When art and activism combine, awareness can be raised to help create real change. That was the mission behind Nikkolas Smith’s piece “Transfusion” that highlights sickle cell disease and the important role that donors who are Black play in providing a compatible blood match. Commissioned by the American Red Cross, Smith sat down with four sickle cell warriors – Tiereny Bell, Dr. Rubin Beaufort, Dreylan Holmes and Erica Hunter – to represent their lived experiences in this moving piece.
What Is Sickle Cell Disease
One in three African Americans is a match for people with sickle cell disease. Some racial and ethnic groups have higher frequencies of certain antigens. People who have sickle cell disease often receive the most compatible blood from donors in the Black community.
It's estimated that 100,000 people across the U.S. – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disorder in the U.S. It distorts soft and round red blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, both of which are depicted in Smith’s artwork.