Billboard Demeaning to African Americans Removed Within 48 Hours

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The Story, The Players, The Background
The alarm sounded on Monday, Feb. 22, by Council member Letitia James. “New York City Billboard Targets Abortion in Black Community,” read a statement from her office. “Compares Abortion to Terrorism; Refers to ‘Genocidal Plot’.” James’ office provided information from Life Always, an advertising organization that represents pro-life campaigns that stated “During Black History Month… our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion.”
Life Always launched a Web site that links to various Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) through its “Pregnancy Help” section. CPCs are the focus of a City Council bill known as Int.371-2010. According to James, “These CPCs are notorious for being intentionally vague concerning their agenda to deter women from seeking abortion services, and some have been accused of being deceptive about abortion risks and procedures while intentionally targeting poor and working-class women, immigrant women, and women of color to utilize their services.”
“It is misguided to use Black History Month as a tool to promote this message,” said Council member Letitia James. “Every woman has the right to make personal choices in regards to her body, and I respect many different points of view, but to compare abortion to terrorism and genocide is highly offensive.”
Council member James’ alert was immediately forwarded to SisterSong NYC and SisterSong National, a coalition of more than 80 women of color organizations whose mission is reproductive justice.
By Tuesday morning, the billboard was put up in SoHo at the intersection of Sixth Ave. and Watts. The response was immediate. From local news to blogs to ordinary citizens, disapproval was expressed. While Life Always saw a little girl to use as a pawn for their agenda, others saw a little girl who deserves to have a safe, healthy childhood, here and now.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said, “This billboard simply doesn’t belong in our city. The ad violates the values of New Yorkers and is grossly offensive to women and communities of color. Women of all backgrounds have a right to reproductive health care in New York City, and we must not let the current campaign of attacks undermine New Yorkers’ long standing support for a woman’s right to choose. A mix of intolerance and bad judgment put this ad up — common decency demands it be taken down.”
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke was “deeply offended by the antiabortion ad that was put up in SoHo.  As a Black woman and as a Congressional member in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was clear to me that this antiabortion organization targeted the Black women of New York to impose their very racist ideology upon.” Clarke commended the voices of so many who called for the removal of this ad.  “I am proud that New Yorkers stood together against this racist and offensive advertising.  Through the activism of New Yorkers, we demonstrated that the pursuit of justice is much more powerful than the voice of ignorance,” she said.
Ironically enough, the individuals who espouse these tactics are often more times than not, the same individuals that  have imposed cuts to the social safety net that would provide food security and personal safety to Black children and their families.  With the topic of abortion and access to health care for women becoming such a divisive subject in our nation, it is clear that it will be up to this generation and the next  to defeat those who will stop at nothing to impose their views on others and those who would show a reckless disregard to the rights of others in their pursuit to abolish women’s rights,” stated Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
The story went national by Wednesday. The child’s mom, Tricia Fraser, was shocked to see her 6-year-old daughter Anissa’s image used in such a manner.  “I would never endorse something like that,” said Fraser. “Especially with my child’s image.” Fraser had her children’s photos taken to be used as shock images. “It’s bad enough you’re saying this about African-Americans, but then you put a child with an innocent face,” said Fraser. “That’s not what I agreed to. I want them to take it down.”
Councilman Barron, who calls press conferences immediately when anything racial occurs, was contacted by OTP around noon Tuesday. Seven hours later, Barron issued this statement: “The sign in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood that reads: ‘The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb is outrageous, racist and should be taken down immediately. It targets Black women in a biased and stigmatizing way. What they have done is not an exercise in free speech – it is an exercise in insults. The Black community will not sit back and allow this to happen. We are going to send a letter immediately to the Life Always group responsible for the ad to demand that it be removed.”
Loretta Ross, national coordinator for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective said, “The comments are validating what people are saying in the opinion research focus groups we’re conducting. Almost everyone says the billboards are offensive and ignore the underlying causes of the number of abortions.”
The response intensified.
Early Thursday morning, Nicole Mason, Ph.D, Executive Director, Women of Color Policy Network, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, sent an Email to friends and affiliates that said in part, “From welfare to single motherhood, images of Black women and girls have often been used to promote agendas and public policies that run counter to their agency and autonomy.  The billboard… is no exception. The ad implies that Black women are reckless and to blame for deaths that occur within African-American communities. It also simplifies the difficult decision that many women face, regardless of race, when choosing whether or not to terminate a pregnancy or exercise their right to the full range of reproductive health care services.”
Mason asked that Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the billboard location, be contacted. Many people did, from NYC and across the country. Mason herself wrote to the company about 12:30pm. Her email stated,
“While I know your company is not responsible for nor does it endorse the content of any advertisement, the politics and the subtext underlying the ad is damaging to African-American women and communities.”
By 2:30pm, general manager for Lamar Advertising Mr. Costanza assured Mason the billboard would be removed “today.”  Thursday night the offending billboard was removed. “Community activists, women’s rights advocates, civil rights leaders, elected officials, people of color and others agreed that the content underlying this billboard was racial profiling and demeaning to African-American women and communities. The enormous outcry against this billboard reflects the true purpose of this politically motivated campaign as being an attack on pro-choice, as well as Planned Parenthood located nearby,” said James.  “This victory is a sweet one for all involved, especially as Black History
Month 2011 ends. The billboard coming down is symbolic for the power of the human spirit, the power of social media and angry women, as well as reinforces the notion that nothing is more dangerous than a made-up mind. An innocent face got caught in the middle of the controversy, yet the young girl’s expression speaks of only strength, life and love, not race or gender-based politics.”
Council member James continued: “I support women having the right to make personal choices in regards to what’s best for their body, and I will continue to respect many different points of view.
Congratulations to everyone for swift action, and I would like to share the following sentiment sent to me via e-mail by a friend that accurately sums up the positive ending to such a negative beginning: Great Work! Score one for the good guys / gals / men / women / brethren / sistren in the ongoing battle with the barbarians! Simply put, the community put up a good fight and we won.”

