by Jasmine Souers and Marissa Thomas, founders of For the Breast of Us
It’s been a little more than a year since we launched For the Breast of Us in 2019, the first online community for women of color who are affected by breast cancer. What started as a safe place to amplify the experiences of women who are often underrepresented quickly turned into a space for education and advocacy—not just for women of color, but for their white counterparts as well.
Very early on, our white friends who understood the importance of the work we were trying to accomplish wanted to know what they could do to support us. So, we did a lot of research and found an ally guide created by Women of Color for Progress.
For the Breast of Us adapted the guide for the breast cancer community and borrowed the term “accomplice” from the LGBTQ+ community. We thought it was important to use a stronger term than “ally” because although an ally stands with you, an “accomplice” gets their hands dirty with you. That’s what we really want to encourage our white counterparts to do—act to create an inclusive and diverse breast cancer community that not only values women of color, but actively seeks them out.
The accomplice guide offers actions for advocates and influencers to help women of color in the breast cancer community gain access to better advocacy, media, leadership and research opportunities. The steps involved follow simple concepts: follow, participate, amplify and empower.
The guide advises women to do top-of-mind things, like connecting women of color to other advocacy networks, but it also provides some do’s and don’ts for women learning to navigate what can be an intimidating space, including speaking up but not over, and not shying away from the word “privilege.” Most people have at least one privilege whether it’s race, finances or otherwise. At the end of the day, understanding how your life or lifestyle may be an advantage that others don’t have helps you to understand in what spaces your influence may be most powerful.
We understand that the pursuit of health equity will take more than helping advocates reach across the aisle. With women of color traditionally thought of as difficult to find, they needed a way to connect their Breast Cancer Baddies (the breast cancer community for women of color) to accomplices in search of their voices. So, in May 2019, on our one-year Founders’ Day, we introduced the first dynamic, searchable directory for women of color who are affected by breast cancer.
The Breast Cancer Baddie Directory is the first of what will be many moonshots of For the Breast of Us. But it’s a great attempt to make women of color more accessible to the greater cancer community.
We are excited to work with FORCE to help address health disparities. As partners on the XRAY program, we will be helping FORCE develop culturally-tailored XRAY reviews that increase the reach of this important program to communities of color.
With one year under our belt and many to go, we are excited to continue breaking the breast cancer color barrier and building bridges for a stronger community. To learn more about For the Breast of Us and how you can get involved, visit breastofus.com.
In 2019, Jasmine Souers and Marissa Thomas went from Instagram friends to partners in purpose as the founders of For the Breast of Us, the first online community dedicated to sharing stories and imagery of all women of color who are affected by breast cancer.
Both diagnosed well before the age of 40, the two noticed a lack of representation of women who looked like them both online, in clinical trials and in the breast cancer community at large. To help close the health disparity gap, For the Breast of Us offers resources, tools and support through storytelling to help women of color overcome the barriers to quality treatment and long-term survivorship.