Partnering for a Cure

ALR Students

By Katherine Cho, Colin Powell Center Service-Learning Coordinator

The 2012 Fall Semester partnered service-learning professor Lynne Scott-Jackson and her Public Relations writing class with the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR).  Alliance for Lupus Research, the world’s largest private funder for lupus research, focuses on preventing, treating, and curing lupus.  (For more information, please visit ALR’s website.)

ALR’s Adrienne Herrera, Courtney Love, and Elizabeth Vega introduced the organization’s mission and present information about lupus to Lynne’s class. After the initial meeting, students separated into the following groups: women, men, college students, children, physicians, and immigrants. The students, then used the semester to research their respective target audiences, create promotional materials such as radio sound bytes, and narrow recommendations to give at their end-of-semester presentation.

During the final presentation, students wowed the ALR staff with their recommendations. In particular, student presenter, Tonye Foshta-Lynch discussed reaching physicians and multi-cultural health blogs since lupus disproportionately African-Americans, Latin@s, Asians, and Native Americans. She continued with recommendations of creating children-friendly pamphlets and coloring books about lupus in order to jumpstart children’s education about the disease.  Similarly, Raras Nikentari also recommended targeting medical student blogs to ensure that these future physicians would have up-to-date information about lupus research, prevention, treatment, and diagnosis.

The closing remarks and subsequent Q&A turned into an impromptu focus group for ALR as students shared their own trends, tips, and experiences with social media, from Twitter to Tumblr, to WordPress and Pinterest.  By being one of the targeted groups, students were able to provide relevant data to ALR, just through their own experiences of hash tags, Facebook likes, and comment posts.

For Lynne, who has had several community partners in the years she taught service-learning, she described this experience as especially meaningful due to the deeper connection she had with the organization.  ALR and Lynne’s relationship first started the summer prior when Lynne joined ALR’s  Multi-Cultural Task Force, and through those meetings, she was able to forge a relationship that delved deeper to address ALR’s focus. Her class described a similar sentiment; several of the students had personal connections with lupus, expressing this partnership as one that hit close to home and gave them new tools, rhetoric, and vision to help spread lupus awareness and fight for a cure.


Screening and Talk with Soul Food Junkies Director Byron Hurt

Soul food photo by Jennifer Woodard MaderazoOn Wednesday, Dec. 5, fellows of the Colin Powell Center will cosponsor the award-winning documentary Soul Food Junkies. The screening will include a talk with director/activist Byron Hurt. Soul Food Junkies will take place at 6:30 p.m. in NAC 1/202. RSVP to Documentary Screening: Soul Food Junkies
WHEN: Wednesday, December 5, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: CCNY campus, North Academic Building (NAC), Lecture Hall 1-202

Soul Food Junkies won Best Documentary Feature Awards at the Urbanworld Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival. The film documents the journey director Byron Hurt takes to learn about the African-American cuisine and culture. Baffled by his father’s unwillingness to change his traditional diet in the face of a health crisis, Hurt sets out to explore soul food and its relevance to black cultural identity. In a film that looks at history, class, racism, health, food access, culture, and family, Soul Food Junkies is humorous and heartfelt.

After the screening, director/activist Byron Hurt will discuss how he produced the film and its impact on his own life and others. The CCNY Screening of Soul Food Junkies is cosponsored by Third World Newsreel and the following City College departments and organizations: Media and Communication Arts, the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service, the Medical Career Success Program—Black Male Initiative at the Sophie Davis School of Bio-Medical Education, and the Black Documentary Collective.

The film will be introduced by students representing the Colin Powell Center and the Medical Career Success Program – Black Male Initiative at the Sophie Davis School of Bio-Medical Education.

Learning about Segregated Care with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Screen shot from the video "Segregated Care" by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

By Sophie Gray, Program Coordinator, Partners for Change

This Wednesday, I had the pleasure of sitting in on our new Partners for Change Health Justice Fellows’ seminar. We met at the offices of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) in midtown, the dynamic organization where our leader-in-residence, Shena Elrington, directs the Health Justice Program.

The session began with a discussion about the history of the medical system and how it resulted in hospital segregation. Students were surprised to learn that health care and hospitals were actually at the forefront of the “separate but equal” and eventually desegregation movement.  After putting on their “lawyer hats,” the students took an in-depth look at the legal language used to define the desegregation laws, then at the resulting policies and cases. such as Hill-Burton and the Simkins case, that were fought over minute details in the phrasing of the law.

Defining Structural Racism
Students were then asked about structural racism and if any of them knew what it was or how to define it. While it can be hard to pick up on in systems such as health care, structural racism plays out in the infrastructure of our existing systems and those systems act to perpetuate certain outcomes that are reflective of history. Some students shared personal anecdotes when the topic shifted into physician bias and a reading they had done about patients’ race/sex affecting physician decision-making.

We transitioned into the final part of the seminar by watching the NYLPI Health Justice Program’s campaign video, “Segregated Care,” which highlights the campaign Shena has been most busy with recently. The short, 5-minute video does a wonderful job of explaining some of the complex topics covered in the seminar

Although much of the discussion could have felt frustrating and disheartening, Shena’s work adds hope by reminding us of the importance that laws and policies play in dismantling structural racism. The students were so engaged and inspired that by the end of the session, they were still discussing the topics as we headed to the train through the busy streets of midtown. There is no doubt that these sessions are training our fellows to not only become well-rounded physicians, but also political advocates.

Read more about Sophie and our other contributors here

Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part I)


Over the course of their year, the Partners for Change Fellows supported various nonprofit organizations working to improve the state of college access and success as well as health care in the Harlem community by providing regular, weekly service. After a seminar unit on “service” in which fellows read and discussed various authors’ view points on service, several themes began to emerge.

