Book Bridge Project Promotes Community Engagement on Bioethics and Race

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Article by: Joe Clark,

 LARGO, Md.—The Book Bridge Project at Prince George’s Community College,a community-wide reading and engagement initiative, has selected The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as the official reading for the 2012-2013 academic year. Book Bridge stimulates dialogue by offering public forums and discussion groups to foster greater understanding of others’ views. The project also creates educational opportunities for students and the community to respond to issues in the book. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks illustrates the dark history of experimentation on African-Americans, the birth of bioethics and the legal battles over who controls the cells that make up the body. The college community selected the book to encourage readers to examine how far racial discrimination can extend when left unchecked and wholly supported by a society. 

Henrietta Lacks was selected because it offers the college and community an opportunity to engage across departments and fields of study,” said Risikat I. Okedeyi, associate professor of English at Prince George’s Community College. “We look forward to thought-provoking discussions from readers,” she added. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks chronicles the life of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge. Lacks’ cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization. Skloot takes the reader on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with Lacks’ cells.  

About the Book Bridge Project 

The annual Book Bridge Project at Prince George’s Community College was established in 1997. Using literature as a base for building a bridge between the college campus and community, the project fosters improved relationships across the county. The founder of Book Bridge, retired PGCC English professor Mary Brown, compared the project to a book club that is open to anyone in the community with partners including businesses, churches, schools and social groups. Each year, college employees select from a list of books, and the publication receiving the most votes becomes the feature book of the program. Past reading selections include President Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands, Bebe Moore Campbell’s Brothers and Sisters, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Michelle Singletary’s Spend Well, Live Rich and James McBride's Song Yet Sung.   

The Book Bridge Project is supported in part by the Prince George’s Community College Foundation, Inc., English Department and Developmental English/Reading Department in the Learning Foundations Division. For more information, contact 301-546-0588. 

Prince George’s Community College is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Two-year Education designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (2010-2015). Established in 1958, Prince George’s Community College provides transfer and career programs that help students transfer to four-year colleges and universities and prepare them for the workforce. Each year, 40,000 students take part in more than 200 academic programs and workforce development and continuing education courses. Located in Largo, Maryland, Prince George’s Community College has additional sites at Joint Base Andrews, University Town Center in Hyattsville, Laurel College Center, Skilled Trades Center in Camp Springs, and Westphalia Training Center in Upper Marlboro. For more information, visit the college website at    

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