MUSIC AND MARROW: ACTIVISM THROUGH SONG
By: Amanda L. Andrei
Four cheek swabs, a health questionnaire and form, and the willingness to donate when the time comes—that is all a volunteer (between the ages of 18-60) needs to enter the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. Only 30 percent of patients find a donor within their family; the other 70 percent rely on donors with matching tissue type. In particular, Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities critically need more marrow and blood cell donors to help members of their communities suffering from leukemia and other blood diseases.
To address these issues of bone marrow awareness and involvement within the APA community, the pop/rock band Seriously has teamed up with three other bone marrow programs on the West and East coasts to register volunteers. Sponsored by Chaos Theory Music, the LA-based band started their kick off of the HEART Tour on April 5th in Georgetown University at VASCON 4, the Vietnamese American Student Conference. For the rest of April, the majority of their concerts occurred at California universities, with a striking conclusion on April 25th at the New York Asian Cultural Festival.
While on the East Coast, the HEART Tour collaborated with the Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, Inc. (CLLF) to sign up donors. Ever since 1993, CLLF has appeared at churches, college campuses, and other events such as conferences and have signed up over 100,000 APA and minority donors. Cammy Lee, the full-time recruitment manager of the foundation, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia over 22 years ago. Since her recovery, she has dedicated herself to educating the APA community about fatal blood diseases and the need for marrow donation.
“It’s more about quality than quantity,” Lee explains. “There are so many misconceptions and fears about donating.” Before signing up, the volunteer must take serious considerations and understand the methods about the surgical procedure. Otherwise, a patient with a potential match may face psychological and emotional stress if the match is unwilling to donate. This highlights the importance of educating the APA community even more—many Asian Pacific Americans face confusion about the actual processes involved.
Many are fears shared by donors across all racial and cultural lines, such as thinking it is a painful process or post-surgery will yield severe damage. But Lee has also cited instances where people in certain ethnic communities refused to donate, “because they believed when you die, your body has to be full, and they didn’t realize that marrow replenishes itself.” Through the CLLF, these cultural barriers have broken down, and more Asian Americans have registered with the National Marrow Donor Program.
Seriously has been doing its part to educate APA youth about bone marrow awareness. “Concerts are geared towards those of the college age,” says Bridgette Noh, one of the band’s managers. “We wanted to see how partnering with students would be.” By the wrap up of the tour, they hope to have signed up 2,000 new registrants. “Through music, we have a community connection and this cause,” states Joshua Baek, the bassist and songwriter.
For this tour, the young members took time off from their own studies or jobs to play at other colleges and events. Baek recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in Aerospace Mechanical Engineering. Lead singer Chris Pham attends Santa Monica College, while guitarist Nathan Park goes to UCLA and drummer Philip Park attends UC San Diego. All three of them are concentrating in the field of biology, either as pre-med or in combination with engineering or computer science. “Taking a quarter off first was hard,” recollects Philip Park. “There are no words to describe how our parents flipped.”
Despite the difficulties they faced, the band has no regrets. It is not only the pleasure of playing for college students—but the knowledge of advocating an important issue—that enriches and inspires the band. Through their willingness to spread awareness and their partnership with bone marrow organizations around the country, Seriously has shown themselves as a talented and committed band to their music, their community, and their cause.