By Gail M. Brown,
The world has been gripped by the horrendous coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it is still important not to lose sight of other serious issues such as breast cancer and domestic violence.
The Honorable Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Latrice Westbrooks recently helped to keep those issues in focus by hosting an informative virtual community forum via Facebook Live titled, “Cares for the Community.” The forum invited experts and witnesses from around the state to help increase awareness in observance of October as both National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“This week’s Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Virtual Forum was an opportunity to provide our community with resources and information of the ills of breast cancer and the impact of domestic violence in our community,” Westbrooks told The Mississippi Link in a statement before press time Wednesday evening, Oct. 28.
“Our world has been rocked by the unexpected and unprecedented 270,000 lives-and-counting that have been taken from us by the assault of COVID-19. Then, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation it is projected that ‘in 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S.’ Coupled that with the sad commentary of the [rising] domestic violence statistics including assault, bullying, date rape, gun violence, sexual abuse, sex trafficking and stalking, the quality of life is dismal and life expectancy is cut short for far too many in our African-America communities and for people of color.”
According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
Westbrooks’ virtual community awareness forum consisted of several outstanding panelists who were advocates, practitioners and survivors with first-hand knowledge and experiences. They included the following individuals and their topics: Pamela Lee, Ph.D. (Health Awareness Overview), a clinical nurse educator and RN for 19 years; Shonda Deloach (breast cancer experience) a native of Starkville, MS and a member of law enforcement; and Velma Warren-Givens (Domestic Violence Experience) a native of Crawford, Mississippi.
It was also pointed out during the forum that men are at risk for breast cancer too, even though it is rare. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., “In 2020, an estimated 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S.”
A local pastor appreciated the informative forum.
“Even in the midst of this pandemic, women and men should remain proactive and concerned about the risks of breast cancer,” said Pastor Audrey Lynne Hall, who is praising God for her 10th-year as a breast cancer overcomer. “I urge everyone to not allow this pandemic to keep you from getting your annual examination. We need more awareness regarding this dreadful disease,” Hall stressed.
Westbrooks later stated, “We hoped the viewers gained a perspective that they do not have to suffer in isolation.” She emphasized that there are different support networks available for individuals battling breast cancer regardless of the station of life they find themselves in.
In her closing remarks at the end of the forum, Westbrooks said, “My thoughts and prayers go to all of you who are burdened with this disease. I believe we must remain vigilant in our support of those impacted by this disease. As a society, we must remain relentless in our pursuit of a cure, and I fundamentally believed that there is a cure for this disease and my faith won’t let me believe otherwise.” She also believe that while the disease process of breast cancer and domestic violence differ and carry their unique characteristics, the commonality of two is that they are a disease, both treatable through a process.
Westbrooks has served as a member of the Mississippi Court of Appeals District 2, Position 2 since Jan. 3, 2017. She earned her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1997. She was admitted to the Mississippi Bar that same year. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Westbrooks was named Outstanding Woman Lawyer of 2017 by the Mississippi Women Lawyers’ Association.
Westbrooks, a veteran in the field of law, is currently vying for election to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Central District, Post 1.