Chapter 28 Summary
In the 1990s, Henrietta finally began to receive respectful attention for her contribution to medical science. A BBC producer heard about her story and began to shoot a documentary about her life. Around that same time, the scientist Roland Patillo hosted a medical conference in Henrietta’s honor and invited the family to make an appearance. Deborah and the other Lackses were pleased by these developments.
The BBC documentary brought Henrietta’s story to the attention of Courtney Speed, the grocery store owner in Turner Station. With the help of a sociologist named Barbary Wyche, Speed began efforts to build a Henrietta Lacks museum, complete with a wax statue of her. To raise money, Speed began selling T-shirts and other memorabilia in Henrietta’s honor. This effort began with no input from the Lackses, and Deborah was annoyed when she found out:
The family don’t need no museum, and they definitely don’t need no wax Henrietta…If anybody collecting money for anything, it should be Henrietta children collecting money for going to the doctor.
Nevertheless, Speed and Wyche managed to access valuable information about Henrietta’s cells. They invited Mary Kubicek, George Gey’s former assistant, to come to Turner Station to answer questions about her. The attendees at this meeting, mainly unconnected people from the neighborhood, accused Gey of stealing the cells and selling them for profit. Mary explains that Gey made no money off of the cells, but some attendees do not believe her.
During this period, officials at Johns Hopkins revisited Henrietta’s story as well. Officially, the hospital denied any obligation, monetary or otherwise, toward the Lacks family or the museum effort. However, a small group of people at Johns Hopkins began holding unofficial meetings to explore ideas for honoring Henrietta and her family in some way.
Then Deborah met a man named Dr. Sir Lord Keenan Kester Cofield, “the cousin of Deborah’s husband’s former stepdaughter, or something like that.” Cofield approached Deborah claiming to be a lawyer and a doctor, and he seemed to know how to access information about Henrietta. He promised to get money...
(The entire section is 546 words.)