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Step Up to Speak Up Events Use Spoken Word and African-American Greek Tradition of 'Stepping' to Raise Awareness for Organ and Tissue Donation

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The tradition of stepping has been a part of the African-American sorority and fraternity experience for decades. Spoken word as a performance art dates back to the legacy of storytelling that has existed for generations.

For the first-time ever, an event that combines these two expressions will be featured as a part of the state's effort to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donor designation among African-Americans.

The event, entitled Step Up to Speak Up, will feature step teams from historically African-American fraternities and sororities along with spoken word performers sharing their talents around the importance of organ and tissue donation for African Americans.  The events are free with the first one taking place Friday, March 12 in Pittsburgh, 6 - 8 p.m., at August Wilson Center for African American Culture. A second event will occur in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 27, 6 - 8 p.m., at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

"While African Americans make up 11 percent of the state's overall population, they represent nearly 32 percent of Pennsylvanians waiting for organ donor transplants," said Department of Health Deputy Secretary Janice P. Kopelman. "People of color also suffer disproportionately from health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and kidney failure for which a transplant represents a viable medical option. These two facts alone speak to the critical need for registered donors from the African-American community in Pennsylvania."

Step Up to Speak Up is an opportunity for student leaders and members of the spoken word community to educate their peers about the significance of organ donor designation. More than 2,550 African-Americans are in need of organ or tissue transplantation. More than half of these individuals will wait over a year for a transplant, with many waiting for at least five years. Since there is greater likelihood of transplant success among members of the same ethnic and racial group, it is important to continue providing awareness of the need for African-American donors.

Leading up to each event, a donor ambassador will be selected from participating campuses to organize events and educate their fellow students about organ donation and promoting Step Up to Speak Up. While both events are free, tickets will be required for admission.

"I decided to get involved with Step Up to Speak Up to help educate others about the overall importance of organ donation, and more personally, the importance of being an African-American designated organ donor. The opportunity to save a life is the most precious gift you can ever give someone, which is why I decided to become a donor," added Cory Johnson, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Temple University.

Step Up to Speak Up is part of a statewide Donate Life campaign by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through its two organ procurement organizations [Gift of Life in Philadelphia and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) in Pittsburgh] to raise awareness for becoming registered as organ and tissue donors within the African-American community.

Statewide retailer Villa is one of the event's sponsors and will outfit the performers while providing participants who attend with coupons and gift cards for merchandise. For more information about Step Up to Speak Up, visit For more information about becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit

About CORE

CORE is a regional not-for-profit agency that is the primary call center and intermediary for the organ recovery and allocation process that serves 155 hospitals and more than six million people in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County in New York.  CORE has helped to pioneer organ procurement allocation and recovery for this region since it was founded in 1977 as the Pittsburgh Transplant Foundation.  For more information visit

About Gift of Life Donor Program

Since 1974, Gift of Life Donor Program has served as the link between donors and patients awaiting life-saving transplants in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.  In that tenure, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 29,000 life-saving organ transplants and hundreds of thousand tissue transplants.  For more information, visit

Life Begins with You Campaign

The Life Begins with You campaign is a collaborative initiative between Gift of Life Donor Program (GOL), the Center for Organ & Recovery Education (CORE) - the two organ procurement organizations serving Pennsylvania - and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Transportation. It is funded by state residents through voluntary contributions included with driver's license renewals, vehicle registrations and state income tax filings. All contributions are used by the Governor Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund to educate residents, build awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation, and increase the number of people who sign up to become donors on their driver's license, learner's permit or state identification card.

One Extraordinary Way to Say Love Life

When you choose to become an organ and tissue donor, you have the power to give the most precious gift - life. Join the nearly four million Pennsylvanians who have said "yes" to organ and tissue donation by adding the donor designation to your driver's license, learner's permit or state identification card. Sign up to be an organ and tissue donor today by visiting because Life Begins with You.

The Facts on Organ and Tissue Donation Among African Americans in Pennsylvania

It is important for everyone to sign up to become an organ and tissue donor and there is an even greater need within the African American community.

The course of history can be changed by increasing the number of people who receive life saving transplants each year.  In fact, one organ and tissue donor can give more than 50 people a second chance at life!

(Key facts from and

  • African Americans make up 11 percent of Pennsylvania's overall population, but represent nearly 32 percent of Pennsylvanians waiting for organ donor transplants.
  • Of the more than 2,550 African Americans waiting for transplants in Pennsylvania, 89 percent are waiting for kidney transplants.
  • African Americans represent 16 percent of transplants performed in Pennsylvania to date.
  • 24.4 percent of African Americans waiting for transplants are between the ages of 50 and 64, and 28.6 percent are between the ages of 35 and 49.

How long is the wait for African Americans?

  • 59.8 percent of African Americans in Pennsylvania waiting for an organ transplant have been on the waiting list for over 1 year; 10.8 percent have been waiting for more than five years.
  • African Americans represent 42.1 percent of all Pennsylvanians waiting more than five years for a kidney transplant.

Who's donating?

In Pennsylvania, African Americans represent 11.4 percent of deceased donors and 12.8 percent of living donors to date.

Pennsylvania State Transplant Waiting List Report

                      All Organs    Kidney   Liver   Pancreas
    All Ethnicities     8,061       5,765    1,431     207
    White               4,741       2,887    1,172     175
    Black               2,551       2,274      155      20
    Hispanic              456         336       76       9
    Asian                 258         222       23       3
    American Indian/
    Alaska Native          16          12        3       0
    Pacific Islander        4           4        0       0
    Multiracial            35          30        2       0
                       Kidney/    Heart   Lung   Heart/   Intestine
                       Pancreas                  Lung
    All Ethnicities      200       207    140      8         103
    White                156       165    113      4          69
    Black                 31        33     17      1          20
    Hispanic              11         5      5      2          12
    Asian                  2         3      3      0           2
    American Indian/
    Alaska Native          0         1      0      0           0
    Pacific Islander       0         0      0      0           0
    Multiracial            0         0      2      1           0

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) as of 12.11.09. For updated information, go to

In Pennsylvania

  • Between September 2008 and September 2009, 1,424,924 Pennsylvanians said "yes" to organ and tissue donation and added the designation to their driver's license.
  • The organ transplant waiting list in Pennsylvania includes more than 7,900 people. Still thousands of others wait for a tissue transplant that will greatly enhance the quality of their lives.
    • More than 5,900 people await transplants in the Gift of Life Donor Program service region, which includes the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.
    • At the five CORE-affiliated organ transplant hospitals, serving counties in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and a portion of New York, approximately 2,000 people are awaiting organ transplantation.
  • Pennsylvanians can register as organ donors online anytime at or they can sign up as an organ donor when receiving or renewing their driver's license at any one of Pennsylvania's driver license centers.

One Donor…

  • Can donate kidneys to free two people from the dialysis treatments needed to sustain life.
  • Can save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants.
  • Can give sight to two people through the donation of corneas.
  • Can donate bone to help repair injured joints or to help save an arm or leg threatened by cancer or other illness.
  • Can help burn victims heal more quickly through donation of skin, and provide healthy heart valves for someone whose life is threatened by malfunctioning or diseased valves.
  • Can give more than 50 people a second chance at life!

SOURCE DonateLife-PA

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SOURCE DonateLife-PA
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