The alarm sounded on Monday, Feb. 22, by Council member Letitia James. “New York City Billboard Targets Abortion in Black Community,” read a statement from her office. “Compares Abortion to Terrorism; Refers to ‘Genocidal Plot’.” James’ office provided information from Life Always, an advertising organization that represents pro-life campaigns that stated “During Black History Month… our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion.”Life Always launched a Web site that links to various Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) through its “Pregnancy Help” section. CPCs are the focus of a City Council bill known as Int.371-2010. According to James, “These CPCs are notorious for being intentionally vague concerning their agenda to deter women from seeking abortion services, and some have been accused of being deceptive about abortion risks and procedures while intentionally targeting poor and working-class women, immigrant women, and women of color to utilize their services.”

“It is misguided to use Black History Month as a tool to promote this message,” said Council member Letitia James. “Every woman has the right to make personal choices in regards to her body, and I respect many different points of view, but to compare abortion to terrorism and genocide is highly offensive.”Council member James’ alert was immediately forwarded to SisterSong NYC and SisterSong National, a coalition of more than 80 women of color organizations whose mission is reproductive justice. By Tuesday morning, the billboard was put up in SoHo at the intersection of Sixth Ave. and Watts. The response was immediate. From local news to blogs to ordinary citizens, disapproval was expressed. While Life Always saw a little girl to use as a pawn for their agenda, others saw a little girl who deserves to have a safe, healthy childhood, here and now.  Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said, “This billboard simply doesn’t belong in our city. The ad violates the values of New Yorkers and is grossly offensive to women and communities of color. Women of all backgrounds have a right to reproductive health care in New York City, and we must not let the current campaign of attacks undermine New Yorkers’ long standing support for a woman’s right to choose. A mix of intolerance and bad judgment put this ad up — common decency demands it be taken down.”Congresswoman Yvette Clarke was “deeply offended by the antiabortion ad that was put up in SoHo.
As a Black woman and as a Congressional member in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was clear to me that this antiabortion organization targeted the Black women of New York to impose their very racist ideology upon.” Clarke commended the voices of so many who called for the removal of this ad.  “I am proud that New Yorkers stood together against this racist and offensive advertising.

