When my mom wanted to teach me anything of principle and importance, she used the arts: film, music, or fashion. When encouraging me to learn French and travel abroad, she told me Molly Ringwald, of my fave film Pretty in Pink, had moved to Paris.
So when it came time to further explain and express the ravages of Sickle Cell Anemia on a person's body, psyche, and future plans... she showed me the Sidney Poitier written and directed film, A Warm December--sadly forgotten by many, and yet a film that so closely and accurately addresses the realities of this disease in the lives of people who happen to be people of color. (I always think, if this painful genetic disease was suffered by the majority race would we have to push so hard for research, cures, and publicity?) I recall watching this film and being enthralled, amazed, confused and yet, only clumsily connecting the dots between this story and my mom--in fact, never realizing until much later that she, like the heroine, had a timestamp on her lifespan.
In the tradition of "Love Story" this truly moving romantic drama is about a young man's love for a woman with a terminal disease.
Click below for the film's trailer. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. I'm not only proud of Sidney Poitier for approaching this topic with pen, paper and lens, but also of the beautiful chocolate hues of talented actors both young and seasoned depicted throughout this film. It is important that we tell our own stories with accuracy, love and pride.
Do you remember the 21st night of September? / Love was changing the minds of pretenders / While chasing the clouds away / Now December found the love we shared in September. / Only blue talk and love / Remember the true love we share today (Lyrics: Earth, Wind & Fire)
Never forget that hundreds of thousands of people of color live with and suffer through Sickle cell anemia disease every day! This genetic disease is no joke! And it's one of the few diseases that not only attacks children, but makes it difficult for them to reach well into adulthood. There's the pain; there's the avoidance of the temptingly cool ocean waters on a hot summer's day due to how it affects blood circulation; there's the runner who can't run today, the ulcers and sores in visible places on the body where blood cells under the skin, no longer properly rounded, have sickled and have difficulty passing through. And the hospital might as well take rent and mortgage payments along with insurance, since one often finds themselves there for blood transfusions in a crisis. And the transfusions? Another roll of the dice in a never-ending pursuit to be healthier while receiving a stranger's blood. The aforementioned crisis? Excruciatingly painful.
Even though my mom passed away just before my college graduation (in her 40's), she could have died in her 20's (the norm for someone with this disease in her era) and I would have never known her as well as I came to know her.
Never forget that Sickle Cell plagues our Black and Latino populations, that there is no cure and that we need to keep the awareness, the conversation, and the name of this disease and its survivors in the forefront.