From 2017-2019, Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry developed and supported Cinema 53, a screening and discussion series presenting conversation-provoking films by and about women and people of color at the historic Harper Theater in downtown Hyde Park. Curated by former Gray Center director Jacqueline Stewart, Cinema 53 brings together scholars, artists, students and audiences from the South Side and beyond to consider how visual cultures reflect, and reflect upon, enduring inequalities and revolutionary futures. Beginning fall 2019, Cinema 53 is a program of Arts + Public Life, where Jacqueline Stewart now serves as director. 

 A complete list of past Cinema 53 programs can be found here. 



Fall 2019

Freedom, Autonomy, Access: 25 Years of Reproductive Justice

In 1994, twelve Black women gathered in Chicago and founded the reproductive justice movement. Naming themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, they organized around three fundamental principles:  the right to have children, to not have children, and to create and care for families in safe and healthy environments. Now, 25 years later, Cinema 53 partners with  the Chicago Abortion Fund to commemorate the creation of that powerful framework and consider the complex experiences that inform these basic rights today. This three-part series of films and conversation brings together organizers, scholars, artists, and health workers to view ground-breaking features and explore the critical inheritance and vital future of global “RJ.”

All screenings are free and open to the public, and take place at:

Harper Theater
5238 S Harper Ave
Chicago, IL 60615

October 10  7pm
Just Another Girl on the IRT 
(Leslie Harris, 1992)

Film Screening + Discussion featuring: Leslie Harris, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and Jacqueline Stewart

With this brash, ‘90s indie film about Chantel, her confident teen wisdom and complicated real-life decisions, Leslie Harris became the first African American woman director to win Best Feature Film at Sundance. Insightful and fresh after 27 years, Just Another Girl’s honest take on shopping, high school and unexpected pregnancy still resonates. Followed by conversation with Harris and a youth leader from Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, moderated by Jacqueline Stewart.

November 7  6pm
(Jonathan Demme, 1998)

Film Screening + Discussion featuring: Charlene Carruthers, Kaneesha Parsard and Quenna Lené Barrett

Majestic, confounding and rich with secrets, Beloved, based on Toni Morrison‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel, is the enduring story of Sethe, a mother determined to “never run from another thing on earth.” Followed by conversation with Charlene Carruthers, author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, and Kaneesha Parsard, UChicago English Language and Literature, moderated by Quenna Lené Barrett.

December 12  7pm
Little Woods 
(Nia DaCosta, 2018)

Film Screening + Discussion featuring: Brittany Mostiller and Quenna Lené Barrett

“Your choices are only as good as your options.” Facing an $8000 bill for prenatal care or an abortion hundreds of miles away, Deb (Lily James) teams up with her sister Ollie (Tessa Thompson) on a border-crossing, drug-running, last-chance scheme to survive in the midst of the opioid crisis. Followed by conversation with Brittany Mostiller, former executive director of Chicago Abortion Fund, moderated by Quenna Lené Barrett.