Outspoken campaigner says we need to ‘ditch the pink’ and do more about breast cancer

Sam Johnson, an Australian actor who campaigns for breast cancer research, has upset some of the 300,000 followers of his charity,

Sam Johnson, an Australian actor who campaigns for breast cancer research, has upset some of the 300,000 followers of his charity, Love Your Sister, by making a controversial decision.

In a lengthy rant, Johnson says he has decided to change the official colour of the charity from pink to black. Here’s what he had to say on Facebook:

All this pink about the place is pacifying us into believing that enough is being done about our mums falling to breast cancer. My first act as Research Australia’s Advocate of the Year is to ditch the pink.

I have made an executive decision without consulting my sister or our 300,000 strong village. I’m normally more inclusive, as our village would testify, but I’m feeling cross.

We’ve banded together, encouraged thousands of breast checks amongst ourselves and together we have raised $2.3M dollars to hasten the work of our most prodigious scientists at Garvan [Institute] and I’ve been a big part of that. So I’m putting my foot down. We no longer use pink. It misleads us. It’s a soft colour. Nothing about [breast cancer] is soft. The only colour for me that truly represents the cancer that fells our mums is black.

F*** it. Love Your Sister uses black now, with a bit of silver and white, for the hope that I refuse to abandon. The Love Your Sister village will always be about family, love, togetherness and hope – this is what makes us such a strong village – but I’m afraid I’m frustrated with the rate of progress. I’m upset that our mums aren’t being put first and that terrorism and some bearded blokes in a province we can’t even pronounce seem to be more of a threat to us somehow?

I’m not angry – that’s for the bigots – I’m just upset. I’ve been really nice so far – I’m not going to get nasty either, that’s just not me – but I’m going to stop holding back. I always felt I had to be polite because it’s a woman’s issue (mostly) and what would I know, but I was wrong. It is my issue. It’s my sister. It’s our mums. I’ll say it again for the slow-coaches – it’s our mums.

So no more deference, no more fluff  – this year I’m going to do more and yell louder and if it’s not your scene there’s a lot of other pages for you that take a softly softly approach. This year I will honour my position that I have pedalled so hard for and worked so persistently at by organising a collective of the sharpest fuckers in the country and, because I’m smart enough to know how little I know, we are going to collectively figure out a way to take research from the GIVE-A-SHIT level it is at now, to the IT’S OUR MUMS LET’S DO MORE level.

And my sister is going to stay alive to watch me try. Let my reach exceed my grasp each and every day this year and at least until the day my sister dies. 

Not everyone agreed with Johnson’s “executive decision”, with some cancer suffers saying that black is the wrong choice:

One woman said, “I love everything you do from awareness to research to funding to being the most fantastic brother… But I think you are wrong about the black. I have terminal breast cancer and I do not wish to link anything about cancer with black. It conjures up an image of a black terrorising beast that will slowly/or quickly invade and infiltrate my body until I am sinking in its black inky power. I don’t wish to give cancer power and I think black represents terrorism.”

Another told her story: “Sam I understand 100 per cent what you are saying however I will never let the pink go! It’s certainly not pacifying nor misleading. When my Mum was diagnosed with [breast cancer] in the late 1980s, it was hard to get info & together we attended many of the initial meetings of some of the BC groups around now and back then most people did not want to know! It was hard and we didn’t do the softly, softly approach.We both attended the very first field of women in 1998 at Parliament House! It was so moving & such an incredible visual for the rest of Australia to see and there is no way I can picture this in black!

“To me black is black, we have had a few other family tragedies, black just isn’t what I need to see! Thanks to all those breast cancer Warriors in previous years including my MUM who wore her pink proudly, pink is and always will be my choice, even when I do feel incredibly dark! I certainly do not feel warm and fuzzy when I see the pink, I see my mum in pain, losing her hair, going through chemo and this gets me angry enough to keep the awareness and fundraising going. A lot of work has gone into this recognition.”

For Johnson, whose sister has terminal breast cancer and who cycled across Australia to raise money for research, this change to black is a remarkable move away from the positive, go-get-em attitude he has displayed, raising millions of dollars.

What do you think? Is black a better colour to apply to breast cancer or is pink the best choice? Share your thoughts and experiences.

  1. NO I don’t agree with him, black is for funerals we want these women to survive and pink is a feminine colour, even though men can and do get breast cancer, the majority by far are women

  2. Wrong move. Black is depressing. Pink is uplifting. When you are going through cancer treatment who wants to wear black. He should have consulted his sister and the other women in his life. He is a man and thinks differently to women. This will back fire.

  3. Black represents doom and gloom, pink is uplifting. Let us all hope a cure is soon found for all cancers.

  4. Silly man, he should have learned when he was young..NEVER meddle with what the ladies want especially if it about their bodies

  5. Very big mistake, there is no way that women suffering from Breast Cancer would want to wear or support wearing BLACK through their battle with this insidious disease, I realise that some men also get breast cancer however it is more common in women and I think they need a colour which will give them a lift and make them feel happier!

  6. making “executive decisions” or “Captains calls” in other words. He’s probably practising to go into politics. I can’t see that changing colours (and pink was quite effective) makes any difference

  7. Bente  

    Well he is not wrong, it is a deadly decease! Perhaps black for the darkness of Cancer with Pink for hopes?

  8. It is SAMs charity but I think pink is the colour of breast cancer I wear black a lot and to me it is a colour you wear for work

  9. Sam what a wonderful brother you are and what a wonderful human being you are but what does your sister think. Please don’t undo all of that work that Glen McGrath did for Jane and what Jane did also before it took her. Think of the cricketers, the footballers and I just can’t think of all of the other men who put their manliness aside to wear pink. You just can’t cast that aside and say we are going to be in black. Black has alway been the cassic colour for death. Please don’t do this.

  10. I am one of the many followers of the Love Your Sister village which was created by Samuel Johnston whose adored sister, Connie has terminal breast cancer and it is my opinion that the Starts at 60 team has enabled Sam’s comments to be misinterpreted. Sam was having a bad day and put it out there that basically there is nothing pretty about his sister’s struggle with this insidious disease. Please don’t judge him for feeling ‘black’ – he does a truly amazing job raising awareness and much needed funds to try to beat breast cancer because he loves his gorgeous sister. Please note that this is simply my humble opinion.

    • Carol Woolley  

      it was lovely to read your comment Jan showed so much understanding —and was glad of your perspective in there, my heart went out to this brother who has fought hard and continues to.

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