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Speakers to lead dialogue on race

Descendants of Henrietta Lacks will discuss the family’s decades-long conflict in a special program Nov. 17 on Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus.

Lacks was a young black woman in 1951 when her cells were taken without her knowledge for research. Nicknamed HeLa, they were the first immortal human cells ever grown in a medical laboratory — and became one of the most important tools in modern medicine.

The matter led to a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision against human gene patents. Lacks’ granddaughter, Jeri Lacks Whye, and daughter-in-law, Shirley Lacks, will share their stories and experiences through interviews conducted by MCC students. Their conversations will encompass racism, poverty, science, ethics and the commercialization of human tissue.

The Lacks family’s story is captured in an award-winning book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot.

Lacks Whye serves as a consultant on an upcoming HBO film based on the book and being produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.

Sponsored by MCC’s Academic Services division and the Office of Student Life and Leadership Development, the event will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Warshof Conference Center, R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center on MCC’s Brighton Campus, 1000 E. Henrietta Road. Parking is available in lots M and N.

Admission is free for MCC students and employees and $7 for the general public. To purchase tickets, go to