Rolling Out

Natalie Moore discusses why she created the book and play ‘The Billboard’

Natalie Moore discusses why she created the book and play 'The Billboard'
Photo courtesy of Natalie Y. Moore

Natalie Y. Moore is a Chicago-based journalist. Moore is the author of the book The Billboard, which is about a fictional Black women’s clinic in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood on the South Side and its fight with a local gadfly running for city council who puts up a provocative billboard: “Abortion is genocide.”

Moore spoke with rolling out about why she decided to write this book, the conversation about abortion in the country, and how her book became a play.

What is The Billboard centered around?

It’s centered around abortion on the South Side of Chicago. The Billboard is a play and most plays aren’t published as books. It’s a play about abortion centered in Inglewood, a Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. It’s also set in the City Council race and centered in a Black women’s health clinic, and the book has some extra content in it.

Why did you writethis book?

In 2011, there was the beginning of what I was noticing as a trend of anti-abortion billboards going up in Black neighborhoods, targeting Black women. I covered it as a reporter for WBEZ, the NPR member station in Chicago.  In 2018, the same guy who was in Chicago, put up a billboard in Dallas, and these billboards would say things like “Abortion is genocide,” or “The most dangerous place for a Black child is his mother’s womb.” What happened in Dallas is that a Black senator put up their own billboard that said, “Abortion is self-care,”  with the hashtag “Trust Black women,” and then had a picture of three Black women smiling. That’s not the kind of messaging people have seen around abortion. There’s been stigma, there’s been shame, and [a desire] to keep it private.

Also, self-care is a marketing term, and we think about [in tems of] going to the spa, getting your nails done, or drinks with your girls, but self-care is a lot deeper than that.

I wanted to tease out some of these interracial conversations that happen in Black communities, and also highlight the misogyny that we don’t always talk about. So this guy running for city council, he’s a pro-Black nationalist, but he has a lot of blind spots when it comes to gender.

Natalie Moore discusses why she created the book and play 'The Billboard'
The Billboard

How much more impactful was it to write a play about this topic instead of writing about it as a journalist?

I write nonfiction books, and I wanted to try something different. I took a playwriting class, but I wouldn’t play myself trying this new genre. What I got from it was I can do this, because there are a lot of similarities in writing audio feature scripts, as it is to playwriting, except one is fiction and one is nonfiction, but you’re writing for the ear. And I have that training. I had also done some abortion coverage here because Illinois has some of the strongest protections around abortion rights in the country.

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