A message from KR and Zoë
Breast Cancer Action (BCAction) is strong, resilient, and has been adaptive to the changing times for 30+ years.
Earlier this month we released our 2022 – 2027 Strategic Plan titled, “A Radical Strategy for Addressing and Ending Breast Cancer Through a Health Justice Lens.” This foundational document, outlining the values and programmatic priorities that will guide our work for the next five years provides an opportune chance to address some accompanying questions we’ve received from our base members and our community at large.
Our community is our power and we take feedback very seriously, as we know accountability starts with ourselves. Transparency is core to trust- and relationship-building. And we hear you.
We want to take this opportunity to address some of your questions and input, calling in our community to continue to do this work alongside us, and challenging those with probing questions to reflect and extend trust. We’re hopeful those who have been with us for years – some for decades – will continue to see themselves reflected in our work. From the roots of our history (Strategic Plan page 4), to the values, processes, and results that we will bring to fruition like leaves of a tree (Strategic Plan page 18), the tree that is Breast Cancer Action, in its body, its branches, and its place in the landscape, remains the same through changing seasons: we stay true to our guiding, unique, and industry-disrupting principles that have made BCAction what it is today.
Some questions about who we are and where we are going are to be expected, following the organization’s transition from San Francisco-based, to a fully virtual organization, under new leadership, and with staff now across the nation. We’ve heard from members that they miss being in-person and in shared space with us, and so do we.
We will continue to put the health and safety of our staff and our community first as we explore how to come together in person again, whether in the Bay Area, or in regional meetings, actions, and gatherings that will extend our in-person reach.
We’ve also received feedback of late that we “are jumping on the political bandwagon.” This feedback is not new to us. Around once a year, we field comments that our work is too political, and we have responded by pointing out that breast cancer is, continues to be, and has always been political. This feedback is again surfacing alongside a more direct naming of anti-racism as a core component of our long-standing focus: health justice (Strategic Plan pages 13, 15).
Addressing the disparities and inequities in our healthcare system, most commonly named as our social justice work, has been a long-standing programmatic priority. This work has involved treatment issues, access to quality care, the FDA drug approval process, corporate greed that oppresses the general public, lack of corporate transparency and accountability, environmental toxins in our everyday products – all related to health (in)justices. These programmatic priorities are still core to our work. We continue to be dedicated to issues of breast cancer treatment, diagnosis, and screening; the root causes of breast cancer including environmental exposures; and ending pink ribbon marketing culture. And as this work has grown, it has become increasingly urgent that we uplift the frontline communities that suffer the consequences of those injustices disproportionately, and we have always vowed to carry the voices of all those impacted by breast cancer. Today it’s clear that those who are impacted first and worst are likely to be Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), as well as immigrants, those who and under resourced, and those with no access to policymakers. If we are going to end this disease, we feel a deep obligation to carry all of us forward.
And as an organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of breast cancer, we know that the same strategies that will end disparities in breast cancer, like eliminating the environmental racism that hits communities of color first and worst, will be the same strategies that will address and end the breast cancer crisis overall, by eliminating environmental exposures that impact us all.
BCAction has had three phenomenal visionary leaders, all with the same driving passion to bring about the systemic changes necessary to end this epidemic. Each had the task of growing this organization through three different levels of development, and
I (Zoë) can say that each of our executive directors has been exactly the person we needed at that particular time. They are all people of integrity, determination, stamina, resilience and vision.
Our community of supporters, members and activists has trusted us, even when there was disagreement. For example, many of you thought we’d gone off the deep end when we took up anti-fracking work, but after our efforts to connect the dots for you, you came to understand the links between fracking and breast cancer. And many of you thought we were spreading ourselves too thin when we raised a ruckus, both in the streets and in the offices of Congress, about involuntary exposures to environmental toxins, until we connected the dots to those toxins and breast cancer.
Each time we transitioned to new leadership, our strategies and focus on inequity and health justice were strengthened in new and vital ways. BCAction has always been fearless in asking the hard questions, and as the answers have rolled in, we’ve been willing to dive deeper into the cultural fabric of our times. To get to the core of inequities in our healthcare system, we must do the anti-racism work inherent in a just society.
We’ve seen a lot of our work, once considered radical, enter the mainstream, a sure sign of our success. We will continue to maintain our relevance as we move more deeply into present-day injustices because we will continue to be a progressive/radical, thought-leading organization and the trusted watchdog of the breast cancer movement. And we will continue to be honest, transparent, and fierce in our determination to end the breast cancer crisis.
To see one’s self reflected in the work of an organization can be an issue of comfortability. It can be more challenging to see ourselves in the work of an organization that centers all communities, instead of just our own. We invite and challenge our members, long-standing and new, to be intentional about seeing themselves in our radical work to address and end the breast cancer crisis, just as we will be intentional about uplifting the experiences of all communities impacted by breast cancer, including those who so often reside deep within the margins.
If you supported Breast Cancer Action years ago because of our radical stances, we hope you feel joy in knowing we continually ask ourselves, “What is radical now?” To remain at the forefront of pushing the breast cancer industry to do better, and to address and end this disease through the most radical and most effective strategies, our organization must grow and adapt.
Our founders saw their disease not as a personal tragedy, but as a larger social justice and public health crisis. From that soil, out of which our organization grew, Breast Cancer Action has been made stronger by the over 60,000 members who have touched our work at some point and become part of our core. Together we will continue to branch out and grow the fruits of this work, to bring forth our vision as laid out many years ago, that fewer people develop breast cancer and die from breast cancer, and no community bears a disproportionate burden of diagnosis or death from this disease.
At BCAction, writing and the accompanying brainstorming is always collaborative. This piece was augmented by Tibby Reas Hinderlie, Communications Manager.