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I've been reminded again that black lives don't matter. And I am exhausted.

He was a dad, he was a citizen of this nation, and he deserved better.

I've been reminded again that black lives don't matter. And I am exhausted.

I woke up in tears this morning after watching the details of Alton Sterling's murder on social media all night.

The images played over and over in my head like a broken record: officers slamming Alton against a car, kneeing him in the throat, and shooting him repeatedly. I felt sick.

Sterling is the 558th person killed by the police in the United States in 2016.


Image by Arthur Reed/AP.

Last night and today, I watched the same routine play out. I've seen it so many times before, after police brutality takes another black life. The social media outrage. The Black Lives Matter activists demanding justice. The All Lives Matter mouths countering with ignorance and insensitivity. The frustrating responses from white people who claim to be down with black culture, but who step up only when it's entertaining for them, not when it requires a call to action against discrimination or injustice.

Today, it was too much. I am exhausted by this.

So I cried. I cried, and I breathed heavily, and I sobbed.

And then I looked at photos of my dad and mom. And my brother and sisters. And my aunts and uncles. And my cousins. And my best friends.

They are all at risk when they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are all susceptible to the same fate as Alton Sterling if they cross the wrong person or the wrong cop. They are endlessly ignored, swept under the rug, and subjected to injustice.

Then I got angry.

I got angry because the same system that killed Alton Sterling, that holds a threshold of fear of black men and women across this country, killed Emmett Till in 1955 when he had the "audacity" to flirt with a white woman.

The same system killed Tamir Rice while he was playing with a toy gun on a playground.

It killed Sandra Bland, an animal sciences student minding her own business as she was driving down the road.

It killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, recent high school graduate who was ready to start college.

It killed Rekia Boyd because she was talking too loudly for comfort.

It killed Trayvon Martin when he was walking home to eat his recently purchased Skittles.

Memorials for black lives killed by police brutality have become the norm. Michael Kunzelma/AP

Black bodies being brutalized is nothing new in this system.

This brutality has happened for 245 years in every town across this great nation. It happened during the Jim Crow era, when black folks dangled from trees like caricatures.

And it continues to happen. Despite outcry, despite rage, despite calls for change. It continues to happen. And I — along with so many other black people — am hurting. I am tired.

And I am tired of being told that our lives don't matter.

Protestors have been vocal for years. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

I am tired of being told that if I dress a certain way, talk a certain way, or behave in a certain manner, I'll do just fine.

Because all those things? In this system, they aren't true.

They aren't true when police can put an unarmed man in a chokehold and walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist or when they can kill a child on the playground in what is essentially a legalized drive-by shooting.

The Federal Department of Justice has just announced they are opening a civil rights probe into Alton Sterling's shooting.

This is a surprising step in the right direction for a department that usually defends police officers.

But what can we do? We can be sad. We can be tired. And we can be angry.

We can also demand that officers be held accountable when they use unnecessary force. We can continue yelling that Black Lives Matter, even when people retaliate, until our system proves that black lives actually do matter.

A memorial for Alton Sterling. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP.

And we can remember Alton Sterling. Like the others, we can say his name.

He was 37 years old. He was a father of five. He was loved by those who knew him.

Say Alton Sterling's name and say the names of all of the black people who have fallen victim to police brutality: Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Tanisha Anderson. Freddie Gray. Tony Robinson. Walter Scott. And so many more.

And please don't stop saying them until black people get the justice we have always deserved.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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