Cancer survivors celebrate being alive

African American Breast Cancer Alliance marks Silver Anniversary in style

Survivors were recognized and celebrated AABCA's 25th Silver Anniversary October 17,
Survivors were recognized and celebrated AABCA’s 25th Silver Anniversary October 17.

Close your eyes and imagine a fancy hotel ballroom decorated in silver and white from floor to ceiling, table to table. All 150-plus people in attendance are dressed up in formal attire, including the DJ and the musicians.

If you imagined that the setting was a Hollywood fundraising dinner or on a film set getting ready to shoot the sequel to the movie Cotton Club, then you’re wrong, but very close.

IMG_0045On Saturday, October 17, the African American Breast Cancer Alliance (AABCA) celebrated their 25th Silver Anniversary Gala and Survivors Ball, held at the Marriott Minneapolis West Hotel in St. Louis Park from 5-11:59 pm. “Celebrating Life in Style” was the theme for the evening. Reg Chapman, award-winning journalist of WCCO television, was the master of ceremonies for the evening of dinner, awards, fashion show, exhibitors, and DJ White and The Tangents Band.

Reona Berry
Reona Berry

MSR spoke with 25-year cancer survivor Reona Berry, the AABCA’s current executive director and co-founder of the organization, who shared her survivors’ anniversary with that of the AABCA organization. Berry, without hesitation, said that she is doing well at age 64.

Sharing her observation about cancer-free women who traditionally hesitate to tell their age, she said, “I’ll tell you this much: When you first get diagnosed with cancer, time is important. So, instead of worrying about telling someone how old you are, it turns into ‘How long do I have to live?’ and that vanity goes right out the door. When we wake up every day, it’s a day-by-day process. The important thing is that we try to live.”

When asked what inspired the decor and concepts for the evening that were virtually identical to the movie The Cotton Club, Berry said, “That’s what we wanted. Camille, my sister, is on the board. She had her vision, she wanted something classy with a nice atmosphere, and it actually was supposed to look like the Cotton Club.”

Over the last 25 years, AABCA’s has been providing community education, peer support and resources for African Americans diagnosed with breast cancer and other forms of cancer. The Gala event was open to anyone diagnosed with or otherwise affected by cancer.

Model in African American Breast Cancer Alliance's 25th Silver Anniversary Celebration Fashion Show, October 17.
Model in fashion show, October 17.

Just before dinner, AABCA had their traditional recognition of the room full of survivors. It was followed by door prizes, then an auction drawing. After dinner, things got sassy with the Vogue fashion show that seemed to be the highlight of the evening.

The evening closed with an after party dance with DJ Chuck Chizzle.


If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, the AABCA welcomes you. The AABCA can be reached at 612-825-3675. Their website address is www.AABCAINC.ORG.

James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to