The American Red Cross is highlighting its roots in Black history

The Red Cross is teaming up with several organizations for Black History Month
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Posted at 9:10 PM, Feb 19, 2024

During the month of February, the American Red Cross is highlighting its roots in Black history.

In 1881, abolitionist Frederick Douglass played a role in establishing the Red Cross. Then in 1938, Dr. Charles Drew revolutionized blood banking. Now, the Red Cross is partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU's, for leadership programs.

"It's a leadership, mentoring, and training program where the students interface with some of the Red Cross high level executives as well as learn the importance of blood donation by African Americans and people of African descent," said Dr. Yvette Miller, a medical executive officer at the Red Cross.

In February, students in this program are helping the Red Cross host 25 blood drives on HBCU campuses. The Red Cross is also partnering with high schools, faith-based organizations, historically Black fraternities and sororities, and several other organizations for more than 300 blood drives total throughout the month.

One of the main goals with this initiative is to spread the word about blood donations needed for sickle cell disease. It's a disease that mainly impacts Black Americans. The Red Cross estimates about a third of patients are a blood match with people of African descent.

"So without adequate blood transfusion, patients with sickle cell disease are susceptible to the many complications that affect their lives," said Dr. Miller. "Some of the more serious complications of sickle cell disease are stroke and loss of vision, as well as what is called acute chest syndrome, which is a type of sort of pneumonia, as well as kidney disease."

"Our overall messaging is that we encourage anyone from any race or ethnicity, but specifically because it's African American history month to focus on the Black community, to make an appointment to donate blood," said Dr. Miller.

To find blood drives happening near you, visit the Red Cross website.