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Countering oppressive Systems

As a member of the sickle cell community and the father of a sickle cell warrior, I know how imperative it is to change the narrative as it relates to the current context of sickle cell.

Sickle cell originated as a genetic upgrade to defend the body from malaria. Malaria is a disease that took the lives of more soldiers in World War I than actual gun battle. Currently, almost half a million people die from malaria every year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

If we look at sickle cell through this lens, it gives us insight into the approach we can make to heal ourselves with a non-invasive, non-reproductive system eradicating process. Hippocrates coined the phrase "let the food be the medicine." Oh how far we have veered away from the western medicines founders' philosophy.

My personal experience with western man's approach to treating sickle cell has been nothing short of traumatizing for my family and I. Recently western man and his medical paradigm have arrived at the position of gene therapy being a cure for sickle cell disease. What this means, according to the National Institutes of Health, the treatment involves taking stem cells from a patients bone marrow, fixing the gene that causes their cells to sickle and reinserting that gene using the HIV virus. This happens after the the patient goes through chemotherapy, which in most cases suppresses the immune system. Western man has assured us that the HIV strand that they will be using won't develop into an infection. (Raises eyebrow.) It is this kind of approach to dealing with the sickle cell community that naturally ignites a burning fire to shift the health paradigm as it relates to genetic material.

Another path that western man has been promoting as a cure for sickle cell disease is a gene therapy that prevents the patient who participates in the process from having any children in the future, meaning that it eradicates the patients reproductive system. How is this considered a cure? It is for this reason the I believe the Black community must remain vigilant in regards to how society's institutions approach some of its most vulnerable members.

Our collective experiences have led us to use our gifts to find another way members of the sickle cell community can support their overall health and wellness in a non-invasive way. Within the last five years, we have been hospitalized three times behind our son's health, and not because our child was experiencing a sickle cell crisis, was in pain or was feeling faint from a low hemoglobin. The last time we were hospitalized behind our child, it was based on a meningitis diagnoses, in which penicillin was used over a two-week period along with a blood transfusion — which is considered standard treatment for patients with sickle cell.

The second day our child was being seen at UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, California, a doctor suggested there was a medical process that needed to take place that would lead to the removal of our child's gall bladder. According to them, it was not functioning correctly. When we refused to give consent to the process, the head doctor for surgery came into our room to inform us that it would not be necessary to do the procedure because what they believed to be a swollen gallbladder was in fact a enlarged gall bladder based on the fluids our child had been on for 48 hours.

We had previously been exposed to stories within the sickle cell community in which individuals who have sickle cell would have their organs removed for reasons that the doctor had prescribe. (It could be their gallbladder or their spleen.) It was when we refused to vaccinate our child that a Child Protective Custody case was opened up against my family while in the hospital and we were told that we could not leave. We were subsequently held against our will until CPS arrived. We felt like we were detained or in custody because we brought our child to the hospital when he was sick. This naturally reinforced skepticism that we had already felt about the operations of western man's medical approaches to African people, dating back to the Tuskegee experiments.

Once CPS arrived on June 19, 2018, International Sickle Cell Awareness Day, we had to  meet with two case mangers and two doctors about how we planned on moving forward with our child's health plan. Even though the two agents of child protective services seemingly believed in our stance, there was a case opened against us for child neglect for not vaccinating our children. We were on the front line when we considered western man's influence over our health and wellness, and the punitive measures taken to promote submissiveness on how we choose to raise our children.

A practical solution to sickle cell will have to revolve around lifestyle change. We have been implementing a plant-based nutritional plan within our family for three years using the herb moringa as our foundation for advancing our health disposition. Why moringa? Moringa is one of the most iron-rich food sources available on the planet. It's extremely easy to grow and represents a sustainable option for using food as medicine.

Moringa could potentially neutralize the anemia associated with sickle cell if used as a staple food. Our goal at Creation of Society is to develop a system in which we can provide members of the sickle cell community with raw moringa products free of charge. We would do this by allowing each person who purchases a moringa product through to directly support our position within the sickle cell community by helping us give one product to a sickle cell anemia patient free of charge.

We view this practice as social justice; by finding solutions to our own problems, we empower ourselves collectively. Currently, we have access to over 6,000 morigna trees in California by way of rural family farmers. We also work alongside a moringa cooperative based in Tampa, Florida.

The time is now to tap in to advance some of our community's most vulnerable members.

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