Looking back and moving forward

By Marj Plumb, DrPH, Interim Executive Director July 2020 to January 2021, and Karuna Jaggar, Former Executive Director, March 2011 to June 2020

2020 was a year that reminded us all why Breast Cancer Action’s uncompromising health justice work is so important—even while vividly revealing how much work we still have to do together. As the outgoing Executive Directors of BCAction, we thank you for your commitment during a truly tumultuous year. Thanks to you, we accomplished so much.
 
We know that justice and democracy are inextricable. The same forces of white supremacy and male entitlement that we have seen pushing back on in our democracy are part and parcel of the unfettered capitalist systems that oppress, exploit, and poison people. These forces are woven into the systems of political and economic power that result in worse impacts on and outcomes for historically marginalized communities—poor people, people of color, women, and LGBTQ folx. This is why we work for transformative system change to address and end the breast cancer epidemic.
 
For 30 years Breast Cancer Action has worked to shift the balance of power from corporations, whether by challenging regulatory capture or calling out corporate pinkwashing, to the people living with and at risk of breast cancer. This disease has always been political, and that is why this work is so important in our current political climate and going forward in 2021.
 
Tipping the balance of power can only be accomplished when we come together. Thank you for making this and so much more possible in 2020:

Rapid Response to Ongoing Health and Social Justice Crises: As the only independent breast cancer organization, you can depend on us to respond to emerging issues that threaten us. 2020 showed us how much work still needs to be done, and we are committed to seeing this work through in the year ahead. In the face of the terrible toll of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color, we drew strength from the urgent calls for racial justice and will continue to work to challenge, highlight, and address unacceptable health inequities. We have always come together to raise the voices and follow the lead of women, queers, and communities of color to go toe-to-toe with the breast cancer industry because we know that when we get to the problems at the root of the breast cancer epidemic, we will build a more just, healthy, and equitable world.
 
One-of-a-Kind Resources, Free from Corporate Control: Your unwavering support has helped us remain an independent voice for women living with and at risk of breast cancer. In 2020 we provided two new, evidence-based resources free of industry influence. Our Why We Must Stop Fossil Fuels factsheet called out the oil and gas industry’s global addiction to fossil fuels and its impact on breast cancer risk. Our Toolkit to Navigate Breast Cancer, an indispensable, unbiased resource for those who have been newly diagnosed as well as their caregivers, provides patient-centered information about breast cancer so that anyone experiencing this disease can make well-informed medical decisions.
 
Calling for Accountability from Public Agencies: You joined in the actions as we called for stronger environmental health protections and better access to treatment and care. Here are just a few of the ways you contributed:

  • You stood up to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by submitting hundreds of personalized comments opposing the crippling rule that will hamper the agency’s ability to keep us safe from environmental exposures linked to breast cancer.
  • Together we submitted hundreds of public comments demanding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthen its labeling guidance for breast implants and add new informed consent language.
  • You demanded access to critical compression garments used to treat lymphedema through Medicare amendments.  
  • You took action through our 2020 Think Before You Pink® campaign We Can’t Be Pink’d: Say NO to Pink Policies. Together we exposed how the administration’s aggressive deregulation efforts, lack of oversight, dissemination of misinformation, and efforts to dismantle access to quality and affordable healthcare exacerbate systemic inequities. And we called for more accountability from the FDA, the EPA, the Department of Justice, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

We win when we take action together! Our We Can’t Be Pink’d campaign brought together more than 100 movement allies, and through collective pressure, we’ve gotten the NCI to agree to make public the known links between environmental exposures and breast cancer risk. Together we are changing how this science will be disseminated to researchers, practitioners, and people facing breast cancer. Breast Cancer Action will need your support to make sure they follow through as promised. Stay tuned!
 
The time has come for us to pass the torch and we are filled with hope as the board selected Krystal Redman as our incoming Executive Director. Krystal’s experience in reproductive justice and health justice movements will strengthen our work in grassroots activism, health equity, and racial justice. Krystal will be leading the Breast Cancer Action team from Atlanta, Georgia—a recent nexus of democracy in action—and we look forward to her insights stemming from this political powerhouse. Our independent, indomitable organization is about to get even more unstoppable! 
 
Thank you for standing with us, for speaking out, and for calling for justice! You are BCAction’s power and together we will continue to have an outsized impact with your support.

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