Partnership Helping Expand Alzheimer’s Education in Black Community

 “My grandfather Andrew Andrews, actually my namesake, had Alzheimer’s disease,” begins Andrew Holland who works for the City of Durham, North Carolina. “Growing up he was a foreman for CSX Railroad.  My family lived adjacent to the railroad and a lot of times he’d work on the railroad near our home.  We’d have lunch together and he’d spend time in our yard talking to my mom and dad, he’d play outside with my brothers and sisters and me. He passed away in 2009, and is one of the reasons I became a Prince Hall Mason. I witnessed how this disease stripped the memories from him and how sad it was to see.” 

Andrew attended an Alzheimer’s Association national Board Meeting in February 2020 in Tucson, Arizona with Association board member Jay Reinstein. Jay was recently diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Andrew has known Jay for about ten years, initially serving as an intern for him in 2012 before becoming a full-time employee for the City of Fayetteville, NC where Jay was the Assistant City Manager.   “Jay and I have a long history, and he has been great mentor for me.”

During that meeting, the Alzheimer’s Association discussed how vital diversity and inclusion are to its mission. The Association leads strategic initiatives to support diversity and a culture of inclusivity. These strategic initiatives also strengthen outreach to all populations, providing communities with resources and support to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. By partnering with organizations like the Prince Hall Masons, locally and nationally, to advance diversity and inclusion, the Association can broaden its reach in all communities.  This made the fit ideal with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Jurisdiction Inc., a charitable organization composed with 8,000+ members 18+ years of age throughout N.C. that provides food for the homeless, scholarships to underserved children, endowments and other services.  

“Being a Prince Hall Mason myself, I thought it [Alzheimer’s Association] would be a perfect alignment for us [Prince Hall Masons],” offers Andrew.  Jay agreed with the idea.   After several subsequent meetings, including one with The Most Worshipful Grand Master, Daniel Thompson, the two organizations formed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August which includes sharing information via the Association’s educational programs, gaining a better understanding of clinical trials and encouraging participation in Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  “The partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina serves as a venue to provide education, support and resources to communities and potentially play an integral role in the development of a cure for a disease that affects over five million Americans,” states MWGM Daniel L. “DT” Thompson.

“This partnership makes perfect sense to educate folks about Alzheimer’s throughout the state of North Carolina,” asserts Andrew.  Optimizing health for the U.S. population requires eliminating disparities and addressing social determinants of health. Major strides in improving the nation’s health can best occur by focusing on communities at greatest risk and eliminating barriers to quality healthcare services. Cognitive health is no exception. Alzheimer’s and other dementias disproportionately impact African Americans, Hispanics and women.

According to Andrew, there remains a negative stigma associated with clinical trials among the black community, sadly, based on a government sponsored program back in the 1930’s.  Times have changed significantly since then.  “It’s important for African Americans to participate in these trials; otherwise we are going to be left behind to ensure we have drugs for black people,” confirms Andrew.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is proud to announce this new and promising partnership with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina,” said Katherine L. Lambert, Alzheimer’s Association Regional Leader for NC, SC & GA. “Deeper connections within our communities that have a great need for health equity is critical to our mission.”

Andrew Andrews’ name is the second name listed on the back of the Walk To End Alzheimer’s team Jay Walkers T-shirt this year.  The group participated in the October 10th Walk To End Alzheimer’s – Triangle and has raised $1,500 thus far.   “Grandad was a strong guy, 6’1” or 6’2” and very involved within the community.  But as time progressed, he became unable to take care of himself.”   Andrew remembers that his grandfather’s funeral was the same day that Barack Obama was inaugurated.  “It was snowing and a very sad day.  It is one of the reasons I am so adamant about trying to find treatment and a cure for the disease.”   

Andrew considers Prince Hall Mason leaders, like himself, the glue to this partnership. “My goal is to serve as one of the community educators. I have great relationships with some of the key stakeholders within in Durham.”  His goal is to leverage those resources and to connect to the faith-based institutions and area universities including North Carolina Central and Duke University.  “My wheels are always spinning on ways to again to form other partnerships with organizations within North Carolina.”

Learn more about the Association’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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