user was making when they initially said this. If the issue is regarding race, white privilege, gay marriage, or abortion I do think conservatives will comment and reply with more hateful commentary because issues such as these are going directly against the beliefs that are typically associated with being a conservative. I also think conservatives are so used to surrounding themselves with people like them, who have the same beliefs or who talk the same way as them, they do not want to hear anyone who would go against that. While I do not think that a person’s political affiliation solely determines their behavior on or off social media when discussing social issues, I do think a person’s beliefs will and does determine their response to certain social issues. A person’s decision to identify as a democrat, republican, liberal, or conservative, is based upon their beliefs, values, morals and ideals.

The degree of a person's hatred when interacting with someone who believes something different I think has more to do with the time we are living in. I think people think it is a bad thing to disagree with someone and automatically want to argue if someone has a different opinion. Because of social media, a person is now able to constantly surround themselves with people who think exactly the same way they do and get angry when they encounter someone who believes something different. It’s a matter of telling people that its okay to disagree with someone and it not lead to an argument or an attack of insults followed by that. We as a society need to work on our communication and learning how to talk to people regardless of what they believe. We get too caught up in titles, especially regarding politics and who people decide to affiliate themselves with.

So tell me below in the comments what do you think. Do you think a person’s political affiliation determines how they will react to certain social issues? Do you agree with the Twitter user that conservatives are more hateful?

Dagny Zenovia

Dagny Zenovia is a full-time law student, fashion guru, and blogger who uses her platform to share her experiences and opinions to not only show others what she can do, but to also share these same experiences and opinions with others. The moment I went to Dagny Zenovia’s blog I was immediately captured and interested in the wisdom that not only showed throughout her blog posts, but also her fashion sense and style that was presented in her pictures. Literally every post has a pop of color followed by a paragraph that allows for the reader to not only learn more about Dagny, but to gain a greater sense of self from the inspiration and advice she gives. orangeandprint_2

Awkward Activist: Hello Dagny thank you for allowing me to not only interview you, but get to know you as well since this interview will allow for me to know more about you and your brand. So tell me a little bit more about Dagny Zenovia. Of course I’ve read the “About” me page on your blog, but tell me more about the focus and what you wanted for your blog, Dagny Zenovia, when you first created it?

Dagny Zenovia: Thank you for inviting me to this collaboration. When I first created Dagny Zenovia, I was using it as a space to practice my writing and create my portfolio. At that time, blogging was not what it is today. People then used blogging for journals, assignments, and exploring. Branding, endorsements, and monetizing was not part of the picture. I created a pen name for myself to leave room for my blog to evolve with me. Even though I started writing about anything I was interested in to find my blog voice or niche, I knew I wanted the future of Dagny Zenoiva to grow into a platform that expands through all media. That journey is still in full effect.

Awkward Activist: When you created Dagny Zenovia did you foresee it garnering as big of an audience as it has now?

Dagny Zenovia: I really did not know what to expect when I started. The biggest factors that have helped me to grow my audience are fine-tuning my niche and enhancing my social media presence. Narrowing my topic to social issues and personal development made creating quality content more efficient. Incorporating my personal style made the challenge of persuading people to read more easier by providing images and tips. For my blog, I focus primarily on twitter and instagram to share and engage. I have connected with a lot of cool people through those sites.

Awkward Activist: Did you want or expect for your blog to have an impact on people when they came to your blog and read your posts? I have to admit when I read your post “5 Ways to Become Marriage Material” it made an impact on me because I was looking at myself like am I marriage material haha

Dagny Zenovia: Haha, I am glad to hear that post resonated with you. I always write my posts in anticipation that it will impact or inspire my readers. I feel that is the point of stepping up as a digital influencer. It should not only be about pointing your followers to wear to buy what you are wearing or using, but to also encourage your followers to think, discuss, and learn. I always keep that in mind when I create my content.

Awkward Activist: Growing up, did you always want to be a writer? Did you love writing as a child or is it something you started to love once you got older?

Dagny Zenovia: Funnily enough, I did not consider myself a writer when I was younger. I wrote only for school assignments through grade school and dabbled in poetry in high school. I started to love writing my junior year of college when I began my minor in journalism. I really enjoyed that style of writing and storytelling because I had control to focus a spotlight on any story, voice, or issue I felt needed attention. My blog evolved with my writing as I switched from a freelance journalist to a blogger. The distinction between the two is gradually fading with advances in technology, social media, and readers behavior. My training and experience as a journalist does influence my blogging in the depth of substance and research behind my posts. My self-taught experience as a blogger, which incorporates branding, graphic design, coding, marketing, photography, curating, etc, does influence my writing in the personality behind my posts. I enjoy balancing both.


Awkward Activist: I see in your “About” page on your blog you’re a full-time law student, which is awesome by the way, what made you want to go to law school?

Dagny Zenovia: Law school has been the plan since 4th grade. Growing up, after wanting to be a secret agent like The Famous Jett Jackson, I wanted to be a supreme court justice. That dream later evolved to wanting to be an attorney. I am interested in intellectual property pertaining to media, entertainment, fashion, and business. I am currently interning at a trademark clinic.

