Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.

Screen shot from the film Just Another Girl on the IRT.

Screen shot from the film Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.

As a young Black woman living in a low-income neighborhood in New York City with dreams of becoming a doctor, Chantel Mitchell had a lot of obstacles to overcome. The 1992 film Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., written and directed Leslie Harris, explores some of these challenges. Chantel is an outstanding student and outgoing woman who loves to speak her mind freely of the social injustices of African American people in her history class but her sharp tongue gets her into trouble in high school. She becomes romantically involved with a young man named Tyrone and the two teenagers become sexually active. Unfortunately, Chantel does not use her birth control properly and several weeks later she realizes she’s pregnant.

No birth control, aside from abstinence, is 100 percent effective and few prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (using a condom every time you have sex is a great way to protect yourself from most STIs). There are thousands of young women and men that find themselves in the same situation at Chantel and Tyrone. It is vital to advocate safe sex and educate women and men from low-income neighborhoods on contraceptives, as access to these resources are particularly restricted in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. The movie relates to the situation some adolescence find themselves in, but the director shows that teen pregnancies aren’t necessarily doomed. If you know a young mother that is looking for help, there are a number of helpful programs that can support their journey.

by Jessica Vargas an International Affairs degree candidate at the New School Graduate Program of International Affairs

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4 Comments

  1. I’ve seen the image for this movie for what seems like ages, but never thought to watch it. I’m glad this was a post or else I would have completely missed out.
    It blows my mind how relevant this movie is today, 20 years after it was made. Teen pregnancy and lack of family planning education and alternatives for this demographic are still major issues of concern. And the best we can come up with are ads targeted to teens telling them the perils of entering parenthood too soon. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/html/programs/teen_pregnancy_campaign.shtml) Just like the protagonist of this film, most teenagers already know that parenthood is a burden they aren’t capable of handling. They see it in their neighborhoods. There is always a friend or family member around whose life has changed dramatically due to the added responsibility of a baby. Teens aren’t dumb, the just need access to relevant information and alternatives to help them make the best decisions possible.

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  2. Odia Barker

     /  March 31, 2013

    There aren’t too many movies like Just Another Girl from the IRT daring enough to address the many struggles afflicting young women of color. The film actually did more than merely address teen pregnancy; it captured the impact of poverty and the intersections of race, class and gender in communities of color. Just Another Girl from the IRT is a rites of passage movie for young women of color. I can surely relate to the frustrations of the main character, Chantel, like ‘making it out the hood’, ‘doing better’ than your parents, deflecting sexual advances from guys, wanting African American representation in your school’s curriculum and class discussions, feeling powerless about the things happening in your community and trying to cultivate your own identity. It is definitely interesting and bit disheartening to see how the movie’s themes are still applicable today. Using this movie as a teaching tool to initiate discussions is imperative. So many young women of color can relate, learn, bond and grow from sharing their experiences.

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  3. Alexis P.

     /  May 6, 2013

    I first saw Just Another Girl on the IRT when I was 7 years old. I connected with Chantel because she reminded me so much of my older sister. it was the first time I saw a film which depicted what girls in my neighborhood went through. Chantel was just like my sister and her friends and all the older girls I looked up to at some point in my life. Smart girl with big dreams of going to college but makes extremely poor choices, parents who work relentlessly to make ends meet, and a know it all attitude.

    I saw this movie as a cautionary tale. After seeing that birth scene , the fear and desperation on Chantel and Ty’s face when the baby was born at home I knew at 7 that teenage pregnancy was just not in the cards.

    I continue to recommend this film along with the book “Am I the Last Virgin” written by Tara Roberts to young girls I come across in my neighborhood.

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  4. Leslie Harris, director of JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T, has a kickstarter campaign and needs your support!

    6 DAYS LEFT TO THE CAMPAIGN!

    Please help us spread the word! Join Leslie for a Twitter chat at 10 AM (12/2/13) (@les24fps). Ask her anything!

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