Addressing a standing-room-only audience of Montclair State
University students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the surrounding
communities, David “Sonny” Lacks, spoke about his mother, her singular contribution
to science and about what her story meant to his family. The son of Henrietta
Lacks, the central figure in the book, The
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, David Lacks was joined by his son, David
Jr., at the special speaking engagement and book signing held in the University
Hall Conference Center on September 27.
The New York Times
bestseller, The Immortal Life of
Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, is the selection for Montclair Book
2012, a common reading experience for first-year students. It tells the story
of Henrietta Lacks, a poor, African-American tobacco farmer whose cells, taken
without her knowledge in 1951, were to become the first immortal human cells
ever grown in a laboratory. Although she died later that year, her cells
continued to be grown and played a crucial role in medical breakthroughs in
vaccinations, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping.
David Lacks and his siblings did not learn that the cells
existed until the 1970s and he talked about what it meant to find out—decades
after the fact—that his mother’s cells were being used in laboratories around
the world, bought and sold by the billions. He shared his enthralling first-person
perspective on the ethical questions raised by this remarkable story, and how
the experience changed the Lacks family forever.
Brigid Harrison, professor of political science and law moderated
the discussion, and the guest speakers also answered questions from the audience. Lacks thanked Montclair State for inviting him to share his story and graciously stayed on to speak with audience members and sign copies of the book.
A part of Constitution Day 2012, the event was jointly sponsored by the Center for Writing Excellence, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the First-Year Writing Program, and Student Development and Campus Life.
View more photos from the event at Flickr.com.