This article was originally published Oct. 31, 2019.
Know Your Girls is an initiative created by Susan G. Komen and the Ad Council that is dedicated to empowering and informing Black women about breast cancer. It creates a more friendly way to address the high mortality rates and susceptibility of the disease among the demographic by referring to breasts as “girls.”
According to knowyourgirls.org, Black women in the United States are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women.
During a roundtable discussion that the initiative hosted about the importance of knowing your breasts ("your girls")—with rapper/choreographer Sharaya J., beauty influencer/stylist Cydnee Black, social media influencer/Buzzfeed producer Freddie Ransome and Afro-Latina beauty gurus Iris Beilin and Monica Veloz, Sharaya J. shared that she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She spoke about her battle with cancer in August 2018 while competing on the finale of Fox’s singing competition The Four: Battle for Stardom.
“My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, and my great grandmother and my aunts on my father’s side,” the Missy Elliott protègè said. She added that even with the family history of the disease, there was no conversation around breast health.
The group agreed that education and awareness are the first steps in the fight against breast cancer. “In my opinion, too, agency over our bodies and knowing exactly when something doesn’t feel right, in addition to making sure you go get actual exams,” Ransome added.
The women also spoke about the added pressures of how being Black in society causes people to neglect their health and well-being, something that they believe should be remedied within the community.
“In minority groups and Black culture … you’re dealing with so many other things that your health takes a back burner,” Black said. “It’s not always the most important issue that you have to deal with on an everyday basis. The more we normalize it amongst people who look like us, the less of an issue it will be.”
The women also shared their own experiences with their breasts, including Veloz, who said that having a cyst removed at age 14 and that her mother's diagnosis of breast cancer made her more aware of her body.
Listing to the group's the stories pushed Beilin to be more proactive in getting to know her "own girls." One conversation can save the lives of moms, grandmothers and aunts within the Black community.