Newswire:Medical pioneer Henrietta Lacks nominated for Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of revolutionary contributions to modern medicine

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Members of Henrietta Lacks family stand with Congressman Kwesi Mfume (D-MD) and Attorney Benjamin Crump

Leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus, alongside the family of medical pioneer Henrietta Lacks, gathered in the nation’s capital to announce their unanimous support for the pioneer to receive the esteemed Congressional Gold Medal posthumously.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, a prominent advocate for social justice, expressed his endorsement of this significant recognition. “Today, I joined leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus and the family of medical pioneer Henrietta Lacks to announce our unanimous support for her to receive the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously,” Crump stated. “She is beyond worthy of this distinguished honor.”
Congressman Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) pledged to reintroduce legislation to honor Lacks with the nation’s highest civilian award in acknowledgment of what he called her indelible contributions to modern medicine.
Lacks, a Black woman from Baltimore, unknowingly propelled medical science forward when her cancer cells were used to advance breakthroughs in the polio vaccine and treatments for cancer, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease.
Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, unaware of the profound impact her cells would have on future medical advancements.
During her treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the medical staff utilized Lacks’ cancer cells without her knowledge or consent, to advance medical therapies.
The groundbreaking HeLa cell line was created from those cells, marking the birth of the first immortal line of human cells.
The push to honor Lacks comes as her family wages a legal battle against a biotech company that they accuse of selling her tissue without their consent.

In a lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific, the family alleges that the company used Lacks’ living cell samples that were collected in 1951 during a medical procedure.They allege Thermo Fisher Scientific collected the samples without permission and that the company continues to unjustly profit from Lacks without compensating her estate.Christopher Seeger, one of the Lack family attorneys, vowed his team wouldn’t rest until the family has been properly compensated. He also said Lacks’ family wants to safeguard the rights of all patients.Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) acknowledged Lacks for her invaluable contributions to medical research, which he said have benefited millions of people worldwide.“The debt of gratitude we owe Henrietta Lacks can never be fully repaid for her invaluable contributions to medical research that have benefited millions of people across the world,” Van Hollen stated in a news release.“But we can work to ensure that Americans know her story and the critical impact her life-saving cells have had on global health, our quality of life, and patient rights.”The Congressional Gold Medal is a prestigious honor bestowed upon individuals whose achievements have profoundly influenced the nation.By unanimously supporting Lacks’ nomination, the Congressional Black Caucus, and its allies said they aim to celebrate her groundbreaking contributions to medical science and ensure that her legacy endures.

Newswire: Supreme Court rules against challenges to Indian Child Welfare Act

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to disturb a federal law that governs the process for the placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes, rejecting constitutional challenges to the law.
The court ruled 7-2 in the case known as Haaland v. Brackeen, which a birth mother, foster and adoptive parents, and the state of Texas brought.
The challengers claimed the law exceeds federal authority, infringes on state sovereignty, and discriminates on the basis of race.
In a majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court turned down the challenges, a victory for the Biden administration and several Native American tribes that defended the law.
“The issues are complicated,” Barrett wrote, adding that “the bottom line is that we reject all of petitioners’ challenges to the statute, some on the merits and others for lack of standing.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
Enacted in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act aims to keep Native American children connected to Native families by giving preference to those families or Native institutions during foster care and adoption proceedings that involve Native children.
The law defines “Indian child” as not only one who is a member of a Native American tribe but also one who is eligible for membership and the biological child of a tribal member.
The dispute before the Supreme Court arose from three child custody proceedings, during which the Indian Child Welfare Act was invoked to govern the placement of Native children.
The white foster and adoptive parents, joined by the state of Texas, challenged the law’s constitutionality in federal court, arguing in part that it uses racial classifications that unlawfully impede non-Native families from fostering or adopting Native children. A federal district court ruled in favor of the families.
Still, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision that the law’s preferences for prioritizing “other Indian families” and “Indian foster home[s]” over non-Native families are unconstitutional.
The appeals court also upheld the district court’s ruling that several of the law’s requirements violated the 10th Amendment.
In a concurring opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Gorsuch praised the majority opinion upholding the law and wrote that when enacting it more than 30 years ago, Congress exercised its lawful authority to “secure the right of Indian parents to raise their families as they please; the right of Indian children to grow in their culture; and the right of Indian communities to resist fading into the twilight of history.”
“In affirming the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Court safeguards the ability of tribal members to raise their children free from interference by state authorities and other outside parties,” he wrote.
“In the process, the Court also goes a long way toward restoring the original balance between federal, state, and tribal powers the Constitution envisioned.”
Thomas, in dissent, said while the Supreme Court’s precedents reference a “plenary power” that Congress has over Native American affairs, such a power does not derive from any constitutional basis.
“Even taking the Court’s precedents as given, there is no reason to extend this ‘plenary power’ to the situation before us today: regulating state-court child custody proceedings of U. S. citizens, who may never have even set foot on Indian lands, merely because the child involved happens to be an Indian,” he wrote.
President Biden cheered the majority’s ruling, saying he stands “alongside Tribal Nations as they celebrate today’s Supreme Court decision.”
“Our Nation’s painful history looms large over today’s decision. In the not-so-distant past, Native children were stolen from the arms of the people who loved them. They were sent to boarding schools or to be raised by non-Indian families — all with the aim of erasing who they are as Native people and tribal citizens. These were acts of unspeakable cruelty that affected generations of Native children and threatened the very survival of Tribal Nations,” he said.
“The Indian Child Welfare Act was our Nation’s promise: never again.”

Newswires: Dr. Cornell West declares candidacy for President on People’s Party ticket.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Renowned scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West declared his candidacy for the upcoming presidential race under the banner of the People’s Party, as announced on Monday.
In a compelling video shared on Twitter, West expressed his intention to run for the pursuit of truth and justice, emphasizing that the presidency serves as a means to achieve these noble ideals.
With a strong academic background, including positions at prestigious institutions such as Harvard University and Princeton University, West is recognized for his intellectual activism.
In his Twitter video, West articulated his decision to run as a third-party candidate, citing the reluctance of the established political parties to address critical issues concerning Wall Street, Ukraine, the Pentagon, and Big Tech.
He referred to former President Donald Trump, a leading contender for the Republican nomination, as a “neo-fascist” and labeled President Biden as a “milquetoast neoliberal.”
West’s educational journey has taken him through esteemed universities such as Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, and he presently holds a professorship in philosophy at Union Theological Seminary.
Throughout his career, he has been known for his progressive activism and his outspoken critique of former President Barack Obama.
Fair wages, affordable housing, abortion rights, universal healthcare, the urgent need to address climate change, and preserving American democracy were some of the significant issues West highlighted in his campaign video.
The platform through which West intends to pursue his presidential aspirations is the People’s Party, which Nick Brana founded after previously working on Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
While the party attempted to recruit Sanders after his 2016 campaign, the senator declined involvement and subsequently sought the Democratic nomination once again in 2020.
“Will we succeed? Only time will tell. But some of us are ready to fight until the end,” declared West in his announcement video, leaning towards the camera, his words resonating with determination.
“We will fight passionately, with style, and with a smile.