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19 Feb 2011

Villanova social justice documentary examines Philly-based nonprofit “Mothers in Charge”, pain of losing loved ones to violence

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February 19, 2011 Category: Oasis Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Mothers in Charge founder Dorothy Johnson-Speight (r) poses with other MIC members and actor Allen Payne.

Photo credit: Mothers in Charge


On a cold winter night in December 2001, what started out as a one-sided dispute over a “parking space in Philadelphia resulted in an innocent young man’s death


The senselessness of the crime was all too familiar – but one mother decided to turn her indescribable grief into a mission to end the violence. A decade later, her story is told through the Villanova student-produced short documentary film, “No Greater Pain,” which was screened on campus last Friday.


“No Greater Pain” is the fourth film to come from Villanova’s Center for Social Justice Film, housed within the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI).


Founded in October, WFI promotes the study of communication emphasizing social justice, ethical leadership and community, and the ability of those key influencers to create a more just world.


The film tells the story of Dorothy Johnson-Speight, whose 24-year-old son Khaaliq was gunned down by Ernest Odom over a parking space in front of his own home. Viewers eventually meet four other mothers who also lost their sons to violence – including Ruth Donnelly, whose 19-year-old son Justin was stabbed by the same man who killed Khaaliq. Each mother discusses the darkest days of their grief and their desire to end the cycle of violence.


All women are members of the nonprofit organization, Mothers in Charge, which Johnson-Speight founded in 2004 to provide support for mothers and families affected by violence and offer violence prevention and education to at-risk youth and young offenders.


“One of the primary goals of this course is to familiarize students in a deep way with an important social issue and document a story of a person or persons striving for positive social change,” said Stephen McWilliams, one of the course instructors. “Through the medium of film, we seek to increase awareness of important social issues and most importantly, encourage students to bring their talents to actively working for a more just, peaceful world.


“The film, though at times was painful to make, is a powerful testimony to the strength of the women of Mothers in Charge,” McWilliams continued. “These women and the work they do are at the core of what we are attempting to achieve with our program.”



The Center for Social Justice Film allow students from all majors the unique opportunity t learn about filmmaking through hands-on training in real-world situations, andthen use their experience to create documentaries that explore important issues facing society and become advocates for those issues.

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