Mardi Gras Masquerade was the theme of Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta’s 9th Annual Bubbles & Bling fundraiser, held June 4 in the ballroom of the Georgia Aquarium.
The event drew roughly 270 people and raised more than $255,000 for the foundation’s operations — surpassing their goal of raising $200,000, according to Jamar Jeffers, the organization’s state executive director.
Guests were greeted in the parking deck entrance to the aquarium by a New Orleans’ style second line band. A hot pink carpet with dazzling decorations made for a grand entrance to the ballroom. Inside, the Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple welcomed guests as they perused live and silent auction items, and enjoyed Southern and Cajun tastings, music and ocean creatures in their aquarium habitats.
Event co-chairs Cati Diamond Stone, vice-president of community health for Susan G. Komen and Yvonne Bryant Johnson, president and CEO of Bryant & Associates kicked off the evening by reminding the audience why they were there — to bring equity to the fight against breast cancer.
“I became involved with Komen because I want to make sure that all people have access to the care and support that they need,” Bryant Johnson said in her remarks. “Unfortunately, that is not the case in Atlanta or the United States. Black women in the United States are about 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women; that’s unacceptable.”
The event honored the winners of the organization’s, “Promise Award,” which goes to recipients for the Susan G. Komen promise to end breast cancer. Monique Rodriguez, founder and CEO of the hair care and beauty brand Mielle Organics, and her husband Melvin Rodriguez, COO of the company, earned the award for their commitment to championing health equity. A national Komen sponsor, the company created a co-branded Komen product line called Oats & Honey that directly supports African American women in their fight against breast cancer.
In accepting the award, Rodriguez, whose husband was unable to attend the event, said partnering with Komen has allowed them to educate and raise awareness about breast cancer for the African American community. She said when she was a nurse for more than eight years she worked with many patients who had the disease. “I was able to see the pain, the turmoil, the fear, the doubt, the worry in my patients’ eyes, and I was happy to be their nurse to take care of them,” Rodriguez said. “And now I’ve been given a bigger platform to still devote my time and resources to put an end to this breast cancer disease for patients and also survivors.”
One guest at the event was Keneene Lewis, 44, of Marietta, Ga., who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2019 and now has no evidence of disease. She said she came to the event to bring attention to the important issues around the disease as it pertains to the Black community. “Anything I can do to bring attention to the health disparities that Black and Brown women face, and help raise money for research, clinical trials or just more information for testing — I’m here for it,” Lewis said.
Tandria Edwards of Griffin, Ga., was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer at age 30 and is currently undergoing hormone therapy. Now 31, the single mother of 6-year-old twins said that among her first thoughts upon her diagnosis was that her children were going to lose her and she wasn’t ready. She said the work that Komen and the organization she was with, For the Breast of Us, has done is essential. “We need to figure out what’s going on and lower the health disparities with breast cancer,” Edwards, who is originally from St. Louis, Mo., said. “Being a woman of color, we do have a higher risk of dying with breast cancer and a higher risk of our doctors not giving us the right treatment.”
At the end of the evening, with the money raised, prizes dispersed and the dance floor filling up, Jeffers, who joined Komen Greater Atlanta in March, reflected on the night’s purpose. The funding will go toward paying for everything from mammograms for people who can’t afford them to genetic counseling. “The work that we do here tonight will go towards supporting our financial programs, our advocacy, our helpline, clinical trials,” he said, “all of those things that are essential to ending breast cancer.”