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WUWM's Teran Powell races on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

Exhibit At America’s Black Holocaust Museum Encourages Black Milwaukeeans To Donate Organs

New exhibit at America's Black Holocaust Museum
Teran Powell
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WUWM
'A Gift Eternal' by artist Kierston Ghaznavi is one piece included in the new exhibit at America's Black Holocaust Museum.

African Americans in the United States are the largest ethnic group in need of organ transplants — at 35%. In Wisconsin, more than 2,000 people are currently on the transplant list, and 400 of them are Black.

This according to Colleen McCarthy, vice president of Versiti Organ & Tissue Donation, a federally designated organ procurement organization.

“Organ donation is a rare opportunity. Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national transplant waiting list, and every day 22 people die waiting for their second chance for an organ transplant,” she said.

McCarthy shared these numbers Wednesday at America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood. It’s there that an exhibit, titled LifeLine: The Ultimate Bond, exploring organ and tissue donation in Milwaukee’s Black communities in on display. The exhibit, featuring art, interactive data and local stories, is doing a virtual launch on Friday.

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Teran Powell
The new exhibit in America's Black Holocaust Museum located on the corner of West North Avenue and Vel R. Phillips Avenue.

Donate Life Wisconsin, America’s Black Holocaust Museum and the Milwaukee chapter of the Pan-Hellenic Council all had a hand in this show coming together during Minority Health Month and Donate Life Month.

Tonnie Boston is Versiti’s community outreach manager. “This ground-breaking feature is intended to serve as a much-needed catalyst for awareness, dialogue, and most importantly increased organ and tissue donor registration within Milwaukee’s African American Community,” said Boston.

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Teran Powell
Richard Lewis standing next to a banner that tells the story of his two kidney transplants.

According to Versiti, only 25% of African Americans in Milwaukee are registered organ, tissue and eye donors.

But the hope is that stories like those of Richard Lewis and Kobena-Marcus J. Collins will help change this. Lewis is a two-time kidney recipient. The first came from his sister, and the second from a young Black man.

“When he passed away, his mom was able to save eight people’s lives. People got his eyes, people got his heart, kidneys, all different body parts. So, it’s very important to be a registered organ donor,” said Lewis.

Collins has been on the kidney transplant list for about a year and half. This is his message to Black folks in Milwaukee questioning organ donation: “You can get tested and you’re still not making a commitment. It’s not like once you get tested you have to go through with it. You can go through the process, see if you’re a match, and take the time, talk with your family to see if that’s something that you’re comfortable doing."

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