These broad themes were discussed in their relationship to service projects and included (1) culture, (2) permanence, (3) impact, and (4) recognition. At the end of the unit, in order to tie the various themes and voices together, the fellows created a Wiki, or a collaborative webpage (accessed via Blackboard), on “service.” The Wiki allowed the Fellows to add to, modify, or even delete content that others had posted. This platform encouraged creativity and unified their thoughts into one voice. While the entire Wiki was a bit too lengthy for a blog post, I wanted to share some of the highlights in a short two-part series on Neighborhoods and Nations. Below is an excerpt in which the fellows discuss “culture” as it relates to service. (An excerpt in a future post will focus on the importance of “permanence” as it relates to service.)

An excerpt from “Culture” (Partners for Change Fellows, 4/5/2012)

Culture is able to unify a group of people and is able to bring a community together to identify them as one. Culture is also one of the most important aspects of service because it is impossible to provide service to a group unified by culture if the service provider does not understand the interactions, attitudes, and beliefs of the group. The group that is being provided with service will never accept an outsider. The outsider, or person providing the service, must integrate him or herself in the group in order to provide effective service. If one is not part of the culture, it is often difficult to fully understand the needs and relationships that the specific culture has. The integration of the service must be seamless and cannot feel as if it is a burden to the community, so complete assimilation must take place in a way that the culture is not being imposed on at all.

In Ivan Illich’s “To Hell with Good Intentions” he points out that there is a culture shock on both sides of the scale, both the person providing service and the person receiving service. When not being aware of the culture, the most Illich believes that you are able to do is disrupt a community and values. Illich also believes that if service providers are not aware of the culture that they are trying to help, then they could be pushing their views on the community who is receiving the service.


For me, the fellows’ discussion of culture’s role and connection to service illustrated their recognition of the ways in which certain phenomena can have such an impact on service. Their full discussion on “culture” was evidence of their growing acceptance and comfort with the complexities that are inherent in service. While the fellows, and myself, in no way have all the answers after this unit, I believe they were equipped with tools to think critically and ask difficult questions about service.

Their continued grappling with themes related to service, such as in the excerpt on culture here, demonstrates to me how far they’ve come since the beginning of the year, when they saw themselves as what Illich refers to as “do gooders,” to the end of the year when they were able to discuss the challenges of their individual projects. As the fellows’ Service Wiki transitions into a discussion of “permanence” and whether a service project must be permanent to make a difference, their reflections on service deepen and critical eyes are sharpened. Stay tuned! – Sophie Gray

Sophie Gray is coordinator of the Center’s Partners for Change program. Read about her and our other contributors here.

Join the conversation! Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Do you agree with the fellows’ conclusions and why?
  • Do you have any experiences with service or cultural competence to add to the discussion?
  • What have you learned from your experiences with interacting or working with cultures that are very different from your own?
  • Have you done any reading that is particularly relevant to the conversation?

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Beyond Cairo: Prospects for Revolution South of the Sahara

I am sure most of you are following events in Egypt with particular interest, especially those of us that are interested in Middle Eastern history and politics. We saw the downfall of Tunisia’s long time dictator, Zine Abidine Ben Ali after almost three decades in power. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was ousted amidst waves of protests that captivated audiences across the world. As these events continue to reverberate in the media, I cannot help but think about the possibilities of something similar happening in many countries in sub Saharan Africa. I came across a few articles alluding to this, and I thought I should share some of them with you all.

But before going further, the most important question to ask is whether it is feasible, even remotely that an Egypt/Tunisia styled revolution can occur in Africa, south of the Sahara. The answer to this I do not know, but thinking about it raised more questions in my mind, especially as the political situation in the Ivory Coast continues to deteriorate. Protests to get rid of their dictator who refuses to leave power even after losing an internationally certified election have all but grounded to a halt. Yes, I know the circumstances that led to these protests are different, but their respective populations suffer similar prospects, i.e. massive unemployment, economic stagnation, high food prices, and long time dictators refusing to leave power.

Here are some questions for you all to think about: What is the difference between the “revolutions” in North Africa, and the political crisis in the Ivory Coast (Some might argue that the situation in the Ivory Coast is not a revolution)? Why has the Ivorian “revolution” fizzled, resulting in the current stalemate? Does the ruthlessness of the dictator in power matter (i.e. Zimbabwe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola etc)? How about the political awareness of the people? Are Africans making things worse by appeasing dictators with power sharing deals that never seem to resolve the structural and economic problems some of these countries face (i.e. Zimbabwe, Kenya)?

What is interesting though is that I am not the only one who feels this way. John Campbell, a Senior Fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations tries to answer some of these questions, and suggests why revolutions in Sub-Saharan Africa might not work. According to Campbell:

Sub-Saharan African leaders, particularly those with less than stellar records of accountable governance, are certainly wary of the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt. Some governments are all too willing to fire into crowds, and a weak national identity means people are not ready to die for their country. In other places, government is so weak, ineffective, or irrelevant to most people that they prefer to rely on their social networks as the state withers away…….

In an editorial from the popular Nigerian daily, NEXT, the editor went on……….

 The Ivorian military stands ready to kill its own citizens; the Tunisian army refused to shoot its own people. Many African leaders seem to have discovered this path to political eternity, by remaining in power only by stamping the lives of their subjects with poverty and misery.

However, is this always the case? In Guinea for example, the military gave up a bid to impose itself on the people after relentless pro democratic protests drove them to organize elections (though hundreds of civilians were massacred in the process). For those of you who are interested in sub Saharan African politics, I would really like to know what you think.

Mohamed Jallow is a former Colin Powell fellow. He graduated with a BA in International Studies in 2008, and currently pursuing and MPA at City College. He is a program associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.