Those of you who watch “The Chi” will know that Yolonda Ross’s character is Jada Washington who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. To prepare for the role Yolonda met with a doctor who introduced her to three grassroots nonprofit organizations here in Chicago that support women going through their breast cancer journey.
Yolonda: “Dr. Melissa Simon, which literally is the person that got me to the other organizations. She’s in with all of them, which was beautiful because they all help women of color get through this journey. The Center for Health Equity Transformation, Equal Hope, and the TC Joiner Foundation. And that’s where I went to the TC Joiner Foundation on the south side and I met the Butterflies. That’s what the women call themselves as they go through a metamorphosis through their journey.”
On the show, Yolonda shaved her head on camera as her character Jada and the emotions that not only Jada felt but Yolonda as the woman playing her. I asked her why she went to the extreme of cutting her own hair when she could have easily used a wig. She explained: “So I could be the face of a Black woman going through cancer. So, you could see the realities, not just, “Oh, she doesn’t have eyebrows. She has a scarf on her head.” And then the next scene, she’s fine. I was like, “We’re not doing that.” This show is about the realities of it. So, I wanted to be able to sit in it, go through it, know that your nails turn dark when you’re going through cancer, your skin burns. These things and how you feel inside and just like, I don’t know who’s watched the show or not, but she kept things from people.”
Rhonda Feinberg, one of the Directors of The Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation and a cancer survivor saw that show and was so moved by it she reached out to Yolonda. “After seeing the show and seeing Yolonda’s very emotional, dramatic for me, diagnosis and when she shaved her head, I was so moved. And I reached out to her because I wanted to help Yolonda drive to make the change, to make a change in the Black Brown community. Because to be honest with you, I didn’t think about it, how hard it was for women in the Black Brown community to get medical care. I just didn’t even think about it. And she made an impact and I felt like it was an open door for me, and I followed my heart to meet Yolonda.”
Yolonda told me that when Rhonda asked what she could do to help, Yolonda’s told her, “Well, you could help support the foundations that have helped me through this with the show, because they’re doing the work, but people don’t know of them.” So, it’s like getting their names out there, helping them with funding. Just so, Black women, Brown women know there is a place that you can go to. There are people out there that will help you, that will walk you through this. And it’s not any kind of mystified thing or thing that makes you feel any kind of way.”
Rhonda had been looking for grassroots organizations but found that they’re not easy to find. “It was fate that I met Yolonda, and the timing was right. And I heard the story and I just wanted to help. That was my goal. I was just like, “This is where I can help Yolonda and Dr. Simon make a change, make things change in the world for Black and Brown women.”
The ladies met and decided the best way to help is to give support to the nonprofit grass organizations that are there every day for women who are going through and surviving breast cancer, which is to provide much-needed funding. The Joseph and Bessie Feinberg is funding a $100.000 donation to the TC Joyner Foundation, Equal Hope, and The Center for Health Equity Transformation.
Yolonda also created a photo exhibit titled “Beauty Is Me “that will be seen on October 30th at the Hilton Asmus Contemporary Gallery in Bridgeport.
And I was thinking to myself, it would be really beautiful to photograph women, different stages of cancer.
I was thinking to myself, it would be really beautiful to photograph women in different stages of cancer. Where you feel not your prettiest, not your best looking, but on the other side of it, us looking at you, you are beautiful. What is beauty? Beauty is me. It’s not my body parts. It’s not my hair. It is me. It’s the glow from me. And that’s what I was feeling when I saw these women.
I got a chance to see the photos and they are beautifully taken with great thought and emotion.
Breast cancer is being seen more and more in women under the age of 40, which was the norm age for women to begin getting mammograms. Yolonda, Rhonda, and I encourage you to self-exam, have your significant other make you aware of any lumps they feel, and insist on getting a mammogram.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!