Before HBO there was HeLa

Henrietta Lacks sparked a medical revolution. Changing, saving and enriching the lives of countless individuals all over the world.

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Our inaugural Beyond the Page Luncheon presented by Phillips 66 welcomed over 350 library advocates, philanthropists, bibliophiles and elected officials who joined together for a morning of cells, sleuthing and science with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Skloot.

“The objective of our luncheon was to go beyond the page and explore works that have transcended the written word and have made a positive impact on society,” said Sally Swanson, Executive Director of the Houston Public Library Foundation.

“Because that’s what the library does. The library goes beyond books, beyond traditional resources and avenues—it goes beyond its four walls to make a positive impact for all Houstonians. And Rebecca Skloot was the ideal speaker to showcase the immense power of what the written word can do for an individual, a family, a nation, and even the world.”

Sharing this work at the luncheon would not have been possible without the presenting sponsor Phillips 66, a community leader in supporting fundamental literacy education and skills.

Other leaders in the room included the influential and forceful voice in Washington, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. The Congresswoman awarded the Foundation a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for featuring the “riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine” at the luncheon.  A story that is now the highly anticipated HBO film set to premiere April 22nd.

Skloot joined the Foundation in the middle of the film’s press tour. She arrived from Baltimore the night before, and was off to New York City the same day of the luncheon. Her book turned film is starring Oprah, Rose Byrne, and Renée Elise Goldsberry of the musical Hamilton.

Skloot shared that Henrietta Lacks’s daughter, Deborah Lacks, knew that Oprah would play her in a movie one day. And right she was. Skloot went on to share that she didn’t know where she would be during her writing journey without librarians. She said that they helped furnish the details of the world that Lacks lived in.

“This is the transformational power of storytelling. And the library is a hub for these life-changing stories, and what’s more, the library provides resources to writers just like Skloot; on their journey toward sharing the untold stories of unsung heroes.” said Swanson.

About the Houston Public Library Foundation

Through advocacy and fundraising, the Houston Public Library Foundation supports the Houston Public Library’s wide range of initiatives with particular emphasis on its neighborhood libraries and their community programs. The Houston Public Library Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on matching the Houston Public Library’s program activities with philanthropists, organizations and businesses who share their vision for a better tomorrow. The next Beyond the Page Luncheon will take place March 22, 2018.


Photo Credit: HBO FILMS