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    In Memoriam: Former Mayor ProTemp Lorri Burgess, 56

    Lorri Ann Burgess, Chief Operating Officer of the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana, former Metro Councilwoman, and former Mayor Pro-Tempore and passed away peacefully on January 15, 2020, surrounded by her family, at the age of 56. A native of Baton Rouge, Lorri was born on January 25, 1963. She was the fourth child of Mildred Coats Burgess and the late Howard C. Burgess Sr.

    Lorri loved God and confessed Christ as her Savior at an early age. She was baptized by the late Rev. Jesse Davis at Israelite Baptist Church where she participated in the Cherubim Choir and other youth activities. Lorri’s affinity for service to others was evident very early in her life. During her high school years she became a member of the South Baton Rouge Youth Council and Students United for Racial Equality, thus thrusting her into a life of politics and public service. She was a 1981 graduate of McKinley High School where she participated in several organizations, as well as a member of the cheerleading squad. Lorri earned a bachelor’s degree in merchandising and completed a paralegal studies program at louisiana State University.

    she was very passionate and committed to the citizens of this great city, especially those in South Baton Rouge’s District 10. District 10 was her home and she invested her efforts into encouraging community development, revitalization, and the enrichment of its residents. Lorri served District 10 as Metro Councilwoman for 12 years, four of which she served in the historic role as the first African American female Mayor Pro-Tempore for the City of Baton Rouge, as well as a member of the Capital Improvements, Finance and Executive Committees. Lorri was committed to public service. This commitment was made evident through the impactful changes she fought for in her community and through her thirst to increase her ability to serve. She served as a Board Member for Louisiana Technology Park, Baton Rouge Center for World Affairs and the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission. During her tenure at the Port she served as the first African-American chairwoman for the authority. Lorri was also a faithful member of the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Community Advisory Board (LA CaTS CAB) from January 2018 through December 2019 where she had a significant impact initiating and spearheading the Research Ethics and Research Participant Rights Campaign for La CaTS CAB.

    In addition, she was a strong supporter of the YWCA Encore Plus Program, Sisters Supporting Sisters-Baton Rouge and HIV/AIDS Education. Some of Lorri’s notable initiatives were the Camp 10 Summer Computer Camp and the Summer Reading Program for elementary children in District 10. She also spearheaded the Sensational Seniors Exercise Program for senior citizens in District 10. In addition, she partnered with Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta Sororities to offer educational and enrichment programs in writing, language and visual arts for students in East Baton Rouge Parish.

    She spearheaded the building of the new Carver Branch Library and had the vision to have the Freeman Matthews Head Start Center on the same property to enhance the early learning experiences of the Head Start Center students. She took the bulk of her surplus office expense funds to purchase big screen television sets, video recorders and other learning tools for all new head start centers in her district. Lorri fought to build and keep the new Highland Road Fire Station accessible to her constituents and was instrumental in getting funding to improve roads and drainage in District 10. She sponsored cleanup campaigns, Christmas parades, health fairs and her signature block parties. The inaugural block party was co-hosted with Shaquille O’Neal. Lorri was the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge Palooza Queen.

    She traveled throughout the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Canada and Europe to learn from and collaborate with world leaders, and to expand resources that would allow her to serve her community more effectively. Lorri fought as a staunch advocate for those battling Sickle Cell Disease. Under her leadership as the Chief Operating Officer, the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana (SCASL) annually increased its number of participating clients and earned national recognition as the most improved sickle cell foundation in the United States. Lorri extended the reach of the foundation through her unique and innovative fund-raising initiatives such as the annual Ryan’s Run (honorary chair, former Superbowl Champion Ryan Clark) and the annual John Chavis/Eric Reid Golf Tournament.

    Lorri leaves to cherish her memory her mother, Mildred C. Burgess, of Baton Rouge, LA; one brother, Howard C. Burgess, Jr. (Iris) of Baton Rouge, LA; four sisters, Joy Burgess Dixon and Celestine Renee Burgess Ruffin, both of Johns Creek, GA; Karla D. Burgess and Marva H. Hastings, both of Baton Rouge, LA; four aunts, Lulla V. Coats, Wilmer C. Barrett (James), Olivet C. O’Connor, and Edna C. Coleman (Charles), all of Baton Rouge, LA; two nephews, Aaron Matthew Ruffin, Esq. of Alexandria, VA; Nicholas Christian-Gerard Ruffin of Johns Creek, GA; two nieces, Kaelah Renee Burgess of Baton Rouge, LA; and Teá Williams, of Johns Creek, GA; five Godchildren, Sgt. Roderic Sterling of Lakeworth Beach, FL.; Errol Monget, Jr. of Thibodeaux, LA; and Bria Guntz, Christian Williams, Elayna Morris, all of Baton Rouge, LA; Godparents, Johnny O’Connor, Sr. and Olivet O’Connor, both of Baton Rouge, LA; a brother-in-law, Demetrius Ruffin of Nashville, TN; two special doobies, Leonard R. Coats and Joseph P. Ashford, both of Baton Rouge, LA; a childhood friend, Judge John Michael Guidry; and a host of other relatives, friends and community supporters. Preceded in death by her father, Howard C. Burgess, Sr.; maternal grandparents, Wilbert L. Coats, Sr. and Celestine B. Coats; paternal grandparents, Clarence Burgess and Delphine Smith; three aunts, Georgia C. Dunbar, Gloria C. Harris, Olivia “Tiny” Holloway; two uncles, Wilbert Coats, Jr. and Dr. Louis James, Sr.; first cousins, Donald Dunbar, Sr. and Reginald Harris

