Prince Hall Shriners on mission to find a cure for diabetes

Diabetes, a “silent” killer, has such a tight grip on the African American community that education about the chronic disease isn’t enough. A cure is what’s needed, said the head of the Prince Hall Shriners.

Diabetes, a “silent” killer, has such a tight grip on the African American community that education about the chronic disease isn’t enough. A cure is what’s needed, said the head of the Prince Hall Shriners.

Oliver Washington Jr., the Imperial Potentate of the Shriners, pledged $1 million to the American Diabetes Association.

“African Americans are less educated about diabetes. Some call it ‘sugar’ and think there’s a difference between sugar and diabetes. One kid came home from the doctor and told his grandmother he got bad news. He was told he was diabetic. His grandmother said, ‘Well, wait until he tells you you have sugar.’ We’ve got to educate our Black people,” Washington told the Defender while in town to attend the Chicago Football Classic.

The disease can affect the body in so many ways – blindness, kidney failure and amputation – so the better educated a person is, the better the outcome, he said.

According to the American Diabetes Association: 3.7 million Blacks 20 years old or older have diabetes; 25 percent of Blacks between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes; 1 in 4 Black women over age 55 has diabetes and Blacks are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes as whites.

“You usually don’t know you’ve got it until it almost overcomes you. We can do everything we can to help prevent it, but if it’s hereditary, there’s nothing much you can do but try to control it. That’s why finding a cure is important,” said Washington, a Montgomery, Ala. Native who was elected to a twoyear term as Imperial Potentate, the highest designation of the organization.

The Shriners, whose motto is the “Power of Giving,” will have its inaugural Prince Hall Shriners Diabetes Classic the weekend of Oct. 30 in Albany, Ga. to help raise funds to find a cure for the disease. There will be a golf tournament on Oct. 30 and a football game on Halloween.

Before the game between Albany State University and Morehouse College, there will be a parade and health fair, he said.

To keep the irons in the fire, Washington said there will be diabetes walks the morning of potentate balls throughout the country, and there’ll be a walk and testing during their national convention in 2011 in Cincinnati.

“We’re really trying to bring this to another level. We’re an organization based on the power of giving. You have to give in order to receive,” said Washington.

The Prince Hall Shriners, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., is the world’s oldest African American fraternal organization.

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