December 26, 2008
The first day of Kwanzaa (Umoja) celebrates unity. In terms of the African community around the world, it was easy for Emru and I to see how this was a global problem and and to also understand the effects of our history and various migrations had on the very current issue of the registries around the world and why it made people of African descent - especially from the Caribbean - so very difficult to match.
It made working with an organization like the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust a no-brainer. They were committed to helping patients from all over the world. They understood your location was not important.
While unity also meant asking people on a fundamental level to redefine who they thought of as family to illustrate the importance of people within a same or similar ethnicity being the most likely match for another person in that group, it also meant rallying people within that group to come together to help others in need. Unity came in the form of ethnocultural community, a life an death matter in terms of finding a matching donor, but also extended to the unity of offline and online social networks.
I am already wired this way, and it is not spontaneous; it is a learned response over so many years that it feels natural. Emru and I like to help, strive to find answers, and believe in the power of numbers and our potential. We are like this because our parents have inculcated us with a strong sense of who we are, ethics, and belief in our potential and that of others. I believe it for myself, my community, or rather my communities, be it ethnic, cultural, geopolitical, virtual, or intentional.
Patients and their families united to help each other, and we all put our heads together with friends and strangers to try to find solutions. I asked my friends to register for the European, South Asian, East Asian and multiethnic patients who I knew were waiting for a lifesaving match. They did the same for the African community. Unity is instantly scalable to a global level.
We both knew there is power in many people doing a little (sometimes a lot to cover those who didn't feel the same way) to do big things and help one another. And it paid off, not just for Emru, but for at least two others who needed matches, and hopefully others will be on the registry in the future for someone else in need.
If you seek to help one, you help everyone. We are all in this together.