Before her departure last week, our former Development Director Amy Harris wrote a message about her work at BCA and her feelings about our organization. We thought we’d share it, as it’s a great window into our world- both in terms of what it’s like to work with us every day and, also, the dedication we have to ending the breast cancer epidemic.
Good-bye, Breast Cancer Action (written March 24, 2011; reprinted with permission)
First, let it be known that I love this organization. Yes, I get all exasperated by what I (inappropriately) call the, “Singing Kumbaya Around The Fire” moments as staff need to discuss their feelings. Again. But the reality is that I may never again work for an organization like BCA. Bottom line: to work for BCA you must be committed to justice – in the workplace and in your life. We 9 women are fearless when confronting the pharma giants, FDA policies that put corporate interests above those of patients, and speaking out about social inequities – political, economic and racial injustices – as root causes for disparities in disease incidence and outcomes. We have integrity because there is no conflict of interest. I am so proud of our work and accomplishments.
Back in late 2007, I was job searching after being unhappy in my stagnant position as Deputy Director of Development for another health organization. Around the same time, a dear friend and mentor was diagnosed with breast cancer. (She’s doing good now.) Also, my mother’s friend Linda Day died after living with metastatic breast cancer for I-can’t-remember-how-many years. I saw the job posting for the Development Director job at BCA. Before applying, I read up on their work. What stood out to me then was one of BCA’s signature campaigns called Think Before You Pink, which calls out the hypocrisy of pinkwashing and has been successful at getting rBGH out of 2/3 of America’s dairy. (Pinkwashing is when a company uses the pink ribbon to sell a product and show its commitment to women and the cause, while the ingredients in that product are toxic and linked to breast cancer.)
Um. Wow. Eye opener right there. I applied. I wanted the job. During the interview process I met the great Barbara Brenner, then Executive Director of BCA. For a petite woman, she has a presence of a giant. She is FIRE. Her commitment to women’s health stemmed from something deeply personal – her two rounds of breast cancer, which resulted in a mastectomy. I am amazed at her ability to turn her experience into a movement that compels positive change. I knew I wanted to work with and learn from her. “Fire” is a word that has often been used by friends to describe me, too. Often, Barbara and I would have it out. (And, I’m putting that mildly.) But, I am convinced to this day that she hired me because she knew I’d talk back. Barbara retired from BCA in December 2010 after 15 years at the helm. I miss her very much.
I spend 8+ hours a day with my co-workers. They have become my friends. I will integrate what I learned from them, especially our anti-oppression work, into my work with Peace Corps. (I have already begun this hard work in my daily life.) In fact, come to think of it… working at BCA has given me the inspiration and courage I need do something more. There’s no turning back now.
Thank you to all the hell-raising staff I worked with at BCA over the last 3+ years: Barbara, Joyce, Karuna, Sarah, Zoe, Caitlin, Caitlin, Angela, Miriam, Kim, Alicia, Brenda, Pauli, Alison, Mary, Katrina, Lisa, Rich, Kasha, and Cristina.
I will continue to support BCA financially and as a volunteer when I return from Peace Corps. I hope you’ll support BCA, too.