Report from Louisiana: A Little Good News?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – So much negative news this morning in the headlines…tension, anxiety, anger, and sadness (that limo crash in New York – awful!).

All this anger is one of the reasons I quit full-time political blogging a few years ago: I was mad all the time.  Frustrated because I couldn’t really change anything and nobody was listening.  Well, it’s not that so much as I was just preaching to the choir.  I could feel my anxiety and rage building every single day of the Obama presidency.  I had to walk away.  And guess what?  The world did not implode when I did!

At any rate, I really wanted to pull out some good news for you this morning to try and achieve some balance in perspective, so let’s try this.

I was happy to see that Johns Hopkins has announced a new research building to be named after Henrietta Lacks.  Finally!  You certainly are familiar with the story behind Rebecca Skloot’s groundbreaking book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which told the story of Henrietta and her family.  Skloot’s book is terrific and I use it in my sophomore English classroom every year; my students are thoroughly engaged in the story and it sets us up for so many terrific debates on ethics and moral issues.  Sometimes it is difficult for kids to imagine a world before they were born and so as angry as they tend to become about what they see as an injustice done to Henrietta, they get a chance to learn about a different time in history where medical ethics were not dominated by HIPAA.

From Baltimore:

Johns Hopkins and descendants of the late Henrietta Lacks announced plans to name a new research building after Lacks in honor of her impact on science and medicine.

The new building will be built next to the Berman Institute of Biotechs’ Deering Hall and will support programs that “enhance participation with members of the community in mutually beneficial research opportunities.”

Groundbreaking on the building is scheduled for 2020 and is anticipated to have a 2022 completion date.

Henrietta Lacks was a young mother of five from eastern Baltimore County who, despite radiation treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, died in 1951 of an aggressive cancer. Lacks was the source of the HeLa cell line that has been critical to numerous advances in medicine.

More good news:

It’s NOT good that there’s a new potential hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, but it does make me happy that our Cajun Navy is already on top of it and while they are still working and volunteering in the Carolinas after Florence, they are mobilizing for any potential damage to come from Hurricane Michael.

I’m so proud of these guys and of my friend Rob Gaudet who works tirelessly on crowd funding to help people who lose so much during these storms.  If you can volunteer, donate, or help in any way with what these great people do, go here and let them know.

The Pelicans are coming back to Louisiana!  (Not a sports team – REAL pelicans!)

Drew Brees is pretty great!

The Books Along the Teche Literary Festival 2019 is looking VERY exciting!  Featured writer this year is Rebecca Wells!  Sign me up!

My mood is already lighter.  I’m feeling so inspired right now that I’m going to clean off my desk, box up some of my old research material for my now published book (I’ve been procrastinating this) and make room to start seriously working on my next book project.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.