Awkward Activist: How do you, as a full-time law student, find the time to create in depth posts such as the ones you currently write and take great pictures along with these posts?

Dagny Zenovia: Ha! Self-discipline and time management. Law school requires a lot of reading and studying, so balancing my blog is an enjoyable challenge. I create my content in bulk as best as I can. On the weekend, usually Sunday, I shoot about 5 – 7 outfits in the DIY studio I have created in my apartment. Depending on how much of my homework I completed before Sunday, I might edit 2 – 3 of those outfits and write 1 – 2 posts to go with the photos. I also have an editorial calendar I try to stick to with ideas and scheduling. Other than scheduling posts through buffer and posting on Instagram, I do not touch my blog during the week. This is really the only way I can maintain consistency on my blog.

Awkward Activist: Once you finish law school would you like to incorporate blogging or writing into what you would like to do for law?

Dagny Zenovia: That would be cool. I do not have a clear picture of how to incorporate the two yet, but I am working on it.

Awkward Activist: Do you believe in the advice most established bloggers give beginning bloggers of posting 3 - 5 times a week, sometimes a day?

Dagny Zenovia: I think that depends on your priorities and goals regarding your blog. Quality is more important than quantity. Starting out with 2 -3 posts a week is helpful to create more content that readers can look back on and develop your niche and voice. All of those posts should be substantial. If not, 1 – 2 posts a week might be better. There are a lot of tips and tricks for bloggers that range from practical to extreme. The key is to balance what works for you. I wrote 2 posts about the bigger picture behind blogging:

Awkward Activist: So let’s talk about your blog posts for a second as your posts stand out because of your use of photography. What made you want to use pictures of yourself instead of regular stock photos?

Dagny Zenovia: I actually got that idea from the person who introduced us, Vanessa R Williams. She hosts free 30 minute blog brand phone sessions. At the time I signed up for one of her sessions, I was starting to feel a little disappointed with how my visitors seemed distracted by the style posts and would not read the articles. She gave me the idea to combine the two, which helped me find the enthusiasm for my blog again.

Awkward Activist: The outfits you wear in your pictures are magnificent! Do you have a certain look in mind when you write your blog posts or is it dependent upon how you feel that day or what you’re comfortable with?

Dagny Zenovia: Thank you! I shoot the outfits independent of the posts I have in mind. I dress for the season and what I am in the mood for.


Awkward Activist: I have to ask this —— where do you get a lot of the clothes and outfits you wear in the pictures on your posts? Is there a specific style you have when shopping for clothing?

Dagny Zenovia: Most of my recent purchases have been from New York & Company, ASOS, and thrifting. My other go-tos are Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, The Limited, H&M, DSW, Steve Madden, and Aldo. I do have a signature look that continues to evolve. I wrote a post about how I build my wardrobe:

Awkward Activist: How do you use social media to connect with your audience and what presence or purpose do you feel social media plays when writing or blogging?

Dagny Zenovia: I use social media to share my work and connect with other creators and influencers. I participate in twitter chats and create a variety of twitter lists to stay up to date on what others are working on and news. This engagement sometimes inspires a post depending on the conversation or issue. In general, I think social media plays a big role in all forms of self-publishing because that is the medium almost everyone filters their information. It has grown to be quite saturated, which is why I do not obsess over numbers. I am more interested in growing an engaged and supportive community instead of floating groupies.

 Awkward Activist: As a blogger that I feel is more established, what are 5 points you would give to beginner bloggers who want to be successful at blogging?

Dagny Zenovia: 1) Trust your process. We all blog for different reasons and blossom at different times. As long as it feels right, trust it. 2) Enhance your influence. Blogging will continue to evolve as technology and consumer/reader habits advance. Continue to seek knowledge and inspiration. 3) Voice your truth. The thing that distinguishes bloggers is personality. As you scroll through inspiration, remember to maintain authenticity in your work. 4) Commitment. Having a successful blog cannot be a hobby. It is as challenging and rewarding as a job. You will need a strategy. 5) Be flexible. Success is relative. Be open to redefine it when things do not go as planned or opportunities lead you to a different direction.

Awkward Activist: What are some points you would give to beginner bloggers who would also like to blog about social issues, fashion, and inspiration?

Dagny Zenovia: Be clear on why you want to do it and what you would contribute to the conversation. Blogging about more than one thing requires a balance between storytelling and relevancy.

Awkward Activist: What is a quote or saying you would like to tell the readers that makes you feel positive and good, even when you’re having a bad day?

Dagny Zenovia: “As a writer, if someone falls in love with my work, I know they have fallen in love with my mind. Having no idea what my face looks like, they chose my mind. Art may be the only space a woman can be whole and seen, without being seen.” By Nayyirah Waheed

“I’m no longer auditioning. This is my life.” By June Ambrose

“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.” By Dagny Taggart

Awkward Activist: Dagny thank you again for allowing me to interview you. I truly appreciate it. Would you mind listing your social media accounts so the readers can follow and keep up with you?

Dagny Zenovia: