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GIVING BACK Sarah Shabazz (left), Frances Flowers (center) and Maude E. Mitchell (right) volunteer at the 22nd Annual Blood of the Martyrs blood drive at the LifeStream Victorville Center on Jan. 17. The women represented the organizations Alpha Kappa Alpha and National Council of Negro Women. 

By David Okonkwo

In 1999, a few of the Knights and Ladies of Knights of Peter Claver attended their annual national convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. When they came back, the late +Lois Carson made a presentation to the African American Assembly (a group of about 15 people, mostly African Americans, plus few Africans) in one of their meetings. At that meeting Carson presented the idea of what is now known as the “Blood of the Martyrs” blood drive. We accepted the program and began the leg work involved to initiate it in our area.

Shortly after, in 2000, the Assembly coordinated and collaborated with the Blood Bank of San Bernardino for their first Blood of the Martyrs blood drive in their San Bernardino center. Afterwards, we agreed to invite the rest of the Black churches and the Greek organizations to participate. Ever since then, it has been growing slowly but surely.

Today we have expanded the program to accommodate more churches and volunteers who want to participate. Previously, we only did the blood drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, it has since been extended to end on April 4 (the date of his murder).

King served and gave his life serving, even giving the ultimate gift of his blood. By donating blood during this memorial, we are following in his footsteps by giving back. If people cannot give blood, they can still give their time to volunteer in the blood drive, serve at the IECAAC (Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches) Prayer Breakfast or organize to clean a park or serve the homeless. There are countless things that can be done; the idea is to do something for somebody else.

The Blood of the Martyrs Blood Drive goes on until the weekend of April 5 at the LifeStream Blood Centers all over our Diocese. Anyone can donate to the course with the RC 26 code at any of the centers in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside or Victorville. In a special way for people of African descent, we are working to overcome the mistrust of the medical system and focus on the suffering sick person or child who could be from our community or even our family that will need that blood.

For more information on the blood drive, lstream.org/bloodofthemartyrs/.

Additionally, the Office of Ministry to Catholics of African Descent is planning a concluding Mass for Black History Month at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral on Feb. 27 at 10:15 a.m. All are invited!

David Okonkwo is the Director of the Office of Ministry to Catholics of African Descent.