Attendees browse through the jewelry and accessories at the Cindy’s Pieces booth at the Wrapping for a Cause fundraiser. Proceeds benefited the American Cancer Society. (Photo courtesy of Lena Thomas)
|A woman models one of the ornate head wraps during The House of Tafari Collection’s Wrapping for a Cause fundraiser. (Photo courtesy of Lena Thomas)
It was the type of sunny Sunday afternoon that seemed perfect for food, friends, fashion and fun. And knowing the intimate garden party gathering was for a good cause seemed to make those who came to The House of Tafari Collection’s Wrapping for a Cause fundraiser even more enthusiastic.
Held among the greenery and flowers of the Edward L. Cooper Sr. Community Gardening and Education Center in Roxbury’s Fort Hill section, Wrapping for a Cause featured a keynote address from Dr. Abbas Qutab, live music and poetry, a head wrapping demonstration and a fashion show highlighting ornately crafted head wraps and sophisticated clothing designs.
With the garden sidewalks as their catwalk, models of all shades and sizes, clad in printed caftans and capes, fitted pants and skirt suits and sultry dresses and gowns, strutted past the audience, showing off clothing creations by eight local designers who dedicated their time and fashions to the fundraiser.
And though the clothing was intriguing, the vibrantly colored and patterned head wraps were clearly the stars of the show. They blossomed around the models’ heads like crowns, the sheer variety of twists, knots, tucks, textures and heights demonstrating the amazing versatility of a single swath of fabric.
The head wrap fashions also put on display the creativity of their designer, Imani McFarlane. In addition to creating clothing and head wraps that blend “the sparkling colors and patterns of Africa and the Caribbean with the elegant allure of European haute couture,” the seamstress, artist and philanthropist offers a variety of head wrapping and art-focused interactive workshops.
House of Tafari Collection also gives McFarlane an opportunity to give back to her community.
“When I sat down in meditation and thought about what I would like to bring to my community, it was health and wellness — a wholesome life,” she said.
With one in two women being diagnosed with cancer each year, it was clear to McFarlane that she should use her artistry and compassion to empower those coping with cancer. For the last five years, House of Tafari Collection has been providing head wrapping workshops for cancer patients and survivors through the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program, which encourages women with cancer by providing them with chemical-free cosmetics and information about head coverings.
“Many women who undergo cancer treatment lose their hair and chose not to wear wigs,” says Angela Hall-Jones, community executive for Health Initiatives with the American Cancer Society. “A lot of times, wigs irritate your scalp because of the chemicals that the wigs were treated with,” McFarlane pointed out.
Her “Art of African Head Wrapping” workshops show cancer patients of all backgrounds and cultures that head wraps can be “a natural and beautiful alternative” to wigs and a “quick and simple way for cancer patients to regain their self-esteem.” Wrapping for a Cause arose from what McFarlane called her “vision for beauty and passion for health and wholeness for those affected by cancer.” Proceeds from the event benefit the American Cancer Society.
Boston Public Health Commission Pink and Black ambassador Debra Grooms told of her personal journey of discovering and being treated for breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. I was working in a housing development bringing resources and information to the women [who lived there], and a program called Reach 2010 came out and did a presentation on breast cancer. I sat in on the presentation and listened to the information that was given to us. And later that evening when I went home, I did a breast self-exam and found a lump in my breast. I was shocked,” Grooms recalled.
“Every day when I came home from work, I went right to that same place where that lump was in my breast. It took me two months to go to the hospital to see what was in my breast. I guess I was somewhat in denial, thinking every day it would go away,” she continued.
After a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and finally breast reconstruction surgery (“I have the breasts of a 20-year-old, y’all,” she laughed), Grooms is working with Pink and Black to urge Boston’s Black women to take charge of their health by paying attention to their bodies.
“You have to be your own advocate, and if you can’t advocate for yourself, you have to take somebody to the hospital with you to be an advocate for you,” she said.
A diagnosis of breast cancer is hard to receive at any age. But for women in their early 40s and younger, the concerns may be more challenging, say breast cancer experts at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"When young women are diagnosed with breast cancer, they face not only concerns about the breast cancer itself, but they may have issues with fertility and family planning, genetics, sexual function, as well as emotional hurdles that may be more difficult to handle compared to older women," said Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, Clinical Director of the Breast Oncology Center and Director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at Dana-Farber, and recently appointed to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. "Many of these women are just starting careers, families or relationships, and having breast cancer at such an early age is the furthest thing from their minds." More »
Dixon says those numbers need to go up.
"Because the study is focused on women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is sometimes challenging to get them to understand why it is important to participate in the study," says Dixon. "It's really important to think about participation in medical research as being a part of prevention, just like getting a mammogram and just like going to the doctor to get your annual exams." More »