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“The Black Walnut” Explores Prostate Cancer Epidemic In Black Men

In 2012, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution, introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), defining the African-American prostate cancer disparity as an “epidemic.” The crisis persists today.

On Saturday, December 7, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., the Cooper-Mercer Institute, TerraVizion Entertainment Network, GB Studios, and the Greater Norfolk Medical Society of South Hampton Roads, in association with The New Journal and Guide, will present special sneak previews of the feature-length film The Black Walnut, at the ODU University Theater, 4601 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk. A compelling, inventive film on the impact of prostate cancer on Black men, The Black Walnut features nine prostate cancer survivors, a urologist and a medical oncologist in dramatic roles.

Hampton Roads-based Writer-Producer-Director Terrance Afer-Anderson, a prostate cancer survivor himself, developed The Black Walnut as the centerpiece of a much larger strategic initiative addressing the African-American prostate cancer disparity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that African-American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at a rate more than 1.7 times that of any other ethnic group and die from the disease at a rate more than 2 times that of non-Hispanic white men. Hampton has the highest incidence of prostate cancer diagnosis in the state of Virginia and Portsmouth has the highest mortality rate. It is noteworthy that both of these cities are predominantly African-American.

The Black Walnut was produced as a novel, engaging tool to increase awareness of the disparity, examine the many barriers Black men face in acquiring healthcare, encourage the practice of good routine health maintenance, explore the significant role women play in men’s health and highlight the importance of clinical trials to discern the roots of the disparity.

The principal characters are six African-American men from different walks of life: an attorney, educator, deacon, long-distance trucker, singer, and a musician. Each man receives an unsolicited letter from the newly-formed The Black Walnut Foundation, offering payment of all medical expenses and a substantial stipend, if certain conditions are met. Each must agree to be featured in a television public service announcement, chronicling their prostate cancer journey, and recruit 30 men for a planned prostate cancer awareness event in their respective communities. They all comply and satisfy the requirements, becoming impassioned ambassadors to increase awareness of the health disparity assailing Black men.

The December 7, 2019 screenings of The Black Walnut are fundraising events to finish production of the film, now 95 percent complete. Previous special sneak previews have been staged by the University of Alabama/Birmingham O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement Institute, the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s National Education Conference, and as part of alumni activities of the first cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Culture of Health Leaders (COHL) program.

Writer-producer-director Terrance Afer-Anderson, a prostate cancer survivor himself and a past RWJF COHL fellow, developed The Black Walnut as the centerpiece of a much larger strategic initiative addressing the African-American prostate cancer disparity. The project was funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Greg Boyd of GB Studios served as Director of Photography/Editor. The film was produced by Afer-Anderson, Boyd, Rebertha Pope-Matthews, Ed.D, and Lamont Williams.

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The Black Walnut has been receiving rave reviews. The UAB event was attended by some 200 community health workers, deployed throughout the Southeast, engaging communities in cancer awareness.

General admission for the 2 p.m. screening is $15. The 6 p.m. screening is a special red carpet event that features Martin Blockson and The Connection jazz band, which will be joined by two-time Grammy nominated musician-composer Bill McGee, who appears in the film along with his music. There will also be a “Meet the Cast” session. Following the 6 p.m. entertainment, The Black Walnut will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the special red carpet event are $30.

Other principal cast members who are prostate cancer survivors include Albert Anderson, Jr., a Norfolk native and the first African-American Catholic Deacon in the Arlington, VA Diocese, local jazz vocalist Elmo Lawrence, and Roger Copeland, Ed.D., a real estate investor and an online university professor.

Other principal cast members include actors Kwame Rakes, April Marcell and Anthony Britt. Urologist Ifeanyi Ani, M.D. and medical oncologist Lloyd Shabazz, M.D. also appear. Other prostate cancer survivors who appear in The Black Walnut include local filmmaker Mario Marisigan, health activist Lawrence Davis, prolific actor Rodney Suiter, Ronald Reeves and Joseph Dillard. Afer-Anderson makes a cameo appearance.

Also appearing are Rebertha Pope-Matthews, Crystal Sessoms, Chantee Joy, Delia Davis, Karl M. Anderson, Lamont Williams, Elise Hasenstab, John Pycior, Zoey Jefferson and Ricky Jefferson, III. Select cast members are available for interviews.

Tickets for both screenings are available at Eventbrite. For further information, please call Terrance Afer-Anderson, TerraVizion Entertainment Network, at (757) 839-7963 or visit www.terravizioninc.com

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