A push is underway to turn more African-Americans into blood donors. Several groups came together on Tuesday to sponsor the first Black History Month Blood Drive in Gulfport.
Statistics from the American Red Cross show that less than one percent of African-Americans donate blood.
Josh Spann says there's a reason he went to the Black History Month Blood Drive as a first time donor. A friend recently asked him to give, which was something no one had ever done before.
"Just never really, really approached," said Spann. "I've heard about it, but never on a one-on-one basis where someone came up and talked to me and asked me to give."
Red Cross officials say less than one percent of African-Americans donate blood. That creates a hardship for the 1 in 400 African-Americans who suffer for Sickle Cell Anemia .
American Red Cross spokesperson Liz Gaulke said, "It's been proven now that a child, especially, will react better from a pint of blood from someone of the same race when they're fighting Sickle Cell, whether it's a crisis or we're giving them preventative transfusion to try to prevent strokes and kidney problems."
Judge Robin Medcalf knows first hand that donated blood saves lives. Two years ago, she had an emergency blood transfusion. Since then she's been on a mission to dispel the misinformation she believes keeps many in the African-American community away from blood drives.
"I think once we know better, we'll do better," said Judge Medcalf. "Sometimes it's just about getting the information out there that it doesn't hurt and you can't catch AIDS or any of the communicable diseases by giving blood. I think once we dispel the myths, then we do it."
Josh Spann says his first blood donation won't be his last.
"I feel good about it," he said. "I'll be a next time donor. When my cycle comes around again, I'll be giving again."
Red Cross officials say helping Sickle Cell patients isn't the only reason more African-American donors are needed. They say most Blacks have either type O or B blood, which typically are the types most often in short supply.