LisaRaye McCoy
LisaRaye McCoy

In 2022, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that health professionals will diagnose more than 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 51,400 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ/stage 0 breast cancer in women in the U.S.  

And while there’s been an overall 43% decline in breast cancer deaths over the last three decades – due to gains in awareness, early diagnosis and treatment – a persistent mortality gap remains between Black and white women. 

Succinctly, African-American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate.

In response, BET HER announced, earlier this year, four original 20-minute dramas to premiere during Minority Mental Health Month (July) and Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October).

The short films celebrate the stories of Black women – written, directed and produced by Black women – that bring awareness to issues directly affecting the Black community.

Actresses Meagan Good, Naturi Naughton, Tichina Arnold and LisaRaye McCoy serve as invited directors.

For McCoy, who slayed in films like “The Player’s Club,” “The Wood” and “Twice Bitten,” her behind-the-camera directorial skills shined on Oct. 6 with the premiere of “The Pink Fight,” a captivating film about a female boxer diagnosed with breast cancer.

The film follows Tomeka, played by boxing champion Claressa Shields, as she and her wife fight for survival after a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.

“Breast cancer has attacked my family. Some have survived and some have not,” McCoy said. “I was an ambassador for Susan B. Komen and ran my first 5K race with them. I didn’t want to be one of those public figures who cut the ribbon and be off. There was a joy that I got when I crossed the finish line that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t participate. You have to walk the walk.”

In “The Pink Fight,” McCoy did just that, helping to bring to the screen the rollercoaster of emotions that come with a breast cancer diagnosis.

“I am absolutely proud to have taken this opportunity,” said the actress who described herself as very strict behind the camera.

“My reputation is that I don’t take no stuff,” McCoy said while admitting that she tends to be a bit of a jokester.

“I began to realize that I had value coming from in front of the screen – I know how it is to have to muster emotions that may not be there because you may not have experienced this in your life,” she said. 

“I will say that my lead actress, Clarissa Shields, is a powerhouse. She’s a professional boxer and the only male or female boxer to hold four major world championships,” she said. “Clarissa wanted to get her feet wet as an actress and she was a little nervous about the emotional part but that’s the part she did best.”

McCoy said she hopes the film will inspire Black women and those who support them not to take any potential health problems for granted.

“As strong as people want to portray Black women, we are still girls,” McCoy insisted.

“We’re still daddy’s girls and momma’s babies. A lot of time we get afraid to go to the doctor and when you don’t have good insurance and you feel they’re not going to pay for this and you don’t have symptoms, then you say, ‘I’m ok.’”

That’s where self-examination counts as crucial, McCoy stated.

“I was paranoid,” she declared. 

“We are nervous and scared. We say things like if we don’t know about it, we don’t have to deal with it. But we can head it off. We can have a second chance at life if we get diagnosed before it’s too late.” 

“We have a good survival rate and you can live a healthy life. You just can’t act like you don’t know anything about it. Dialogue is so important for us. That’s what the ‘Pink Fight’ highlights.” 

“Athletes think they are a pillar of health. They eat right, eat salads and exercise. That’s why you need that accountability partner – someone to say, ‘I think it’s worth us going to check this out.’” 

“The operative word is ‘us.’ Someone to say they’ll go with you because there’s this rollercoaster of emotions and you’re wondering if you’ll survive chemo and radiation. You can,” she said.

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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