Billboard of Shame


She’ll walk past this billboard everyday. Telling her she’s worthless. That she made the wrong decision

Call her LaShonda. She’s 21. Everyday she travels to her downtown retail job from her small apartment near the 5800 block of South State Street in Chicago where they will put this billboard. The bus and the el trains are always crowded. On some days it’s an hour trip each way. She makes $8.00 per hour.

There’s a junkyard on the block where they’ll put this billboard. Bare trees on a hardscrabble city street in a neighborhood where 40% of the people are under 25. Most of the people living in the area are children, age four to nine. Most of the 41,000 people who live in the area have an income of under $10,000 per year.

LaShonda had the abortion when she was 19. She went alone. And when she came home, walking past the lot where the billboard will be, she was alone. She turned on the TV, put the water on for some tea, her retail job is in a tea store, and sat down in her chair. No one heard her cry.

The billboard is scheduled to go up in the next few weeks. After being taken down in New York City, Chicago now gets to see these billboards. 30 of them. Just like the one LaShonda will walk by every day.

The political wars go on. The attack on Planned Parenthood. The lobbying for government control of life’s most intimate decisions. The twisted use of the President’s image.

While a shoulder slumping, vacant eyed young woman will soon walk past a billboard twice a day that reminds her that she’s worthless. That she made the wrong decision.

She doesn’t think too much about the baby. The one that might have been. At least that’s what she’d say if you asked.

And she doesn’t think much about the future.

Sometimes on the el train when she can get a seat, she’ll take out her pencil and start to draw. Forests and mountains and pencil grey sun filled skies of hope. She can see the color in her grey sketches. If there was anyone to tell her–here—take this paintbrush–perhaps she could change the world with her art.

She makes stories with her sketches. She has something in her mind that makes her reverse the letters when she reads. So she doesn’t read much. But she loves to hear the stories. And she loves to sketch. Most of them she just throws away when the train gets downtown. No place to keep them while she works.

So there will be no sketches in her hands when she walks past the billboard.

Maybe in awhile, she’ll forget the billboard is even there.

As if there was a way her eyes could become even more empty and cold.

On a bitter cold street with a billboard looking down on her.

A young woman with her head down. Trying to get home.

8 Responses to “Billboard of Shame”

  1. robin obrien Says:

    So sad. I really feel this.

  2. Tom Simeone Says:

    Every woman I know who has made this decision never stops thinking about it; maybe less frequently with the passing years, but it never stops. Something is always there to remind them. Now that something is a 30 foot unavoidable intrusion into their lives.
    No doubt it is financed by the same folks who are lobbying to cut any and all aid for the children of the single and impoverished parents. So take your pick of labels: baby-killer or social leech welfare mom. Both brought to you by the the representatives of the United Corporations of America.

  3. Helen Gagel Says:

    Sometime you gotta wonder about this free speech stuff.

  4. Cath Says:

    These billboards are cynical and race-baiting in so many ways, it’s not funny. Did we ever see these groups put a picture of George W. Bush up with the same text, targeting white women as killers of our future presidents? No. Do we ever see these same groups advocating for the health care that so many women and children so desperately need and are often deprived of every day of their lives, not just during the months of pregnancy? No. Do we see these same groups joining with those who disparage the leader pictured on the billboard–YES! I hope Chicagoans of all colors and ideologies see through this ploy and demand that none of these billboards are allowed to go up in our city. Chicago’s seen too many race-based ad campaigns in its political history, it doesn’t need any more of that nonsense.

  5. Paul Haider Says:

    It is really is unfair to instill guilt in impoverished African-American women for choosing to get an abortion; the decision was made knowing that they could not financially afford to raise the child ($200,000 for the first 18 years), and the biological father would have never provided any support unless he was court-ordered. I heard the leader of this particular pro-life campaign on NPR yesterday, and (surprise! surprise!) it was a man who, once again, was telling women what they are supposed to do with their bodies, their zygotes, and their futures. If men had the ability to conceive and bear children, there would be no such thing as the pro-life movement or an abortion restrcition; the goal of these men, whether they are in positions of power in government or in organized religion, is to control of reproductive rights in order to produce more soldiers for war (government) or more members (religion) to increase revenues (a goal of these for-profit businesses that never pay taxes).
    As George Carlin once observed: “Why is it that the people who are ‘pro-life’ are the same ones who you would never want to have sex with in the first place? They are not ‘pro-life’; they are anti-woman! They are in favor of guns, which kill thousands of people every year in the USA, and they are in favor of war, which kills thousands of people in other countries. They also kill the doctors who perform abortions to remove the zygote (congregated cells) within the first trimester. So, they will do everything within their power to protect a zygote, but if it grows up to become an abortion doctor, they just might have to kill that person?” As the late Bill Hicks said, “If they are truly ‘pro-life’, then why aren’t they blocking cemeteries instead of abortion clinics? Why aren’t they protesting protesting funerals as well? There is no consistency in the actions of these hypocritical idiots!” By the way, I can think of so many men (Hitler, Stalin, Gacy, Chapman, Reagan, Bush, Cheney) whose mothers would have done this world a very big favor by considering medical plans that included abortion.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

  6. Ted Schneider Says:

    I heard about the billboard today and wondered what is worse, a baby aborted or another child brought into the world without a fighting chance at a decent life (whatever that is today). I won’t get caught up in the pro or con side of abortion but I believe two things, women have a right to decide for themselves what is right for them and if the pro life people are so sure they are right, they should line up at the clinics and adopt all the unwanted children.

  7. Paul Haider Says:

    I forgot to add that the vast majority of “pro-life” (anti-woman!) conservative men who are opposed to abortion, due to their religious belief that it is a form of “murder,” are completely in favor of the death penalty. Of course, they don’t refer to it as the death penalty but call it capital punishment instead; this is to prevent their hypocrisy from being that much more explicit. Somehow, it is not murder when an adult is killed via lethal injection or by a lethal bullet from a gun (NRA lobbyists are still doing a “heck of a job”), but it is murder when a zygote is terminated by the choice of a woman. Hmmmm…
    Paul Haider, Chicago
    P.S. I’m still waiting for the day when a woman, who is not Sarah Palin, is elected President, earns the exact same salary as a man, and is placed into a position of power (pope, priest, pastor) in organized religion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: