This week I had the privilege to attend the 2nd Annual St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Spirit of the Dream Fundraiser presented by Phillip Ashley Chocolates.
The purpose of the event was to celebrate the achievements and contributions African Americans have made to the St. Jude legacy. The event was held at the Domino’s event center. It is always a privilege to see the amazing work St. Jude does in our city. As a new Memphian, I can easily forget the rich history and incredible organizations that help to make Memphis so great. Tonight was a night where rich history, collaboration and celebration came together to remind us of how much St. Jude has done and is doing for the city of Memphis.
The event’s promise was that “music, medicine and art come together”, and it kept true to it’s promise. We had the opportunity to experience hand crafted cocktails and catering by Donelson’s Catering. We also participated in an interactive painting experience. There was a live, private performance from celebrity guest, Tweet. One of my favorite aspects of the night was that you could purchase artwork from the patients at St. Jude. I loved the way St. Jude gave their patients a chance to contribute to what was going on at the event.
Though the food was amazing and we had a blast dancing the night away, my very favorite part of the night was learning about the history of this hospital that led the way when it came to civil rights issues. St. Jude was founded in 1968, in the very height of the civil rights era, the same year Martin Luther King was assassinated. That event is so significant that it’s easy to have no idea that St. Jude played such an instrumental role in healthcare for people of color.
When segregation was the norm of southern culture, St. Jude was the first fully integrated children’s hospital in the south. The hospital’s founder, Danny Thomas believed that his mission was to “help all desperately ill boys and girls, regardless of a family’s religion, financial status, or race”. Danny Thomas believed that all children, regardless of the color of their skin or their background, deserved a fighting chance and free healthcare.
Not only was St. Jude the first fully integrated children’s hospital, but the hospital also played a key role in the integration of hotels in Memphis. The hospital made arrangements and provided housing downtown for patients, yet many hotels refused to allow African-American patients to stay. The hospital’s director at the time demanded that if the children and their parents could not stay in the hotel then they would not use that hotel for any St. Jude patient and families. Hotels started to agree to change their policies, though many were hesitant and used clauses stating that families could only eat in their rooms and not the hotel dining facilities. The hospital’s director held firm and made sure that all patients and their families were treated equally at their hotels. The hotels agreed and St. Jude helped to integrate the hospitality industry in Memphis.
I was reminded that when people of influence stand for the marginalized and offer their resources and connections, lives are transformed and saved. St. Jude is a picture of that to me. St. Jude has been intentional in using their influence to empower, equip, to fight for racial reconciliation and give people access to healthcare they otherwise would not have. It was such an honor to stand in a room of amazing people, predominantly African-Americans, who are using their lives, means and influence to impact children and save lives.