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July 26, 2023

Documentary about Philly's gun violence crisis to premiere Friday

'A Hope That Lights the Way,' produced by the Mayor's Office of Engagement, will be screened to a sold-out crowd at the Franklin Institute

Films Gun Violence
Philadelphia Gun Violence Documentary EngagingPHL/YouTube

'A Hope That Lights the Way,' a documentary produced by the Mayor's Office of Engagement, focuses on the community leaders and organizations working to end the city's gun violence crisis.

A soon-to-be-released documentary produced by the City of Philadelphia tells the stories of community leaders and organizations working to end Philadelphia's gun violence crisis. 

"A Hope That Lights the Way," which debuts Friday in front of a sold-out audience at the Franklin Institute, was produced by the Mayor's Office of Public Engagement with creative direction from the Office of Black Male Engagement. It features stories from residents in the neighborhoods most impacted by shootings and violent crime.

"(It) is a documentary that's focused on the rising gun violence among Black men in Philadelphia, but the documentary is also going to turn this lens on the individuals and organizations in the city who are doing the work in the community to help quell some of that gun violence," said Kaloni Davis, the film's director. "One of the most important facets of this documentary to me is that we don't just highlight Black men who are living a life of crime, but we focus in on the 'why' behind it." 

The film features interviews with people who have lost loved ones to gun violence, children and families that have been impacted by gunfire and community leaders who are working to prevent gun violence. The community leaders and organizations featured in the documentary are called "hope dealers" for their commitment to implementing anti-violence initiatives and eliminating gaps in equity.

Joseph Budd, founder of Men Who Care Germantown, provides food and scholarship funds to members of his Northwest Philly community. Culture Changing Christians, Inc., spearheaded by Pastor Carl Day, feeds the city's homeless population and provides mentorship to at-risk children and teenagers. Other organizations featured in the film are focused on violence prevention, poverty, civics, arts and educational development. 

A trailer for the documentary presents these stories against the backdrop of news reports and police footage of shootings in the city over the last few years. The film's featured experts and community leaders discuss the lack of hope felt by residents, particularly Black Philadelphians, amid an uptick in violent crime. 

The documentary was produced through the city's Operations Transformation Fund, which supports projects that provide equitable services to city residents. In collaboration with Temple University, the Mayor's Office of Black Male Engagement is surveying residents to understand their sense of safety in the city.

Much like the documentary, the survey explores possible solutions to the city's gun violence crisis and understand what, if anything, makes people hopeful for the future. 

"Our concerns matter and our progress will greatly impact this city's progress," said Eric Westbrook, director of the Mayor's Office of Black Male Engagement and executive producer of the documentary. "I think with the team, just sitting with like-minded people and having powerful discussions on the role film can play in just began to well up, these ideas of a documentary really showcasing our experience and getting down to what really is motivating men and boys all over the city to keep going, to keep overcoming, to keep working towards a Philadelphia we want to see." 

Earlier this year, the Office of Black Male Engagement and the Mayor's Commission on African American Males released an annual report on the state of Black men and boys in Philly, finding that more than 75% of the city's male homicide victims are Black. Of the 1,041 people who have been shot in the city so far this year, 718 of them have been Black males, according to data from the City Controller's Office

Those who want to see the film can sign up using this online form to be notified of future showings.