Niagara Gazette

February 1, 2013

Falls to be lit in blue on Saturday night

By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette —

Two young activists from Long Island who call themselves "the youngest prostate cancer health advocates in America" will be in Niagara Falls Saturday evening when the mighty cataracts will be colored blue in memory of those who have died of prostate cancer.

The two, who each lost a grandfather to prostate cancer, became inspired to create a foundation after they produced a film at Long Island University about a man battling the illness. They later created the Brown Byrd Prostate Cancer Foundation in New York City.

"At the time we started a lot of people didn't know what prostrate cancer was," said Blossom Brown, 31, vice president and co-founder, who speaks throughout the state with the organization's president, Kevin Byrd, 32, a Manhattan actor. These days, as the pair attends health fairs and community functions, they find that men still aren't comfortable talking about the disease, which impacts the African American community more than any other.

The latest statistics available from the Center for Disease Control show that African American men have the highest rate of getting prostate cancer, followed by white men, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans. 

"We want to open the way for people to speak about it more," Brown said.

The foundation also works with an organization called 100 Black Men of Long Island, where Kevin is the health and wellness chairman. In addition, Byrd has done outreach programs with with Rabbi Edgar Weinsberg, author of two books on health, including one on conquering prostate cancer. 

The rabbi remarked on the pair's achievements in getting politicians to acknowledge the issue of prostate cancer, including Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke of New York, who acknowledged the organization and its activities in a speech to Congress on Feb. 2, 2012. In addition, just recently, Mayor Paul Dyster proclaimed Feb. 2 "Prostate Cancer Awareness Observance Day" and a similar proclamation was issued by James Diodati, the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont.  

The rabbi, who has traveled with Byrd to locations such as Atlanta and Sarasota to raise awareness about the disease, said he was impressed by the young man's contribution to the cause.

"He's a pretty unusual guy. For a fellow that young to take a clear-eyed view of a national problem for men, particularly African American men, is really to his credit," Weinsberg said.  

During the special blue lighting at the falls on Saturday night, Byrd and Brown will be handing out blue ribbons and information about prostate cancer. They had hoped to do more, such as provide free screenings on Saturday, but Brown said they were only just recently notified that the falls would be lit blue on Saturday, in honor of the organization's fifth annual observance.

"We will also have a moment of silence for seven seconds because every seven seconds a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer worldwide," Brown said. 

The falls will be colored blue from 6:30 p.m. to 6:45  p.m.; 7 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. 

For more information about the Brown Byrd Prostate Cancer Foundation, email: brownbyrdprostatefoundation@yahoo.com or write to the foundation at 110 Wall St., 11th floor, New York, NY 10005, or call 212-709-8335.