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    Invisible illnesses to be highlighted at ‘The Picture of Health’ exhibit, May 29

    A photography exhibit highlighting invisible illnesses will be unveiled on Wednesday, May 29 at The Healthcare Galley, 3488 Brentwood Drive, Suites 102 & 103, Baton Rouge. The Picture of Health exhibit is produced by Leslie D. Rose, a Baton Rouge based photographer and writer who suffers with fibromyalgia. The exhibit features more than one dozen Baton Rougeans representing illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, autism, psoriatic arthritis, high blood pressure, and more.

    Through the art of photography, The Picture of Health, shows people in the manner in which they present themselves daily. Using a mixture of head shots, full body shots, and shots of the individual’s hands holding up a sign detailing their illness, the exhibit focuses on the perceived normalcy of people housed in ill bodies. The mission is to highlight invisible illness, elicit compassion, and promote education on a variety of health issues. The Picture of Health  (4)_edit

    Inspired by her own diagnosis journey with invisible illness, Rose wanted to create something that would help non-ill people better understand what “sick” really looks like. In 2014, she was misdiagnosed with anxiety disorder. A diagnosis she believed as her husband had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After three years of trying to yoga and meditate the pain and fatigue away, she was hit with neuropathy so bad that she could not walk on her own for a full week. This began a yearlong second opinion process. During which, she began counseling sessions to cope with the unknown chronic pain and other associated symptoms, which was later revealed to be fibromyalgia. All of this has always been met with a huge lack of compassion, because rarely does she “look sick.”

    Being so closely touched by a variety of invisible illnesses and having been misdiagnosed, shining light on invisible illnesses of all kinds became a passion project for Rose. This is why she started an online support group for women of color suffering with chronic pain. But this wouldn’t be enough – she had to find a way to help other people understand invisible illnesses. At the top of September 2017, it was a simple Facebook post that asked people to comment with a selfie if they have invisible illnesses. Some 100 plus photos later, she knew the project in her head was much bigger than she could imagine, and so The Picture of Health was conceived.

    The one night only exhibit kickoff to be held on May 29 is sponsored by Rose’s activism-based arts organization, CreActiv, LLC, in partnership with Dr. Leone Elliott and The Healthcare Gallery. The exhibit is curated by April Baham. The event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will feature brief remarks from invisible illness warriors and medical professionals.

    ABOUT CreActiv, LLC

    CreActiv, LLC is an activism-based arts organization with the mission of promoting and producing programming that heightens awareness, raises funds, and/or supports important issues through the use of the arts and partnerships. The organization currently houses two programs Louisiana Artists for Puerto Rico and The Picture of Health.  Follow us on Facebook or Instagram@Picofhealthbr.

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    Standing Strong in Sickle Cell benefit concert scheduled for Feb 19

    Come lift a joyful noise for a wonderful cause! The Voices of Hope Gospel Singers of Baton Rouge are sponsoring a gospel concert benefiting the Baton Rouge Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. The details for the concert are as follows:

    Voices of Hope Gospel Singers of Baton Rouge Present

    “Standing Strong in Sickle Cell”

    A Gospel Concert Honoring Families Affected by Sickle Cell Disease

    Nazarene Baptist Church

    1707 Spanish Town Road

    Baton Rouge, LA 70802

    Friday, Feb. 19, 2016

    7:00 pm

    2016 marks 42 YEARS of the Foundation’s service to 11 parishes in the state of Louisiana. BRSCAF is the only organization whose mission is to provide supportive medical and social services to people living with sickle cell disease in these parishes. We need your help to ensure client support.

    ONLINE: www.brscaf.org

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    Student organizations collect 200 drinks for BR Sickle Cell

    Southern University student organizations, Association of Women Students (AWS) in conjunction with the Alpha Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. held sports drink drive to benefit Baton Rouge Sickle Cell.

    To share the spirit of giving AWS and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. rallied the Jaguar Nation together in support of sickle cell. The end result was collecting nearly two-hundred bottles of sports drinks. During this long event students flocked to the Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union Cotillion Ballroom to leave their contributions. The completion of the drive and the foundations recent participation in a health fair at the university is cultivating new ideas for future partnership.

    “I understand the importance of giving back especially during this time of year. I’m also familiar with the trials of the disease because I know someone who lives with it which contributed to the need for a successful drive. I look forward to helping Baton Rouge Sickle Cell more in the future,” said Harris.

    Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that affects red blood cells. It changes the cells from flexible disks into rigid crescents. Dehydration is a severe complication of sickle cell disease caused my loss of water in the body. Dehydration can create slow movement in blow flow causing a painful event for a person with sickle cell disease. The Baton Rouge Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, Inc. is a 42-year-old non-profit that provides support and advocacy services to more than 600 individuals living with Sickle Cell Disease in 11 parishes.

    ONLINE: www.brscaf.org
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    Pictured from left to right: Zana Harris President AWS, Lorri Burgess Executive Director Baton Rouge Sickle Cell, Sarah Thanni Vice-President AWS and Dorlissia Robinson Secretary AWS.

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