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First Black-Owned Cancer Center In The U.S. Opens in Philadelphia

By Danielle Dorsey

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A Black couple from Philadelphia is creating community among cancer patients and their loved with their Cancer Who? Cares Center. Launched in February of this year, the Center furthers Al and Marjani Harris’ work supporting those affected by cancer by providing a space where they can receive resources and care.

Ten years ago, when Al and Marjani had three relatives battling different types of cancer at the same time, they were shocked to find no support groups or facilities to assist in the emotional processing of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Upon further research, they found that most care centers were owned by hospitals or organizations and none of them were Black-owned.

Black people have the highest mortality rate and shortest survival of any ethnic group in the US for most cancers (American Cancer Society). This, plus disparities in health care, underline the importance of a center that prioritizes the unique needs of Black cancer patients and their families.

In an interview with Because Of Them We Can, Al shared that, “We noticed that there was no center where people with cancer could go to decompress, and let their emotions out, but also be treated with a sense of normalcy.”

The nonprofit offers comprehensive support for their members before, during, and after treatment and all of their programs are free. They host weekly activities that range from yoga classes to spa days to ring the bell ceremonies to celebrate cancer-free diagnosis. They also provide support beyond business hours by attending appointments with their members.

Marjani and Al are part of a movement of Black entrepreneurs entering the health care space. Earlier this year, a group of Black medical experts joined forces to open up Chicago’s only Black-owned urgent care center. In 2018, Dr. Tamara Moise and Wadson Filks opened Big Apple Urgent Care, which became the first Black-owned urgent care facility in Brooklyn.

For the Harris’, opening the Center was a dream come true. “It’s a dream to be the first of any kind to do anything but to be the first from our culture is amazing just because of the people that came before us and the things that they created,” Al said. “We feel proud that we can show our children and the rest of our culture that you can always be the first at something even when you feel like you are in last place.”

Keep up with the Harris’ and the Cancer Who? Care Center on Facebook.

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