Ray Billingsley

Ray Billingsley, an American Lung Association volunteer since 1999, is the creator of "Curtis", a pre-teen, African-American cartoon character, who appears in more than 250 newspapers worldwide. The strip is syndicated through King Features, a unit of the Hearst Corporation. Through "Curtis," Billingsley uses humor to highlight the negative impact of smoking on lung health. Although it is one of the few national cartoons with African-Americans as the primary characters, the message of "Curtis" is universal.

Billingsley's anti-smoking cartoons had come to the attention of the American Lung Association's affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida during the mid-1990's and in 1999 he was the recipient of that affiliate's Humanitarian Award. In 2000 he was awarded the American Lung Association's President's Award in recognition of the outstanding anti-tobacco advocacy that is projected through "Curtis." Since 2002, "Curtis" anti-smoking strips have been a regular feature on the Lung Association's national website.

Billingsley states, "When I was blessed to share "Curtis," my alter ego with the world, I wanted to express my indignation toward those who would force us to take in second-hand smoke. Through humor, I could bring forth the negative aspects about smoking."

The American Lung Association of Florida, North Area has a long-standing relationship with Edward Waters College, one of the nation's oldest historically African-American institutions. A community outreach grant from GlaxoSmithKline provided funds for the Lung Association to organize the First Annual Edward Waters College Health Fair on Saturday, March 6. "What began as an asthma awareness day has grown in scope to include health-related information targeted toward the African-American population in surrounding neighborhoods," said Area Executive Director Cheryl Pearson.

The event is being coordinated by a volunteer committee, including two representatives from Edward Waters College, and marketed by an African-American marketing and communications company. "They are utilizing the African-American Ministerial Alliance to promote the event through churches, have obtained a media sponsorship on a gospel radio station, have involved the Black Nurses Association, the Association of Black Journalists, the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators and a host of other key groups," said Pearson.

For more information about the Edward Waters College Health Fair or to find out about other cultural diversity programs at the American Lung Association of Florida contact Cheryl Pearson at cpearson@lungfla.org or log onto www.lungfla.org