Breakthrough doc on reproductive rights of black women to hold June 29 benefit

Documentarian Faith Pennick was talking with her schoolteacher friend about abortion in the context of national elections when her friend made a statement that would set Pennick on a mission.

“She said, ‘abortion is a white women’s issue ? black women have more important things to worry about,'” Pennick recalled. “After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I could see why she said it.

“Anything in the mainstream media about abortion is always the same three or four middle class, middle- aged white women talking about these issues,” she continued. “You never see women of color, so it makes sense that you’d conclude it’s not our issue because you don’t see anyone who looks like me talking about it.”

Pennick set out to change that with her feature documentary “Silent Choices,” which she said is the first film to address reproductive rights from an African American perspective. She’s holding a benefit work-in- progress screening of seven minutes from the film, June 29 at Intuit.

Pennick has conducted a number of interviews in New York with activists and taped roundtable discussions with African American women about reproductive issues. “I want to give them space to talk about these things that are considered very taboo in the black community,” she said.

“Black women have been so demonized and oversexualized by the media that even broaching the subject implies that judgment can be passed on you. But 24% of the abortions in the U.S. are obtained by African American women, so we can’t afford to be silent about it.”

Once principal photography commences in September, Pennick plans to shoot in her native Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Here she’ll interview former Chicago Abortion Fund executive director Toni Bond, UIC professor Barbara Ransby, and the film’s technical advisor, Northwestern professor Dorothy Roberts, author of the seminal book on black women’s reproductive issues, “Killing the Black Body.” Pennick will also hold more roundtable discussions here, “in my mother’s living room, although she doesn’t know it yet.”

Pennick has raised about 10% of the film’s total, undisclosed, budget through her Brooklyn-based Organized Chaos Mediaworks. She’s relying heavily on personal donations to cover the cost of production. “We’ll raise the money to get the film in the can and then go back and raise the rest of the money for post,” she said. “Funders will give completion funds, but they’re hard-pressed to fund you until you have something tangible.”

The “Silent Choices” June 29 benefit is at Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee at 5:30 p.m. Pennick and Roberts will speak. Minimum donation is $50, tax deductible through fiscal sponsor Women Make Movies.

Reach Pennick at 718/254-9729 or see

– by Ed M. Koziarski,