See the incredible story of an Afro-Irish island in 9 stunning images.

There's a place they call the Emerald Isle, where the lush green landscapes are home to families with names like O'Gara, Darcy, and Ryan. They live in towns called Cork Hill, Kinsale, and Sweeney's Well, and they stamp a green shamrock on your passport anytime you visit, whether it's for their famed St. Patrick's celebration or to experience the island's warm, tropical climate...

I'm obviously talking about Montserrat, a small Caribbean island with a centuries-old connection to Ireland. Here's the strange, dark, and ultimately beautiful history of this fascinating place:


1. Back in 1678, more than half of the island's population was Irish.


Photo by Graham Clifford. Used with permission.

Oliver Cromwell exiled thousands of Irish laborers to the Caribbean during the 17th century. Many of them were criminals serving time; others volunteered or were forced into indentured servitude, trading years of sunburn and abuse for the promise of a small piece of land.

Many of them eventually flocked to Montserrat, which was under French dominion at the time and had gained a reputation as a safe haven for Irish Catholics.

2. While the Irish at first were treated like any other slave or forced laborer in the Caribbean, they soon started gaining status in their new home on Montserrat.


Image via David William Seitz/YouTube.

"The Irish probably thought, 'I've been an indentured laborer, I've been treated as a slave myself, I want to be prosperous.' And they looked at the wealthy at the time and saw owning slaves as a status symbol," Graham Clifford, an Irish journalist who spent some time in Montserrat, explained in an interview with Upworthy.

3. Over the next century, the Montserratian people got, well, pretty fed up with it.


Image via Leah Tribe/YouTube.

Which is understandable — as frustrating as it is when some foreign empire shows up and forces you into slavery and claims your land and resources as its own, it's even more insulting when the other "lesser humans" that they brought with them start pushing you around as well.

4. So the Montserratians staged a revolt against the Irish majority on March 17, 1768.


Image via mnispirit/YouTube.

As Sir Howard Fergus, a historian and politician as well as the first Montserratian to be knighted by the British Empire, explained in an email to Upworthy, "The day was strategically chosen for planter lords would have been celebrating at the Governor’s residence in tipsy glory, it being St. Patrick’s Day."

5. But someone leaked the uprising plan, and the slaves were swiftly punished, leaving nine dead and 30 more banished from Montserrat.

A Montserratian girl recites a poem about the St. Patrick's uprising. Image via David William Seitz/YouTube.

OK, maybe it's not the most flattering legacy.

Of course, the Irish weren't the first oppressed group to take it out on the next oppressed group on the oppression ladder. And they definitely weren't the last. Still, that legacy remains a major part of Montserrat — in the national colors, in the harp on the country's crest, and in the names and places all across the island.

6. It wasn't until 1971 that the rest of the world began to take notice of this particular bit of colonial history.


Image from mnispirit/YouTube.

Sir Howard Fergus had published an article on the St. Patrick's Day uprising, inspiring the island's lone secondary school to celebrate the unnamed martyrs of the day with a history project — one that ended up attracting national attention.

Over the next few years, this trend of cultural education continued. But eventually, the idea came up to exploit this little bit of Irishness for the purposes of tourism (and maybe for some LOLs).

7. "It was a short step to carnivalising St. Patrick’s Day and making it to a week-long festival rivalling Christmas," Sir Fergus said.

Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

"Montserratians are not so much celebrating Ireland. It is a festival of fun with a tincture of Irishness thrown in."

Still, Sir Fergus clarifies: "Some are however kicking and screaming because they think the original purpose of the holiday was to celebrate the heroes of St. Patrick’s Day."

8. But recently, some efforts have been made to reconnect the Irish and the Montserratians, to share their cultures and their histories.

Skyping across the Atlantic with Montserratian children. Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

Clifford learned about Montserrat in the mid-'90s, and years later arranged a trip to the island with the help of Father George Aggers, an Irish priest who worked with a local parish on the island. They set up a Skype call between the Montserratian children at St. Augustine's School and his own children's classroom at Gaelscoil de híde in Fermoy, County Cork, allowing the children to learn about each other's languages and cultures and connect over their shared heritage and history with March 17.

"I wanted to use the links I have as a way of bringing together people from these distant but strangely familiar communities," Clifford told the Irish Independent.

9. "They do obviously play up the Irish connection for tourism," Clifford said. "But it's still there. It's a mad, random connection."

A Irish-Montserratian music and dance celebration. Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

History is full of ugly details. But we can remember the past while building toward the future. We just have to reach out and connect.

Every culture has its shameful secrets — and in the case of Montserrat and Ireland, those stories are layered in colonial complications. What matters most is that we learn from those mistakes and celebrate the cultures and heroes that came from them.

Here's the first installment of a documentary about the Irish connection to Montserrat:

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."