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ETSU to screen documentary focusing on battle for reproductive freedom in South

Contributed To The Press • Nov 1, 2017 at 2:23 PM

“Jackson,” the award-winning documentary telling the story of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, will be screened at East Tennessee State University on Monday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium.

The free public event is presented by ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers and will be followed by a question-and-answer session and reception with Abbie Perrault, the community outreach coordinator and assistant to the director of the film.

July 2012 marked a major turning point in the fight for reproductive freedom in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I first traveled to Jackson after reading an article about a new law that could shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in the state,” says filmmaker Maisie Crow. “The racial and economic disparity was palpable. Access to reproductive services had already been greatly reduced in previous years and the intersection of all three – race, class and family planning – was alarmingly real.”

At the heart of “Jackson” are the racial, social and religious conflicts between three key individuals. Shannon Brewer is the director of the clinic and a black, single mother with six children. Opposing Brewer is Barbara Beavers, a white pro-life crusader. The third individual is April Jackson, a 24-year-old, black, single mother who, at the time of the filming, was pregnant with her fifth child and contemplating an abortion.

The film documents Mississippi leaders, including its governor, campaigning for the state to be “abortion-free.”

“What the movie shows is everything that we deal with on a daily basis,” Brewer told ABC.

Another character introduced in “Jackson” is Dr. Willie Parker, who started traveling to Mississippi to provide abortion care at the last clinic in the state when it became impossible for the clinic to find any local providers.

“People have said some very obnoxious things like calling me ‘the Negro abortionist’ and saying I kill my race,” Parker told ABC News during the 2012 crisis. “That doesn’t bother me; I’ve gotten used to that. . . . My goal is to see a woman as often as I need to make sure every pregnancy is a planned pregnancy and every child is a wanted child. . . . When a woman chooses and decides she wants an abortion, there needs to be a safe place for her to get one.”

“Jackson” premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and had its broadcast premiere on Showtime. The film has earned numerous awards since its premiere in 2016, including Best Documentary feature at Monmouth and Denton Black film festivals; the Jury Award and Audience Award for Best Documentary at Indie Memphis; Gold Jury Prize for Feature Documentary at the Social Justice Film Festival; and the Outstanding Courage in Filmmaking Award at the Tallgrass Film Festival.

While Perrault, an arts administrator and non-profit outreach coordinator based in Marfa, Texas, will be attending the ETSU screening of “Jackson,” the film was the brainchild of Maisie Crow, director, producer and director of photography for the feature project. Crow is a documentary film director, cinematographer and photographer residing in Marfa, Texas. She has several short-films to her credit, including “Love Me,” “A Life Alone,” “Tainted Waters” and “The Last Clinic,” where Crow was first exposed to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In addition to her filmmaking, Crow has also dedicated time to teaching as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

“I am glad that the film exists at this point in time because I think it is a really scary moment for reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care,” Crow told Mother Jones. “We’ve seen at festivals that audiences are really engaged and want to talk about these issues. There is so much to say and so much to talk about and it is my hope that the film sparks these discussions and people can continue them in their communities.”

The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. South Arts, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit regional arts organization building on the South's unique heritage and enhancing the public value of the arts. Their work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective through an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to the region, and linking the South with the nation and the world through arts.

For information about the film screening or ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, call 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. To learn more about Crow’s work, visit www.maisiecrow.com. For more information on “Jackson,” visit www.jacksonthefilm.com.

For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

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