A Hope That Lights The Way lifts up hometown heroes across the city who are changing the gun violence narrative

PHILADELPHIA – This evening, the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement (OPE), with creative direction from the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME), will host the Night of Hope Gala and premiere the documentary A Hope That Lights The Way at the Franklin Institute. The film is both a community-based engagement initiative and documentary that uncovers and elevates powerful stories of Black men and boys across the city who are spearheading grassroots anti-violence movements and cultivating hope in their communities amidst the gun violence epidemic.

“Young Black men are often the face of gun violence, yet their real lived experiences and on-the-ground efforts to reduce violence in Philadelphia’s hardest-hit communities are lost in the headlines,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am proud of the dedication and hard work that has led to the production of A Hope That Lights The Way, which not only brings light to the valuable contributions of Black men and boys but disrupts the narrative of gun violence by including their voices and stories of hope and redemption. This is crucial to our city’s anti-violence work and strategy.”

The film was produced in partnership with Big Picture Alliance, the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement, Faith-Based & Interfaith Affairs, and ethnographic researchers from Temple University’s College of Public Health & Social Work, and sponsored by the City’s Operations Transformation Fund (OTF), a fund dedicated to supporting transformative city projects that focus on providing efficient and equitable services to Philadelphia residents.

“As a city facing a crisis, we don’t have the luxury to wait for change. We have to actively give of ourselves and take action where we can, and contribute to creating a city where everyone can thrive and has a sense of hope for their lives,” said Romana Lee-Akiyama, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement. “The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement is honored to play a role in sponsoring this documentary and providing a platform for our most active residents to share their strategies in creating hope for those most deeply impacted by the gun violence crisis.”

Over the last year, filmmakers Eric Westbrook and Kaloni Davis conducted community focus groups and listening sessions to unveil real-life stories and grassroots anti-violence efforts that entail progress and transformation, and more importantly, that are told and initiated by Black men or “hope dealers.”

“This event is all about showcasing the invaluable work of those who go above and beyond to invest in Black men and boys by advancing anti-violence initiatives, but who are left out of the gun violence narrative. These folks are on the frontlines of the battle for our young men who continue to be the dominant perpetrators and victims of gun violence in our city, and deserve to have their voices heard,” said Eric Westbrook, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement. “In the documentary A Hope That Lights The Way, these leaders and heroes model a balance of empathy and determination to see our young people build and maintain a confident outlook on their future. I am proud of their efforts and inspired by their commitment. I am confident that viewers will be too.”

“Too often, Black men are associated with criminality and violence. As a result, many view us as animals. A Hope That Lights The Way seeks to change that narrative and humanize Black men by shedding light on the unique challenges we face in Philadelphia,” said Kaloni Davis, Director of A Hope That Lights The Way. “The violence in our city is real, but so are the Black-owned organizations who are committed to making a difference. As the director of such an important film, my goal is twofold: undo the negative stereotypes around Black men and highlight the Black heroes in our city who are spreading hope.”

“Being able to collaborate with such great advocates and change-makers is definitely a life-changing experience,” said Rickey Duncan, CEO and Executive Director of NOMO Foundation. “I always say: Education is organized thinking; cultivating is organized life. I truly believe we are educating the masses on how to affect real change in our city with this documentary.”

“It has truly been an honor to work with the City on this project  – to hear the lived experiences of Black boys and men in Philadelphia and to work towards creating a more equitable, representable, and inclusive city that includes them and their voices,” said Dr. DaVonti Haynes, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and College of Public Health at Temple University.

Along with the premiere screening of A Hope That Lights The Way and dinner reception, guests will have the chance to join a post-screening conversation with filmmakers and featured community leaders.

Watch A Hope That Lights The Way trailer.

Stay up to date on future screenings.


About the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement (OPE)

The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement (OPE) enhances community outreach and engagement in Philadelphia, and empowers residents to connect and make City government accessible to all by ensuring everyone’s voice is heard. OPE oversees the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement, Mayor’s Office of Engagement for Women, Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement, and Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs.

About the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME)

The Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME) works to close the opportunity divide for men and boys of color. We strive to better the communities where they live and reduce the economic and social disparities that affect them. Our work is inclusive. We also serve Latino, Asian, immigrant, and other populations of men and boys in Philadelphia. OBME directs and supports the efforts of the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males. We also coordinate My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia, a program that aims to dismantle systems of inequality. OBME is part of the larger Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement.

About the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement (OYE)

The Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement was created in 2017 to be a megaphone for the voices of young people in Philadelphia. Our mission is to encourage & restore young resident’s faith in civic leadership & municipal government by creating brave spaces for them to reimagine & co-design the Philadelphia they want to live in. OYE houses the Philadelphia Youth Commission and the Millennial Advisory Committee.

About Faith-Based & Interfaith Affairs

Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs (FBIA) ensures that Philadelphia’s diverse faith communities have a seat at the table and are represented in the administration’s decision-making process. This collaborative work is key to addressing issues that affect our communities and to strengthening the connection between residents of all backgrounds and the government.

About NOMO Foundation

NOMO (New Options More Opportunities) Foundation’s mission is to provide a safe space for youth and young adults to develop positive life skills and nurture their potential to break the cycle of poverty.

About Big Picture Alliance (BPA)

Big Picture Alliance’s mission is to empower Philadelphia youth to define their own narrative through filmmaking & digital media arts. We provide transformative learning experiences and a supportive pathway for youth to have their voices heard, develop as young professionals and reach their full potential. We aim to uplift & amplify marginalized voices and cultivate a new generation of storytellers who contribute towards a more inclusive, equitable and just society.