Television fans surely know Sonequa Martin-Green for her role on Star Trek: Discovery, of course, as well as her previous work on The Walking Dead and The Good Wife. What they might not know is that she’s also committed to the ongoing fight against cancer as a Stand Up To Cancer ambassador.
Last December, ESSENCE sat with the actress as she prepped to tape the public service announcement, “Stand Up for All of Us,” which launches today (Feb 15) and is designed to increase awareness about the importance of participating in clinical trials. “I’m honored to lend a voice to this message so that more patients can be aware of their options,” she notes. “Clinical trials are a fundamental path to progress and they allow researchers to test cutting-edge and potentially life-saving treatments. Participation is so important.”
Like so many of us, Martin-Green’s family has been affected by the disease, including her mother and sister, both of whom are survivors. So yes, joining forces with Stand Up To Cancer is very personal. And as she shared during our chat, using her platform for good is not only necessary but also, a blessing.
ESSENCE: When did you join forces with Stand Up To Cancer?
SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN: The first event I participated in with Stand Up To Cancer was in New Orleans, for their Innovative Research Grant. That was in April of 2016. The event honored the recipients of the grant [which supports cancer research that might not receive funding through traditional channels] and I remember being blown away by all of the conversations I had with so many amazing people who all came together for one, common goal. That was really inspiring to me. I also participated in the [biennial] telecast later that year.
ESSENCE: Can you talk about your involvement with “Stand Up for All of Us?”
MARTIN-GREEN: Historically, the people who participate in clinical trials have not been very [ethnically] diverse. So, I’m supporting Stand Up To Cancer to help to raise awareness, thereby raising the number of participants. That way, researchers can retrieve more data and have the ability to use someone’s genetic background to specific treatments.
I’ve heard story-after-story about people getting to remission because of their participation in clinical trials. So, I think about the people who are not with us anymore and how their journeys could have been different if they’d had access to, or known about, clinical trials and been able to participate.
ESSENCE: Would you say that your contributions to the fight against cancer are a bit personal, because of your family history?
MARTIN-GREEN: Yes, my mom had breast, colon and a slow-growing stomach cancer. She’s survived all three. She’s a warrior, a hero. And my half-sister is a breast cancer survivor. Cancer is everywhere in my immediate family and I have so many other family members [who’ve been affected], just one after the other. I know that’s a lot of people’s stories, too.
The only reason I feel that I have a platform is to be involved with creating solutions. When I was younger, I certainly had the point of view of, “Let me work hard to get this certain thing, for me.” Thank God I grew out of that. I truly believe in [the notion of being] “blessed to be a blessing.” This isn’t about me. It’s about being a conduit for God’s light, healing and love for the people who need it, which is everyone.
ESSENCE: What can the everyday person do to be involved in this fight?
MARTIN-GREEN: Everybody can choose to get involved and be engaged. Engagement can be difficult, though. Engagement is inconvenient. Engagement can be uncomfortable. Engagement is painful, too, because it’s about empathizing and feeling the hurt of another person and trying to understand where they are.
Every single person can read and learn more about what’s going on in their community and with their family and friends who are dealing with this disease. Sometimes, it’s just about being a sounding board and offering an attentive, loving ear so people can just get it off of their chests and get it into the light. That’s a big deal, too.
We can also make better choices in our own lives in terms of what we eat and our levels of activity because, obviously, there’s a huge link between food and disease. We can all learn more about how to live clean.
ESSENCE: So, your career is thriving, you’re a wife, a mom of one and you’re also dedicated to giving back. How do you keep it all balanced? And how do you define success?
MARTIN-GREEN: When I wake up, I want to please God, then my husband and our son. I’ve got career goals, too, so it’s about being connected to my true purpose and having awesome time-management skills! [laughs]
For me, success is about striving to [think] more about the other person. It’s about taking myself out of the equation and embracing the world around me. I believe in the amazing work that Stand Up To Cancer is doing. Although everybody’s coming from different walks of life, educational backgrounds and career paths, they’re all working together. I really appreciate that unity.
For additional information, please visit www.StandUpToCancer.org/clinicaltrials. You can also join the conversation on Facebook @StandUpToCancer, Twitter at @SU2C, and Instagram at @SU2C.