Reading of Being Henrietta
Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 11:00 am
By Monique Gaffney
Henrietta Lacks was a black tobacco farmer from Clover, Virginia and mother of five. While undergoing treatment for cervical cancer in 1951, doctors discovered that Henrietta’s tissue cells were unique in that they were able to replicate infinitely. Her cells, now known as HeLa, continue to thrive and are still used today in medical and scientific research all over the world.
Being Henrietta links bioethics with African American history and art. It explores the ethical implications of biological research and its applications in medicine by uncovering the parallels and differences between medical cases in African American history. It also explores the theme of human experimentation on black women. The powerful story of Henrietta Lacks allows a closer examination of the evolution of bioethical issues of informed consent, human subject clinical trials, tissue ownership and immortality.
Monique Gaffney’s journey with this piece began when she was chosen as a recipient of The San Diego Foundation’s 2012 Creative Catalyst Fund Individual Artist Fellowship. This groundbreaking program is funding 15 local artists through partnerships with arts organizations across San Diego County. Monique has developed the piece through an Artist Residency at UC San Diego, followed by an eight-month exploratory period culminating in this reading at the Playhouse.
The Fellowship was made possible by a grant from the Ariel W. Coggeshall Fund; the Creative Catalyst Fund; and the Colonel Frank C. Wood Memorial Fund of The San Diego Foundation, in Partnership with The James Irvine Foundation.