No Harm


No Harm is a cinematic feature documentary that will use verité-style shooting and interviews to look at medical racism and the corresponding acts of terrorism that have been enacted on Black women’s bodies. Exploring their experiences, past and present, the film asks whether the outcomes Black women face stem from benign negligence or an extinction level threat.

Making my feature documentary about Black women and beauty, it first occurred to me that there is an unacknowledged-edged power to beauty that has left Black women vulnerable to a multiplicity of harm. Malcolm X said it best when he told us, “The most unprotected woman in America is the Black woman.” What does this look like in relation to Black women today? In some cases, it means getting gunned down in your own home by the police while innocent of any crime. It means being raped, murdered or sexually assaulted by authority figures and no one notices for decades. In the medical world it looks like being 200% more likely to receive poorer medical care than a white woman. It looks like being 40% more likely to die from Cancer than white women, even though Black women are less likely to develop Cancer. And it looks like being 243% more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than your white counterparts.

It looks like all those things because a Black woman’s income, education and higher-status professions does not protect her from medical harm by doctors.

Serena Williams nearly died after giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2018. What saved her was her celebrity status and her ability to advocate on her own behalf. Ms. Williams not only demanded a CT scan, which the nurse rejected, thinking she was ‘confused by her pain meds’, she also told the medical staff exactly what she needed. They listened and the CT she demanded revealed several small blood clots in her lungs. Serena effectively saved her own life.

But few of us have the power of a celebrity or are armed with a thorough knowledge of our medical history as Ms. Williams was. What we do have decades is of catalogued research that shows a medical industry that willfully withholds lifesaving information and treatments from Black women. If you believe negligence is murder, then a huge medical reckoning is coming.

No Harm will examine the medical harm done to Black women by following the story and legal case of Maria, who believes her baby’s brain damage was caused by medical negligence. Over the process of filming Maria’s personal story and legal case, we will also see what happens to baby Zaya.

Interwoven with this will be an unfolding history of the medical harm Black women face from the days of J. Marion Sims, ‘the father of gynecology’, who conducted brutal experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia.

We will also unpack how Black women have gone from being ‘breeders’ during Slavery to the present where they and their babies are dying in unprecedented numbers during childbirth. No Harm will include the voices of women who have power and privilege, like Serena Williams, and consider how they maneuver in this deadly system and the outcomes they face.