Giving Me Life: A Visual Journey of African American Organ and Tissue Transplant Recipients

A powerful photography exhibition depicting the visual testimonies of nine Bay Area African American transplant recipients who have overcome incredible obstacles in their journeys toward a more fulfilling life through the gift of organ and tissue donation.

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland in collaboration with the Donor Network West presents our newest exhibition “Giving Me Life: A Visual Journey of African American Organ and Tissue Transplant Recipients.” This upcoming photography exhibition holds a very special place in my heart.Photo courtesy of Donor Network West

As a child of a parent who received multiple kidney transplants, I can remember getting up early in the morning making the trek to UCSF for my moms’ dialysis and doctors’ appointments.  My mother waited years on the transplant list for a donor which would give her a new lease on life.  I also remember the jubilation we all felt when we received the call that a match had been found.

My mother was fortunate to get the gift of life twice in her lifetime. The first gift came from my uncle, who donated a kidney when my mother was in her early 20s. I am deeply thankful for my uncle donating a kidney to save his sister, my future mom. Without him, there would probably be no me. Years later, we began the process again as this kidney also began to fail. This time, my mother ended up on the organ donor transplant list.

After years on dialysis the dream of renewed life came as the result of another families’ decision to donate an organ from their deceased loved one. Not much is known of my mother’s donor other than he was a man who died of injuries from a motorcycle accident. I am beyond grateful for this family’s choice to donate his organs. One of my mother’s dreams was to see her children graduate. This man’s family’s decision to donate gave my mother another ten years of life.  Those ten years gave her the opportunity to see me graduate from high school and my sister graduate from elementary school.

I am beyond grateful to the family who made the decision in their time of grief to donate his kidney to my mom in her second transplant.

Unfortunately, the need for organ donors is great in America, especially in the African American community. For my senior thesis at Holy Names University, I tackled the subject of organ donations in the African American community.  The topic surrounded end of life decisions and how one person’s personal decision to donate can have a dramatic effect on the lives of multiple families in need of an organ. I also tackled the subject of why African Americans don’t donate. My findings showed many reasons; from the mistrust of doctors in the African American communities dating back to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, continuing to this day with doctors illegally procuring organs from deceased patients.

According to Donor Network West, currently there are over 115,000 people awaiting a life-saving transplant in the United States. In Alameda County alone 1,365 people are on the transplant list.

I would personally like to invite you to view this powerful exhibition which opens June 9, 2018.

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