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March 28, 2013

Event celebrates artist’s life, raises lupus awareness

Learn about Angel Busque at April 13 Zumba fundraiser

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

METRO DETROIT — Less than a year ago, lupus claimed the life of Angel Busque, 32, an artist and teacher well-loved by creative types around metro Detroit, Chicago, New York and beyond.

Now her family continues to try to raise awareness for lupus, a widespread but misunderstood disease; they are working to raise money that may one day lead to a cure.

The next fundraiser, “The Angel Busque Boogie Down,” takes the form of a master class in Zumba, led by an expert in the field. Zumba is a fun-filled dance fitness program, quickly growing in popularity. The class is split into three 30-minute sessions.

The event is at 1 p.m. April 13 inside the gymnasium at Warren Woods Baptist Church, 14251 12 Mile, east of Schoenherr. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. There will also be a 50/50 raffle, prize raffles and door prizes.

Proceeds from the event benefit The Lupus Foundation of America, funding research that will improve the lives of people with lupus, a lifelong autoimmune disease.

“Not enough know about lupus,” said Frank Mortl III, executive director of the Michigan Lupus Foundation, a separate group that worked with the Busque family on another fundraiser. “There is confusion as to how you contract it, how you medicate it and whether it is terminal. The answer to all of those is very much unknown, although we know you’re born with it or you’re not.”

The Michigan Lupus Foundation, a nonprofit organization mainly focused on patients in Michigan, as well as a large swathe of northern Indiana, have no shortage of people in need of their assistance.

“In the state of Michigan, there are 65,000 people diagnosed with lupus — that’s Ford Field filled to the max,” Mortl said. “There are 1.5 million Americans that are diagnosed with lupus. Not to discount other conditions, but if you were to take AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, we feel they all have broader awareness, and yet combined, they don’t equal the number of diagnosed patients with lupus in the country.

“For whatever reason, the nonprofit lupus groups out there haven’t had the opportunity to spread the word enough, and this results in miscommunication, disinformation and lack of funding,” Mortl said.

He noted the latest lupus-specific drug introduced by the FDA was two years ago — and the last one prior to that was during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower.

“That is way too long of a gap for specific medications for lupus,” Mortl said.

So what is lupus? For reasons unknown, lupus attacks the immune system that protects the body from viruses, foreign materials and so on, tricking the body into destroying its own tissues and organs — any combination of joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood or skin.

Lupus results from a defective gene and it could rear its head in anyone at any time, even if one’s parents never had it. Likewise, someone could have lupus and not pass it on to their children. Its unpredictability makes it all the more frightening.

The severity varies from patient to patient. With close follow-up and treatment, around 80 to 90 percent of people with lupus will live a normal lifespan. Those with more severe cases will find the disease more difficult to treat and bring under control.

Of course, lupus can be life-threatening. The passing of Angel last June took even her own family by surprise.

“When you saw her, she never wanted to show you how sick she was,” said Angel’s mother, Aida Busque, a registered nurse and Madison Heights resident.

“She never complained, and if she was down, she’d still find the strength and energy to go teach the children,” Aida said. “No one would think she was sick; no one would think she had all these difficulties.”

Born Dec. 27, 1979, along with her fraternal twin brother Emmanuel, Angel had two older siblings, Mae Christine and Abelardo Jr.

She was creatively inclined from the start — a percussionist in symphonic and marching bands who, in 2004, went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studying experimental sound and video art.

Angel made a name for herself through her self-published comic book series, “Morning Star,” exhibited nationally with VSA Arts and also appearing in Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago Cultural Center, The Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., and at the Smithsonian International Gallery in Washington, D.C.

She lived in Chicago for 10 years, returning to the metro Detroit area to work on her new comic series, “Geli Girl,” as well as participating in numerous art shows. Professionally, she was a teacher with the Young Rembrandts organization, teaching art to preschool and elementary school students.

Everywhere she went, Angel impressed people with her compassion.

“She was incredible — a very beautiful person, very warmhearted, very friendly, and happy all the time,” said Julie Fournier, of Hazel Park, a painter and founding member of the Hazel Park Art Fair.

Fournier painted a picture in memory of her friend, depicting Angel whisked away by balloons, taken from the world too soon.

“I was never aware of how much she was suffering because she never wanted to burden other people,” Fournier said. “She was always concerned with how other people were doing, and she was very giving.”

And very driven, too: Aida noted that, after Angel underwent surgery around Thanksgiving 2003, she still pushed through and signed up for her last semester of college while in bed at the hospital, under orders from the doctor to remain bedbound. She didn’t want to stay put; she always wanted to move forward. 

Angel also made a point to support the Lupus Foundation of America and similar causes, raising money through her art to donate to them. She was a member of the Day 2 Alliance Artist Collective, and the International Arts Movement.

When Angel passed away, guests flew in from across the country for her funeral, including from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, where she had frequented the art scene. One guest even drove in from Massachusetts. Angel had given strength to so many people, Aida said, and now she wants to continue Angel’s cause to give strength to others with lupus.

“She knew a lot of people did not understand lupus and how it could be deadly,” Aida said. “I will pursue what she wanted to do.”

“The Angel Busque Boogie Down” spans three 30-minute sessions of Zumba starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 13 in the gymnasium of Warren Woods Baptist Church, 14251 12 Mile, east of Schoenherr. Bring water, towels, workout attire and gym shoes. Attendees are encouraged to wear purple to promote lupus awareness.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. To order in advance, visit www.angelbusqueboogie.eventbrite.com.

For more information, call (248) 854-1575 or email sabrina942000@yahoo.com, aidabelbusque@gmail.com or dittosmom@juno.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.