New Program Staff is Ramped Up and Ready-to-Go

Interview by Angela Wall, BCA Communications Manager

Breast Cancer Action welcomed two new staff members to the Program Office over the past few months. Alicia Harris joined BCA as a program associate, and Kim Irish joined as the program manager. Together, they augment our program-based work, perform outreach, maintain existing partnerships and build new ones, and keep our campaigns on track and moving forward.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Alicia Harris, Program Associate

I grew up in San Diego, California, with my parents and an older sister. Most of my family lives within four miles of my parents’ house, so I shocked everyone by choosing New York to go to college! After graduating in 2008, I immediately moved to San Francisco to be a little closer to family.

My degree is in political science, but it’s difficult for me to name just a few issues that I’m interested in. My primary “concern” is ensuring justice for all and ending oppression and domination wherever it exists. That’s lofty, I know, but I’m an idealist. I don’t believe “issues” occur in a bubble, so I’m interested in racial justice, economic justice, ending gender and sexual oppression, health access, and environmental justice — all deeply interconnected.

As the program associate, I build programs with Kim, sit on coalitions, and develop educational materials to advance BCA’s priorities — particularly creating healthy environments and eliminating social injustices that determine how people are affected by the disease.

There’s always more work to be done, and it can be overwhelming. I think all of us at BCA wish that there wasn’t a need for our organization, but every day it’s evident that there is.

When I first heard about BCA, I was impressed by the organization’s approach to probing the systemic injustices in breast cancer incidence and outcomes. My job requires me to ask some important questions. Who suffers disproportionately from unhealthy environments? Who makes the decisions that perpetuate this? Why? In the U.S., where incidence is highest, millions of dollars are raised for breast cancer “awareness,” but how is that money being used? When I speak to people about breast cancer, I’m always stunned at how little information people have about this disease. A lot of people think “pink ribbons” or “family history” when they think of breast cancer, and that’s a problem — one that has a lot to do with who “holds the mouthpiece.”

In addition to her work at BCA, Alicia is a member of CUAV (Community United Against Violence) and is also part of the Youth Leadership Council ofBitch Magazine.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Kim Irish, Program Manager

I grew up in Sacramento, California, with my mom, dad, and younger sister.

I came to San Francisco to attend law school. This city is one of my favorite places in the world, and I love the people who live here — the diversity, the incredible food, the beautiful scenery.

I describe myself as an activist, but I’ve thought of myself as one for only about seven years. Through law school and internships, I received an education in advocacy, working for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Equal Rights Advocates, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and the USF International Human Rights Clinic.

I heard about BCA through friends in the Women’s Policy Institute. In addition to breast cancer politics, I’m interested in women’s health, women’s rights and empowerment, reproductive justice, and immigrant rights. All too often, breast cancer politics typically focus on the mainstream part of our society, while ignoring the margins. In more recent years, it seems there has been a shift toward more overlap and inclusiveness among organizations on the margins and some mainstream groups. This common ground creates discussions that get us further, especially, for example, when it comes to eliminating social inequities and barriers to accessing health care.

Breast cancer has affected many women in my family, including my maternal grandmother, my mother, and my mother-in-law. I have a very personal connection with breast cancer. And since arriving at BCA, I think more broadly about what it means to talk about the “causes” of breast cancer than I did before I started working here. I’m also more critical of corporations’ involvement in the cancer industry.

What does a program manager do? I make sure that BCA’s programming fulfills our organizational priorities of putting patients first, creating healthy environments, and eliminating social inequities. I work closely with the program associate, deputy director, and executive director to oversee BCA’s programs and program-based campaigns, including Think Before You Pink, Milking Cancer (our campaign to eradicate rBGH from the world dairy market), and California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.  Additionally, I collaborate with BCA staff to reform state and federal chemical, environmental, and social justice policies, and to foster our grassroots activities and national presence.

In addition to working at BCA, Kim sits on the board of directors of Human Rights Advocates, a nongovernmental organization that does advocacy work at the United Nations, and of the Good Ol’ Girls, a social and networking organization for Bay Area progressive women.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

This entry was posted in Articles.