From the Executive Director: Investing in Social Change Organizations and Grassroots Activism

Karuna Jaggar 2015By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director

Twenty years ago, Breast Cancer Action (BCAction) took a brave and unprecedented stand. In order to always put women’s health first, in 1998 under the leadership of executive director Barbara Brenner and Board Chair Rachel-Morello Frosch, BCAction became the first national breast cancer organization to adopt a policy explicitly prohibiting financial support from corporations that profit from or contribute to breast cancer, such as pharmaceutical companies and corporate polluters.

This pioneering governance policy to refuse funding from organizations that profit from or contribute to the cancer epidemic has come to define Breast Cancer Action and our unique role in the field. Our integrity is a cornerstone of our mission: we couldn’t demand industry transparency and accountability while taking money from companies that are part of the cancer industry.

This strict policy means that there is a lot of money we can’t and won’t accept. But despite the pinch this puts on our fundraising, we believe we can’t work to address and end this breast cancer epidemic if we are in bed with the corporations responsible for some of the root causes of it.

The result is BCAction does the work that no other breast cancer organization will do. In this issue of The Source, you will read about some of the work we are doing to challenge the cancer industry and change the status quo. You’ll read about what makes us unique and effective. You’ll read about what our work together has achieved this spring, such as our:

  • Leadership role in the anti-fracking and dangerous drilling movement to protect public health;
  • Tool to hold the mainstream breast cancer movement accountable to women living with and at risk of breast cancer by providing “4 questions to ask before you walk for breast cancer”;
  • Challenge to the appointment of a new head of the Food and Drug Administration over concerns that his ties to industry will threaten patient-centered standards of safety and efficacy;
  • Support of the Lymphedema Treatment Act to ensure that the most vulnerable patients have access to treatment for this debilitating and common side effect of some breast cancer treatments.

To achieve these and other successes, we depend on you. We depend on you to take action. We depend on you to raise your voices and tell your stories. And we depend on you to fund our work. Our members always have been and always will be our strength.

Together we can do so much more than any of us could do on our own.

This spring, our unique mission-driven funding model was recognized in an important new “Bright Spots” report, led by CompassPoint, which underscores the often overlooked, yet critical step, that investing in social change organizations is itself a form of grassroots activism.

Barbara Brenner, our former executive director, believed that as individuals, we advance the arc of history towards justice in many ways all equally important. But what separated BCAction and BCAction activists from everyone else in the breast cancer movement, was a core belief that we could never be bought –”no amount of money or privilege will change [our] commitment to [our] goals.”  Because our goals are about “more than self-interest: they are about changing systems so that many people who now suffer will benefit” (So Much To Be Done: The Writings of Breast Cancer Activist Barbara Brenner).

Thank you for your activism and all the ways you make Breast Cancer Action a strong force for radical change.

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