Through the activism of New Yorkers, we demonstrated that the pursuit of justice is much more powerful than the voice of ignorance,” she said. Ironically enough, the individuals who espouse these tactics are often more times than not, the same individuals that  have imposed cuts to the social safety net that would provide food security and personal safety to Black children and their families.  With the topic of abortion and access to health care for women becoming such a divisive subject in our nation, it is clear that it will be up to this generation and the next  to defeat those who will stop at nothing to impose their views on others and those who would show a reckless disregard to the rights of others in their pursuit to abolish women’s rights,” stated Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. The story went national by Wednesday. The child’s mom, Tricia Fraser, was shocked to see her 6-year-old daughter Anissa’s image used in such a manner.  “I would never endorse something like that,” said Fraser. “Especially with my child’s image.” Fraser had her children’s photos taken to be used as shock images. “It’s bad enough you’re saying this about African-Americans, but then you put a child with an innocent face,” said Fraser. “That’s not what I agreed to. I want them to take it down.”Councilman Barron, who calls press conferences immediately when anything racial occurs, was contacted by OTP around noon Tuesday. Seven hours later, Barron issued this statement: “The sign in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood that reads: ‘The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb is outrageous, racist and should be taken down immediately. It targets Black women in a biased and stigmatizing way. What they have done is not an exercise in free speech – it is an exercise in insults. The Black community will not sit back and allow this to happen. We are going to send a letter immediately to the Life Always group responsible for the ad to demand that it be removed.”Loretta Ross, national coordinator for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective said, “The comments are validating what people are saying in the opinion research focus groups we’re conducting.

Almost everyone says the billboards are offensive and ignore the underlying causes of the number of abortions.”The response intensified.Early Thursday morning, Nicole Mason, Ph.D, Executive Director, Women of Color Policy Network, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, sent an Email to friends and affiliates that said in part, “From welfare to single motherhood, images of Black women and girls have often been used to promote agendas and public policies that run counter to their agency and autonomy.  The billboard… is no exception. The ad implies that Black women are reckless and to blame for deaths that occur within African-American communities. It also simplifies the difficult decision that many women face, regardless of race, when choosing whether or not to terminate a pregnancy or exercise their right to the full range of reproductive health care services.” Mason asked that Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the billboard location, be contacted. Many people did, from NYC and across the country. Mason herself wrote to the company about 12:30pm. Her email stated,“While I know your company is not responsible for nor does it endorse the content of any advertisement, the politics and the subtext underlying the ad is damaging to African-American women and communities.”By 2:30pm, general manager for Lamar Advertising Mr. Costanza assured Mason the billboard would be removed “today.”  Thursday night the offending billboard was removed. “Community activists, women’s rights advocates, civil rights leaders, elected officials, people of color and others agreed that the content underlying this billboard was racial profiling and demeaning to African-American women and communities. The enormous outcry against this billboard reflects the true purpose of this politically motivated campaign as being an attack on pro-choice, as well as Planned Parenthood located nearby,” said James.  “This victory is a sweet one for all involved, especially as Black HistoryMonth 2011 ends.

The billboard coming down is symbolic for the power of the human spirit, the power of social media and angry women, as well as reinforces the notion that nothing is more dangerous than a made-up mind. An innocent face got caught in the middle of the controversy, yet the young girl’s expression speaks of only strength, life and love, not race or gender-based politics.”Council member James continued: “I support women having the right to make personal choices in regards to what’s best for their body, and I will continue to respect many different points of view.Congratulations to everyone for swift action, and I would like to share the following sentiment sent to me via e-mail by a friend that accurately sums up the positive ending to such a negative beginning:

Great Work! Score one for the good guys / gals / men / women / brethren / sistren in the ongoing battle with the barbarians! Simply put, the community put up a good fight and we won.”