VILLANOVA, Pa. – It’s been nearly 10 years since the cold December night when Philadelphia resident Dorothy Johnson-Speight lost her son to a gunshot in front of his own home, but during that time she’s built a network of support for other mothers and family members who have lost loved ones to violence. On May 10, Johnson-Speight’s nonprofit organization, Mothers in Charge, will mark its eighth anniversary with an event coinciding with Mother’s Day. The Villanova University student-produced documentary, “No Greater Pain” – which profiles the Mothers in Charge organization – will be honored and screened during the anniversary event at Penn’s Landing
Johnson-Speight founded Mothers in Charge in 2003, two years after her 24-year-old son Khaaliq was gunned down over a parking space in Philadelphia. The organization’s mission is to prevent violence through education and intervention, and provide support to people whose loved ones were lost to violence.
“No Greater Pain,” a product of Villanova’s Center for Social Justice Film, tells the story of Johnson-Speight and four other mothers who also lost sons to violence – including Ruth Donnelly, whose 19-year-old son Justin was stabbed by the same man who killed Johnson-Speight’s son, Khaaliq.
In the documentary, each mother discusses the darkest days of their grief and their desire to end the cycle of violence. All women are members of Mothers in Charge.
“These students, none of whom have experienced the loss of a loved one to violence, were able to produce a very sensitive yet powerful documentary that shares our experiences,” Johnson-Speight said. “I think we’ve not only touched their lives in a powerful way, but also helped them to make a film that will leave an impression on others.”
“No Greater Pain” is the fourth film to come out of 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 by emphasizing social justice, ethical leadership and community, and the ability of those key influencers to create a more just world.
“It was a privilege for the students and faculty members to work with Mothers in Charge,” said Stephen McWilliams, one of the course’s instructors. “The courage of these women in the face of unspeakable pain and their loving support for one another was a remarkable lesson that will always stay with us.”
Villanova’s Center for Social Justice Film allows students from all majors the unique opportunity to learn about filmmaking through hands-on training in real-world situations. Students then use this experience to create documentaries that explore important issues facing society and become advocates for those issues.
Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.