Los Angeles resident, Walela Nehanda was recently selected as the first place winner of “What’s Menthol Got To Do With It? Everything!” spoken word contest focused on the negative impacts tobacco and menthol has on communities of color. Held during the Great American Smokeout 2018 at the Hot and Cool Café in Leimert Park, the contest showcased poets, writers, and rappers performing their original pieces linking tobacco and social injustice.
“Art without a purpose is useless, so having a contest that has to do with cigarettes and linking that to social injustice and medical apartheid is a great way to share the information with our community,” said Nehanda. “My poem is a call to action for Black people to encourage them to transform our community.”
Research shows that African Americans and residents in low income communities are one of the main target groups of menthol cigarette advertising. A report from the American Cancer Society states that smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of death in the African-American community, surpassing all other causes of death, including AIDS, homicide, diabetes, and accidents. By 2020, the African American population will have suffered more than 4,700 excess deaths due to menthol in cigarettes says the Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.
“The Great American Smokeout has provided an opportunity for individuals, community groups, businesses, health care providers, and others to encourage people to use the date to make a plan to quit. Now, we are working to get the collective energy of our poets and artists into the movement,” said Ernesta Wright, executive director of the G.R.E.E.N. Initiative.
The event was hosted by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), The LOOP, The G.R.E.E.N. Foundation, Prevention Institute, the Hot and Cool Café, Aromas Stories, Abrafi Sanyika, and Heart of Yemalla, LLC and was designed to increase awareness of the tobacco industry’s negative effects on the African American community. The first, second, and third place winners received a cash prize ranging from $300 to $100. The winners were selected by a panel of judges including poet Denise Lyles-Cook and radio personality Mother Love. Contestants were evaluated for their originality, educational content, and delivery.
To learn more about The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council please visit http://www.savingblacklives.org/.