Philadelphia native reveals toll of gun violence in new ‘Weight of Death’ docuseries

In “Weight of Death,” Danielle Oglesby talks about the 2018 fatal shooting of daughter, Dominique. (Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — A South Philadelphia community activist is exposing the pain and trauma of gun violence in Black communities through a new documentary series.

Anton Moore says the epidemic of gun violence in African-American neighborhoods is not accurately being told. Positive change will come about through listening to the families and community members who experience that violence, he said.

“We have to start telling these stories,” Moore said during an interview Friday.

Moore tells the story of the life and death of 23-year-old Dominique Oglesby in the first episode of “Weight of Death.” He produced the series alongside Matthew Orsini and Jaime Borras.

The 35-minute documentary portrays gun violence as a public health crisis and its effects on the community through interviews with Oglesby’s mother Danielle, rapper Meek Mill, District Attorney Larry Krasner, activists, experts and gun violence victims.

A Pennsylvania student three weeks away from graduation, Dominique Oglesby was gunned down in 2018 outside a West Philadelphia lounge near 52nd and Market streets. Her father and grandfather were shot in the same incident.

Danielle Oglesby retells in the film how she learned of her daughter’s death.

“To be fighting with emotions inside, not with what you see outside, everything is on the inside and you don’t know how to soothe that pain,” Danielle Oglesby said. “You don’t know how to express it for someone else to help you with that pain because there are no words for that type of pain.”

Moore said that while Black men are overwhelmingly the targets of gun violence, Dominique Oglesby’s story show’s “no one is off limits.”

The first film was released on YouTube earlier this month and has more than 12,700 views. The five-part documentary series will highlight a separate homicide in each episode. A new episode is expected to be released monthly.

The release of the documentary comes as homicides spike in the city to their highest levels in decades.

Philadelphia has logged 447 homicides as of Thursday, up 38% compared with this time last year. African Americans account for an overwhelming majority of homicides and shooting victims in the city.

A city native, 34-year-old Moore has been an activist in South Philadelphia for more than a decade and founded the nonprofit Unity in the Community in 2009.

Moore said he tapped his connections here to reveal the toll gun violence has on individuals, families, friends and the community from those who live it every day.

In the film, gun violence victim Kourtney Drayton relates a retaliation cycle that fatal shootings create.

“It’s like, you took one of mine, I’m going to take 10 of yours,” Drayton said. “It ain’t going to be: You killed my brother, I’m going to just let your family ride. You’ve got to feel the same pain I felt.”

Jerome Tucker, who says in the film he has had “people die in my arms,” tells how gun violence affects the community.

Lawmakers send Wolf gun, environment bills on their way out of town – and for some, out of office

“When you shoot him, it hurt a whole lot of other people,” Tucker said. “You shoot him, somebody else may die inside.”

Experts and officials suggest in the film that better communication, more social services and job opportunities, and parenting as possible solutions to gun violence.

“Guys need their fathers in their lives,” youth activist Oddess Blocker says in the film, adding: “If you’re a father and you’re in the street, like, what are you really teaching your son?”

In the film, Krasner said that “government has to step up to the plate” to address gun violence and provide more financial resources to education and programs that support those communities.

Shondell Revell, executive director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, says in the film that wrap-around social services must be offered to communities where violence occurs.

“A lot of these guys are traumatized,” Revell says in the film. “You’re walking through a war zone sometimes. … You have to treat it from that aspect.”

Moore said he hopes the documentary series will compel city officials to come up with new solutions to gun violence, as well as get residents to reflect on self-accountability.

“Gun violence in urban cities is real,” he said. “We need to address this because this is an epidemic that is tearing our city apart at an alarming rate.”

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared