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Film: Belly of the Beast, Screening and Filmmaker Discussion

Sunday, 11/13/2022
2:00 - 4:30

Activists against coerced sterilization in California women’s prisons, Kelli Dillon and Cynthia Chandler, discuss their work after an online screening of the film which documents their battle with the Department of Corrections.

Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, Belly Of The Beast exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons. The pastoral farmlands surrounding the Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison, help conceal the reproductive and human rights violations transpiring inside its walls. Dillon, a courageous woman who was involuntarily sterilized at the facility, teams up with Chandler, a radical lawyer, to stop these violations. They spearhead investigations that uncover a series of statewide crimes, primarily targeting women of color, from inadequate access to healthcare to sexual assault to illegal sterilization. Together, with a team of tenacious heroines, both in and out of prison, they take to the courtroom to fight for reparations. 

Participants will receive a link to the film at the event. After the screening, Dillon and Chandler will be in conversation with Wanda Sabir. 

Kelli Dillon is the Co-Chairperson for the Empowerment Congress Southeast Neighborhood Council. She is a survivor of domestic/gang violence and an advocate for violence prevention and intervention programs. Kelli found herself incarcerated at the age of 19 and was sentenced to serve a 15-year sentence. Her case intensified from a domestic violence incident, in defense from preventing an attack from her abuser. While in the California Department of Corrections, her advocacy and community social work began during this time assisting fellow inmates with counseling and social justice issues. Since that time, Kelli continues to advance in education and has received certifications of training in the areas of Anger Management, Domestic Violence, Batterer’s Intervention Program, Art Therapy, HIV/STI Education and Peer Advocacy, Homeless prevention, and Sociology.  In 2014, Kelli worked as an advocate with Justice Now, Inc. alongside of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson on the SB 1135 Anti-Sterilization Bill. Her testimony was key in helping the Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown pass this bill into law, to ban unlawful and non-consensual sterilization of California prisoners. Kelli has received several awards for her passionate work and continues to volunteer her time in the community of Los Angeles. Kelli is now the Vice President of the Empowerment Congress Southeast Neighborhood Council and newly appointed Commissioner and Board Member for the Department of Community and Family services. In addition, she is the founder and executive director of Back to the Basics, a community empowerment organization and outreach program. 

Cynthia Chandler has dedicated her life to achieving gender and racial justice while challenging violence in all its forms, including imprisonment. Cynthia is an always-bold founder, coach, and life-learner with over 25 years’ experience as a social entrepreneur, activist, academic and attorney. In collaboration with HIV-positive activists in prison, she founded the first organization advocating for HIV-positive women in prison. She co-founded Critical Resistance and Justice Now, early prison industrial complex abolitionist organizations influencing the Black Lives Matter network. She has coached the launch of dozens more social ventures. As an attorney, her practice is equally innovative: when law does not allow the relief she seeks for her clients, she changes it. She helped create the compassionate release legal process through loopholes in the law, representing the first terminally ill people granted release from prison in California. Her cases became the case studies used to codify the process in California, and later nationally. She uncovered California’s coercive sterilization of women in prison through 2012, and led efforts to pass successful legislation to stop it. Cynthia maintains a legislative practice, contributing to key legislation aimed at shrinking imprisonment. In all her work, she serves as an ally and coach, supporting disenfranchised people in realizing their own solutions for freedom. Cynthia has received numerous awards for her innovative work, including: California Women Lawyers’ prestigious Fay Stender Award, 2015; Women's Health Activist Network’s Top 30 Activist for Women's Health, 2005; Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, 2001; and California Law Business’ Attorney to Whom California Can Be Most Grateful, 1997. Cynthia received her JD from Harvard Law School and a MPhil in Criminology from University of Cambridge. She is the mother of two artists and scholars.

Wanda Sabir is a journalist (Wanda's Picks), college professor, visual artist, Depth Psychologist and poet who believes in the power of art to change and shape social movements as well as assist in trauma healing and memory reclamation work. Co-founder of Maafa San Francisco Bay Area, she launched “Wombfulness Gatherings” in March 2021. She is the recipient of the Distinguished 400 Award, 400 Years of African American History Commission, US Dept. of the Interior. 


Belly of the Beast - Website | Belly of the Beast - Twitter | Belly of the Beast - Instagram

Events and workshops curated around SFPL’s One City One Book selection. One City One Book: San Francisco Reads is a citywide literary event that encourages members of the San Francisco community to read the same book at the same time. For more information, see

Connect to engaging discussions and performances related to the Black community.

More Than a Month recognizes important events in Black history, honors community and national leaders and fosters steps towards collective change. Programming features authors, poets and craft classes. 

This program is sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Attending Programs

For questions about the program or help registering, contact sfplcpp@sfpl.orgAll programs are drop-in (no registration necessary) unless otherwise noted. All SFPL locations are wheelchair accessible. For accommodations (such as ASL or language interpretation), call (415) 557-4557 or contact Requesting at least 3 business days in advance will help ensure availability.

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