PORTSMOUTH -- The American Cancer Society, in partnership with NEWorks Productions and Grove Baptist Church, will host "Call to Action," a gospel concert to increase cancer awareness and action within Portsmouth's African American community.

The event, the first of its kind in Portsmouth, is a combination of music and ministry designed to address the wellbeing of the African American community from a holistic perspective: mind, body and spirit.

The concert will also serve as a celebration of our newly appointed Community Health Advisors and Leadership Advisory Council, local volunteers who have completed in-depth training to become a grassroots force to increase breast cancer awareness, and screening among African American women in Portsmouth.

The city has the highest breast cancer mortality rate out of the 35 health districts in Virginia. It's all a part of the American Cancer Society's Portsmouth Partnership to Beat Breast Cancer, made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation.

The Call to Action gospel concert will feature performances by multi Stellar award winning gospel artist Jonathan Nelson, Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music and Shirley Murdock. The concert is scheduled for Jan. 28, 5 p.m. at Grove Baptist Church, 5910 West Norfolk Rd., Portsmouth. Admission is free.

The American Cancer Society is working to increase disease awareness and encourage dialogue and action among African American community members. Despite decreases in overall cancer death rates across all racial and ethnic groups since the early 90s, racial disparities in cancer mortality persists. African Americans have the highest risk of all major ethnic groups in the United States of being diagnosed with and dying of cancer.

The over arching goal is to encourage community members to talk about cancer and to seek appropriate cancer screenings. Attendees will have the opportunity to get involved in the Portsmouth Partnership to Beat Breast Cancer. Ultimately, the partnerships aims to increase the number of Portsmouth women who get annual mammograms, starting at age 40.

"It is absolutely vital that we take steps to close the disparity gap when it comes to cancer," said Rev. Tawana Thomas-Johnson, Director of health disparities for the American Cancer Society.

"Too many people are dying of diseases that could be treated if found earlier. African Americans need to learn about cancer risk factors, early detection and treatment. Talking to your doctor and scheduling screenings to detect cancer early can save lives."

"We're very excited to host this important event," said Dr. Melvin O. Marriner, Senior Pastor, Grove Baptist Church. "The fellowship created through an event like this is the perfect environment for sharing messages about healthy mind, body and spirit. We hope that those who attend will not only hear the words, but take action."

For more information about the Portsmouth Partnership to Beat Breast Cancer, visit portsmouthbeatbreastcancer.org.

To learn more about the concert series and the Partnering for Life program, visit www.partneringforlife.org, or contact Fredda Bryan, Associate Director American Cancer Society 493-7943 or email fredda.bryan@cancer.org.

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