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A Snapshot of "The Perfect Gift: The African American Organ Transplantation Project"

Written by Nicole Nidea, Program Manager, with insights from Johnny Crawford, photojournalist, and Bobby Howard, Director of the Multicultural Donation Education Program at LifeLink of Georgia

Part of "The Perfect Gift: The African American Organ Transplantation Project" on display at the Tubman Museum

From April 2021 to June 2021, "The Perfect Gift: The African American Organ Transplantation Project" was on exhibition at the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia. Created by Johnny Crawford, photojournalist, in collaboration with LifeLink of Georgia, "The Perfect Gift" featured black and white portraits of organ recipients, the families of organ donors, and living donors. The exhibition aimed to bring awareness to organ donation within the African American Community and educate the public about organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Mr. Crawford and Bobby Howard, Director of the Multicultural Donation Education Program at LifeLink of Georgia, gave SODA and our followers exclusive insights on "The Perfect Gift." Keep reading to learn more about their vision for the project!

Left: Johnny Crawford, Right: Bobby Howard

Why is organ and tissue donation important to you?

Johnny Crawford: Organ donation is important to me because my mother, Ruby Crawford, died of kidney disease at 21. I was blessed to receive a kidney, and this year will be my 28th year as a kidney recipient.

Bobby Howard: After suffering severe kidney disease and receiving a kidney transplant, I’ve dedicated my life to helping others who face life-threatening health challenges. As Director of LifeLink of Georgia’s Multicultural Donation Education Program I continues to lead collaborative efforts with local, national coalitions and community partners to spread the important message of organ donation.

What was the inspiration for “The Perfect Gift”?

Johnny Crawford: I am a photojournalist that specializes in social portrait projects. Like my most significant project, “The Vietnam Black Soldiers Portrait Project,” “The Perfect Gift” educates people about Black people in a positive manner. It displays the portraits of Black living donors, Black donor families, and Black organ recipients as caring, confident and, empathetic Americans.

Bobby Howard: The Perfect Gift highlights the impact of a single donation.

Why did you choose to focus on African American organ donation for this exhibit?

Johnny Crawford: Asha Ellen, a former LifeLink Educational Specialist, recruited me for the

project when she saw my Vietnam Black Soldiers Portrait Project exhibit at the Tubman Museum. I was planning on pursuing a transplant project in the future, but her interest in the project put it on my calendar several years earlier.

Bobby Howard: The vision of the project is to increase the number of African American organ donors in Georgia. Currently, in Georgia, approximately 5,000 men, women and children are awaiting lifesaving organ transplants. 63% of those on the transplant waiting list in Georgia are African American. Donor recovery for African Americans are not consistent with the population.

Why is it important to share the stories of recipients, donor families, and living donors?

Johnny Crawford: Black people in Georgia and across the country represent over 62% of

those on organ transplant lists, so to recruit more Blacks, people need to see people who look like them.

Bobby Howard: To show the results of the gift of a single donation.

Which portrait featured in “The Perfect Gift” stood out to you the most? Why?

Johnny Crawford: Mr. Harold Hodge’s portrait is my favorite because he looks dignified

and reminds me of my grandfather, Henry Crawford. I became a photographer because of a horrible black and white picture of my grandfather that appeared in my local newspaper. I promised him that one day I would take portraits that make Black people look like

themselves. I spent over 28 years working as a photojournalist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where I photographed five U.S. Presidents, three Olympic Games, and thousands of people on three continents and 38 states.

Bobby Howard: Sadria Strong because even with the circumstance around her daughter, Briana Brooks' death, Sadria volunteers to speak on the importance of organ/tissue donation and to share Briana’s story with such strength and courage.

Harold Hodge, heart transplant recipient

What advice do you have for students who are educating diverse communities about organ donation?

Johnny Crawford: It’s essential to show empathy and understanding to the people you are talking to about organ donation. It’s also vital to address any health failures or exploitation to those communities by government agencies and private companies. Lastly, when available, get someone from that community to tell their personal story about themselves or a relative. This makes organ donation personal and not about numbers.

Bobby Howard: Think of an “I” story , familiarize yourself with the culture of the community you’re speaking to, and partner with an organization that satisfies a need in the community

SODA wants to support students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities educate their peers about organ donation. Click here to learn more!

Thank you to Mr. Crawford and Mr. Howard for creating this important exhibit and sharing their vision for "The Perfect Gift" with us.

To learn more about Mr. Crawford and his work, please visit his website.

To learn more about Mr. Howard and LifeLink of Georgia, please visit the LifeLink Foundation website and the Donate Life Georgia website.

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