Black History Month Commemorated By March of Dimes Celebrities and Supporters

Beverly Hills, California | Wednesday, February 9, 2011

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In honor of Black History Month, the March of Dimes hosted a breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel here for celebrity volunteers, corporate supporters, and national service partners to discuss the alarming rates of premature birth in the African-American community. The event was hosted by Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad (photo center, holding child) and featured March of Dimes 2011 National Ambassador, Lauren Fleming, age 7, and her family.

Lisa Leslie, All Star and WNBA legend, also attended, along with fellow March of Dimes volunteer 2011 Grammy Award Nominee Kelly Price. Both of them are mothers who experienced the premature birth of a child. Faye McClure, Director of Strategic Marketing, Farmer’s Insurance, helped lead the breakfast with special guests Herman Mason, President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc; Sheryl Underwood, Actress/Comedian and Grand Basileus of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc; Joann Loveless, President of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc; and Jimmy Hammock, President, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Each year more than a half a million babies in the United States and 55,000 babies in California are born prematurely. African-American infants are almost twice as likely as Caucasian infants to be born prematurely. Non-Hispanic black women are disproportionately affected by preterm birth and experience the highest rate of preterm birth, 18.5 percent compared to the national rate of 12.8 percent (NCHS 2006).

Over the past decade, preterm birth rates have risen for black infants, with an increase of 5 percent in the preterm birth rate over the past five years, from 17.6 percent in 2001 to 18.5 percent in 2006. Although there are known risk factors for premature birth, often we don’t know why these babies are born too soon, the March of Dimes says.

This breakfast was the first of two events being hosted by the March of Dimes to commemorate Black History Month. The second will be held in Washington, DC on February 16th at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This invitation-only reception is a networking opportunity and with a national briefing on measures the March of Dimes is taking in the African American Community to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. The evening will include special recognition for supporters and highlights of the history of African Americans supporting March of Dimes mission.

  • About Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
    The March of Dimes and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. began collaboratively implementing Project Alpha in 1980. Designed to provide young men with current and accurate information about teen pregnancy prevention, Project Alpha consists of a series of workshops and informational sessions conducted by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. chapters across the country worked with their local March of Dimes to implement Project Alpha programs. Project Alpha week takes place the first week of November. This program reaches over 6,000 young men every year. Over the past five years, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers have raised over $1 million for the March of Dimes. Learn more at
  • About Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
    Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a nonprofit community-base organization, is one of the largest Greek-lettered international sororities. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was organized over 75 years ago and its members are primarily African American. The sorority has made significant contributions to more than 600 communities in the United States, West Africa, Germany and the Caribbean through volunteer work and outreach services. More specifically, the members are involved in the granting of scholarships, youth development projects, child care development centers, as well as women's health issues. The March of Dimes and Zeta Phi Beta have a cooperative program called Stork's Nest for expectant mothers, referred by cooperating hospitals, clinics, and health centers, can get necessary items such as maternity clothes, layettes and furniture at minimal or no cost. Stork’s Nest educational sessions address prenatal care, nutrition, drugs, alcohol and smoking, genetics, infant care and parenting. Learn more about Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. at
  • About Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
    Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded in 1914 at Howard University on the principles of brotherhood, scholarship and service. Over 110,000 members comprise 650 chapters throughout the continental United States, Switzerland and Africa. Predominantly African American, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. boasts a membership dedicated to enhancing and promoting systematic fellowship, African American freedom, justice, equal rights and service. Unlike any other Greek organization, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is constitutionally bound to a sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., which is also a March of Dimes partner. Phi Beta Sigma joined their sister sorority Zeta Phi Beta and has partnered with the March of Dimes for more than 35 years. Initially focusing on Sigma’s Against Teenage Pregnancy, today their new program is Building Strong Fathers℠. Learn more about Phi Beta Sigma at
  • About Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
    Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority is a leading national service organization that is comprised of women from a variety of professions. Promoting their members and society to pursue higher education is one of their fundamental beliefs and has been since their founding in 1922 on the campus of Butler University in Indiana. With a recently renewed partnership with the March of Dimes, the focus will be on H3 Healthy Generations, which falls under Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s primary service project, Project Reassurance. Sigma Gamma Rho became a national March for Babies walk team to improve the health of all babies. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s mission is to better the quality of life in the community in a variety of ways. This enhancement of society is done through public service, leadership development and education. Civic, economic and educational concerns are all addressed. Learn more about Sigma Gamma Rho at
  • About Farmers Insurance Group of Companies
    Farmers’ commitment to the March of Dimes spans more than two decades and includes more than $31 million dedicated to research and education programs for infant health. Farmers is a trade name and may refer to Farmers Group, Inc. or the Farmers Exchanges, as the case may be. Farmers Group, Inc., a management and holding company, along with its subsidiaries, is wholly owned by the Zurich Financial Services Group. The Farmers Exchanges are three reciprocal insurers (Farmers Insurance Exchange, Fire Insurance Exchange and Truck Insurance Exchange), including their subsidiaries and affiliates, owned by their policyholders, and managed by Farmers Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries. For more information about Farmers, visit our Web site at

Photo caption: left to right -- back row: Herman Mason, Sheryl Underwood, Lauren’s dad Densel Fleming holding son Corbin Fleming, Phylicia Rashad holding Erin Fleming, Lauren’s mom Nikki Fleming, Faye McClure, Joann Loveless, Jimmy Hammock. Front row: Lauren Fleming. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Lewis)

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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