The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, with creative direction from the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME), is telling the stories of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration from community leaders doing the work to end gun violence in Philadelphia. Amidst the heartbreaking narratives in the news, tales of hope are equally present.  A Hope that Lights The Way, reminds residents that there’s still hope in Philly.


About the documentary

A Hope That Lights The Way is both a community-based engagement process and a documentary that uplifts the impactful stories of people who have successfully overcome the numerous challenges posed by gun violence. By actively listening to community members and conducting focus group discussions with our Temple University research partners, we’ve chronicled an ongoing narrative of progress and transformation.

We are shedding light on the leaders within local communities who are spearheading the development and preservation of hope. More importantly, these examples of hope are relevant data that will help the City make critical decisions about how to engage residents as we forge a path forward to address gun violence in our city.


Our partners

Working in close collaboration with Big Picture Alliance, JTWO Films, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement, and Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs, we are building strong relationships between the City government and local organizations deeply invested in the well-being of Black men and boys. Recognizing the powerful legacy of community engagement among Philadelphia residents, we embrace our active role in reshaping the narrative about our neighborhoods and fostering a collective sense of empowerment.


Watch the trailer!


Hope Dealers

A Hope That Lights The Way features community leaders and organizations, or “Hope Dealers,” who are committed to implementing and advancing anti-violence and intervention initiatives, and who are working to break the cycle of gun violence by closing equity gaps for our most impacted communities. The goal is to elevate their experiences and strategies for success and inspire others to follow their lead by expanding this critical work to their neighborhoods.

Below are some of our featured Hope Dealers:

  • Joseph Budd
    • Founder of Men who Care Germantown, which provides food, scholarship funds, and mentorship programs for the Germantown community.
  • Valencia Peterson
    • Founder of Open Door Abuse Awareness & Prevention (ODAAP), which aims to prevent violence in all its forms, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence, by empowering youth to be the agent of change in abuse through a trauma-informed lens.
  • Ryan Harris
    • Founder of As I Plant This Seed, a community organization that seeks to promote youth development and community advancement by providing access to education, information, training and relief to the distressed and underprivileged.
  • Eugene “Buddah” Thomas
    • Founder of Power Circle, striving to educate and empower youth ages 13–18 to set goals for their futures by capitalizing on existing community resources, mentors, and thought leaders for education.
  • Pastor Aaron Campbell
    • Founder of Level Up Philly, an initiative transforming Philly’s youth landscape. Level Up is an oasis of hope for youth, offering free educational assistance, mentoring, meals and safe places to unwind and create art.
  • Rickey Duncan 
    • Chief executive officer of New Options, More Opportunities Foundation (NOMO), a city-wide organization providing a safe space for youth and young adults to develop positive life skills and nurture their potential to break the cycle of poverty.
  • Manny215
    • A Philly-native recording artist, and founder of What I Wish I Knew Foundation, which celebrates Philly youth culture and provides resources and mentorship initiatives.
  • Pastor Carl Day
  • Milaj Robinson
    • Co-founder of Youth Creating New Beginnings, a non-profit that aims to empower youth to become community leaders by building bridges to City officials, civics education and networking opportunities.


Operations Transformation Fund

This work and documentary have been made possible through the City of Philadelphia’s Operations Transformation Fund, which supports transformative projects in City government that focus on providing efficient and equitable services to Philadelphia residents. A Hope That Lights The Way creates an additional process for public engagement through the powerful art of storytelling centering the stories of the experts: Philadelphia community members.

Learn more about the OTF Fund and track the progress of a wide variety of projects on the Operations Transformation Fund Dashboard, and sign up for the EngagingPHL newsletter to stay up to date with other initiatives and programs!


Meet the filmmakers

Check out the following interviews with the documentary filmmakers of A Hope That Lights the Way:

Eric Westbrook, Executive Producer,  Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement

Kaloni Davis, Director

Octavius Blount, Producer, Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement

Jeanette Bavwidinsi, Producer, Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement

In collaboration with Temple University partners, OBME has developed a survey to gauge residents' sense of safety and learn what brings hope. The office recognizes that a survey is not a solution to gun violence, however, it can provide honest resident feedback that can be helpful in lighting a path forward for the city of Philadelphia.