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Maryland declares August 1st Henrietta Lacks Day

Dominique Maria Bonessi

The state of Maryland officially declared today, August 1st, as Henrietta Lacks Day and dedicated the stretch of Broening Highway from the Baltimore city and Baltimore county lines into Turner’s Station to the former resident of that community.

Descendants of Henrietta Lacks gathered with state officials and members of the Henrietta Lacks legacy group in the Logan Village Shopping Center parallel to the highway to honor Lacks on her 97th birthday. David “Sonny” Lacks Jr., says that after 50 plus years his grandmother is getting the credit she deserves.

“I was often asked, why was Henrietta so important, and I always tell people she's important because she existed," said Lacks. "And because she existed all of us exist and millions of people around the world exist.”

Lacks died of cervical cancer in October 1951 at the age of 31. But the cells taken from her body by Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors without her knowledge lived on and reproduced rapidly under laboratory conditions. They have been used in polio vaccines and research of cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases and disorders.

The popular book and later HBO movie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” depicts the great lengths her daughter, Deborah Lacks, went through to find the truth about her mother’s cancer cells.

David Lacks Jr. says the family currently works with Johns Hopkins and the science community to attribute discoveries to Henrietta, “but I think we still have a long way to come."