Cherilyn Holloway is the founder and President of Pro-Black Pro-Life. When Cherilyn began her career in pro-life ministry she discovered the staggering abortion rates in the Black community. This catapulted her into uncovering the major divide between the pro-life and Black communities in America. She found the secret to bridging the gap between pro-life and the Black community was through conversations that inspire life, so Pro-Black Pro-Life was born.
Cherilyn grew up in the small town of Oberlin, Ohio, which has a rich history in racial justice. Oberlin was active in the underground railroad, and its liberal arts college was the first to accept black men into their college in the U.S. The history of Cherilyn’s hometown meant that she grew up learning from and surrounded by a culture that was outspoken about racial justice.
At 15, Cherilyn found herself in an unplanned pregnancy. Her father insisted she get an abortion, but Cherilyn had never heard the word abortion before. When her mother explained to her what an abortion was, she knew she couldn’t do it. Cherilyn told her father she didn’t want to get an abortion. Her father told her she couldn’t live at home if she had the baby. Cherilyn went through with the abortion.
Years later, Cherilyn was preparing to get a divorce from her first husband when she found out she was pregnant by another man. She was concerned that her soon-to-be ex-husband would use this somehow to keep her from her two sons. She had no one to talk to, didn’t understand the legalities, and had no money. The father of the child wanted nothing to do with the baby. Cherilyn decided to get a chemical abortion.
At the time, Cherilyn lived in the D.C. area. Her sons were visiting their grandparents, and she had to drive to Ohio to pick them up. She took the first dose of the abortion pill right before this road trip. “I cried the entire six-hour drive. I had promised myself at 15 that I would never be in this situation again,” she said.
Beauty from Ashes
When Cherilyn got to her mom’s house in Ohio, she googled if there was a way to reverse her abortion. Nothing came up to help Cherilyn, in fact, the internet told her it would be dangerous not to take the second dose. It wasn’t until later that Cherilyn discovered the results she found that day were inaccurate. The abortion reversal pill existed even then at the pregnancy center in her county. The pregnancy center just wasn’t advertising this on its website.
After this, the Lord told Cherilyn to move back to Ohio. So she packed up and moved with her two sons. At the time, Cherilyn ran her own business and taught people about financial literacy. When Cherilyn sat to pray about future business plans, the Lord told her that her story was about to take a different turn. The Lord said it’s time to share the ashes he’d turned into beauty with others.
The only thing Cherilyn could think about in her story was her abortion, but she didn’t have any problem sharing her story. The Lord told her to apply for a Pregnancy Resource Center in her town.
“I’m not afraid of confrontation.”
In December 2016, she accepted the position of Executive Director at her local pregnancy center. Here, Cherilyn discovered the abortion rates in the Black community. “When I looked at the numbers, I couldn’t understand why the Black community wasn’t discussing abortion,” she said. So, she began to talk about it. In board meetings, roundtables, luncheons and conventions, Cherilyn would bring up this subject that many seemed to avoid.
“I’m not afraid of confrontation. I would go to all of these events, find other black people in the room, and ask them questions. I’d asked them what they thought about racial justice, about the pro-life movement. I showed them how the abortion system, like many systems in America, had inherent racism,” Cherilyn recounted.
Every Black person she spoke with agreed with Cherilyn but saw that the people advocating for racial justice at birth never supported them after. When Cherilyn attended pro-life conferences, people often asked her how to reach the black community. Cherilyn now replied, “Have you considered that we advocate against racism only at birth, then never advocate for them throughout the child’s life?’”
She found the reason for the divide between the Black community and the pro-life mission. Now Cherilyn had to figure out how to bridge this gap. For two years, Cherilyn wrestled with this question. Eventually, Cherilyn moved from her job at the PRC to be a Business Development Executive for Choose Life Marketing. This is where she learned about effective messaging and launched Pro-Black Pro-Life.
“The Time is Now”
During this time, Cherilyn realized that many Black people thought being pro-life meant being anti-Black. It became a motto of hers to say, “I’m pro-Black and I’m pro-life.” Cherilyn’s husband made her a t-shirt that said “Pro-black, Pro-life.” This shirt caught the attention of one of Cherilyn’s bosses in a meeting. Cherilyn’s boss told her that when she was ready to do something with her shirt, she would help her launch it. It wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd that Cherilyn knew it was time. As Cherilyn watched the reactions of the pro-life community, she was appalled at how many suggested that life only had value with a clean track record. When Cherilyn woke up the following day, the Lord said, “The time is now.”
In January 2021, Pro-Black Pro-Life became its own entity, and in July 2021, it received its 501C3.
Pro-Black, Pro-Life, Pro-Woman
For Women’s History Month, it’s crucial as organizations to celebrate women and Black women. Cherilyn’s message to other organizations is to use this month to focus on the good women have done.
“Women hear too much from the pro-life community about how misguided they are. We should use this time to tell women how great they are. There are so many women-led organizations doing fantastic work,” Holloway said.
Pro-Black Pro-Life creates messaging that uplifts the Black community, focuses on racial justice, and emphasizes the value of life. If you want to support Pro-Black Pro-Life and join the conversation, you can follow Cherilyn’s Instagram and Youtube.