My husband just bought the Steph Curry 2.0 Black History Month basketball shoes. (Really he bought them because he liked the colors and the fact that they were Steph Curry’s.) After they came in the mail, we noticed that there was a date on the end of the shoelace. 2/8/51. I immediately started Googling to find out exactly what that date meant in relation to the shoes.
Okay…not very helpful. Obviously, I was going to have to be more specific in my search. So I tried again.
Alright, finally getting somewhere. I ignored all of the posts from Pinterest, mainly because I didn’t want to go through all of the pins to find the one I wanted. So finally a Wikipedia page came up. Something I could use as a springboard for further research!
Thankfully, I didn’t have to go digging further because I’ve already had some knowledge on the subject and told my husband the basics. So what is so special about 2/8/1951? In short, February 8, 1951 is the day a research scientist took cells from Henrietta Lack’s tumor that contained cervical cancer without her knowledge or consent. George Gey found out that these cells could be kept alive and was able to isolate a single specific cell, multiply it, and start a cell line. He called these cells HeLa and is termed “immortal” because they can be divided an unlimited amount of times in a laboratory. Scientists have grown approximately 20 tons of her cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells (Wikipedia).
Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.
HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.
The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Now we know who the shoes are about and what that day in history meant. Next is why did they choose those colors? Initially, I was not a big fan of the pink and purple combo (but it has slowly grown on me as my husband continues to wear them).
A simple Google search led me to this picture from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You can easily see where their inspiration came from. What is neat about the Steph Curry shoes, is that this image is printed on the inside of the shoe! So I knew I was definitely on the right track when they matched!
If you want to look/buy the shoes, you can purchase them on the Under Armour website (link provided below)
If you would like to purchase The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks you can click the link below for Amazon.