WTTW's FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence

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May 22, 2020
5:00pm Central Time
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WTTW believes in the power of film to engage communities in dialogue around the most important social and cultural issues of our time. Please join us for a special and socially-distanced screening event this Friday, May 22nd, featuring our digital series FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence, and the important work that our neighbors are doing to prevent future violence and rebuild communities.

Following the screening of FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence, Moderator Vanessa Perry DeReef (Metropolitan Peace Academy) will convene a panel of individuals who have experienced gun violence, and are working in violence prevention: Noemi Martinez (Community Activist), Jeanne Bishop (Cook County Assistant Public Defender), Outreach Worker Sam Castro (Institute for Nonviolence Chicago), and Brenda Mitchell (Purpose Over Pain).

WTTW is proud to partner with The Heartland Alliance, the coordinating agency and employer of record for READI Chicago, and Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), convened by Metropolitan Family Services.

FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence is presented, in part, by The Chicago Community Trust, The Grainger Foundation, Allstate Insurance Company, The Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, the Marc and Jeanne Malnati Family Foundation, and the Steans Family Foundation.

Major support is also provided by Ann and Rich Carr, Lew Collens, Denny and Sandy Cummings, Jim and Kay Mabie, Sonia T. Marschak, Rande and Cary McMillan, and Nicholas Antoine.

All supporters listed are as of March 18, 2020.

Video Descriptions

Firsthand Credits


Noemi Martinez

Meet Noemi Martinez, whose son Andy was murdered 15 years ago, and has now dedicated her life to helping her fellow survivors. Having watched her mother struggle after her brother was also killed, Noemi started working for the organization Chicago Survivors, responding to crime scenes and managing support groups.

120 minutes


  • Moderator Avatar
    Tim Russell

    Tim is currently the Vice President of Community Engagement of Chicago-based Window to the World Communications, Inc. (WWCI), parent company of public television station WTTW and classical music station WFMT. Tim is responsible for leading WWCI’s community engagement efforts focused on shaping the organization’s vision and strategy with relevant influencers, nonprofits, foundations, and business partners ensuring that they align with the organization’s strategic plan. Tim received his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and religion from Oberlin College, earned a Masters of Theological Studies with a concentration in Ethics and Society from Garrett Theological Seminary and completed a certificate program in Business Administration at Loyola University Chicago. In addition, as an undergraduate, Tim was awarded a Ford-Mellon Research Fellowship and a Ronald E. McNair Research Fellowship. Tim and his wife, Joi-Anissa, and their children – Mark and Ava – live in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, IL.


  • Panelist Avatar
    Vanessa Perry DeReef


    Committed to adding value to those she encounters, Vanessa Perry DeReef is currently the Director of Training at the Metropolitan Peace Academy where she is charged with developing a professional pathway for Chicago’s street outreach workers. Prior to joining Metropolitan Family Services, Mrs. Perry DeReef worked for twenty years with The Chicago Public Schools serving in the capacities of teacher, professional school counselor, assistant principal and ultimately, building principal. She credits her many mentors for her transferrable skill-set they helped her to developed, allowing her to connect with people through facilitation, conversation, and right-relationship building. Mrs. Vanessa Perry DeReef is currently pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Adler University.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Jeanne Bishop


    Jeanne Bishop is the sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who was murdered in 1990 along with her husband and their unborn baby. Since the murders of her family members, Jeanne has been a passionate voice for forgiveness and mercy, particularly in the criminal justice system. Jeanne appears in several documentaries, two TEDx talks and the CBS 48 Hours segment “Road to Redemption.” A graduate of Northwestern University’s journalism and law schools, Jeanne was also a Visiting Student at Yale Law School. She is a public defender in Chicago and an adjunct law professor in trial advocacy at Northwestern, where she received the school’s alumni award for public service. Jeanne has written widely in newspapers and magazines, online sites such as Huffington Post and CNN.com, law journals and academic books. She is the author of a memoir, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer (Westminster John Knox Press 2015) and the recently released Grace From the Rubble: Two Fathers’ Road to Reconciliation After the Oklahoma City Bombing (Zondervan 2020), named by Publishers Weekly as one of its Top Ten Religion and Spirituality Books for Spring 2020. Jeanne lives on Chicago’s North Shore with her two sons.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Samuel Castro


    Samuel Castro is the Program Manager of Outreach for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. Samuel has been doing outreach work for over ten years with a variety of organizations and was an outreach worker with the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago prior to being promoted to Supervisor of the READI Outreach initiative, where he led his team to exceed the goals set for engagement of people in the program. He is a motivated leader who believes in others and always pushes himself and his team to perform at a higher level. Currently, Sam supervises all Outreach teams for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago in Austin, West Garfield Park and Back of the Yards. The first time Samuel was shot, he was only 3 years old. The last time Samuel was incarcerated, he spent 12 years in custody. Upon release, he began working to turn his life around. He is close to his children and family. He is truly an example of growth and change.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Noemi Martinez


    Noemi Martinez is a community activist who believes that no one deserves to be physically injured, threatened, intimidated or killed by violence in their home or community. After her son Andy was killed 15 years ago, Noemi was determined to find a way to live with her loss. Her work is a window into a broader community of survivors across the city, who all know each other. In Chicago, this community is less involved in gun control, and more involved in pushing the police to solve murders. Noemi is featured in Firsthand: Gun Violence.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Brenda Mitchell


    Brenda's son Kenneth was murdered one week after his brother Kevin left to fight in his third tour of duty in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. A single parent, Kenneth left behind 3 sons. Brenda is a Fellow with Everytown Survivor Network, Survivor Membership Lead, Inter Faith Outreach Leader for Moms Demand Action in South Suburban Chicago and a member of the advocacy organization Purpose Over Pain. She is also an ordained minister and uses those tools to help herself and others achieve wellness. She has become strong advocate for Trauma Informed Care and making resources available to move families, communities towards wholeness, utilizing the tools of Mindfulness and Meditation in the healing process. In addition to her advocacy work she possesses more than 25 years of proven progressive experience in the area of Human Resources Management. Her experience is diverse in the areas of Human Resources Operations, recruitment, labor relations, compensation/benefits and training with a concentration in employee relations. Her passion is in the area of employee relations and enhancing the values, skills of employer/employee relationships when they are in conflict. Her passion is in interpersonal communications and conflict resolution. She also has been a seasoned politician serving a ten-year term as a Trustee in the Village of University Park. She has received an MBA from Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL, and Bachelor from Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL.

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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.