Heart of the Story: Finale Celebration Recap

Panel Discussion | Narrative Justice & The News: A Black Male Perspective

On Sunday, October 30th, 2022, the finale celebration for Love Now Media’s community initiative Heart of the Story: Getting to the Heart of Gun Violence with Love was held at World Cafe Live. The sold-out event was a culmination of love storytelling workshops presented to more than 80 Philadelphians. With gun violence severely and disproportionately affecting African American men and boys, Black male leaders were trained to facilitate trauma-informed story-generating sessions at community centers and small businesses with participants who ranged in age from 10 to 70 years old. Through trauma-informed listening practiced by Love Now Media-trained facilitators, Heart of the Story disrupted a perpetual cycle of trauma-based narratives and cultivated a safe space to address grief, pain, and healing. 

“At Love Now Media, we do narrative work. Our community partners for Heart of the Story: Getting to the Heart of Gun Violence with Love are referring to our work as ‘healing work’. I will embrace that as ‘healing the narrative’ work,” said Jos Duncan Asé, Executive Producer & Publisher. 

William Tyrone Toms, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of REC Philly, and Jos Duncan Asé Executive Producer & Publisher of Love Now Media

The finale celebration, which was open to the public, included a keynote address by Will Toms of REC Philly, reflections from participants, a live musical performance by Verbosity, poetry by Lindo Yes, two panel discussions, music by DJ G33k, and a love storytelling competition with cash prizes. 

Lindo Yes, poet and contributor to Love Now Media's "The Poet's Press"

Lindo Yes poetically painted the picture of a Black man seeking a safe space for vulnerability in the face of tough love. Verbosity followed with a call to action for those finding themselves entangled in the throes of gun violence: “Don’t go searching for no other, love yourself and love your brother. We all need to come together ‘cause there’s no better love.” 


Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris of WHYY moderated the premiere panel discussion, Narrative Justice & The News: A Black Male Perspective which featured Love Now Media trained facilitators: Dr. Aaron Smith, Ameen Akbar, Derrick Cain, Eric Marsh Sr., and Reuben Jones. They addressed the potential impact of narrative justice and the role of community stakeholders in generational storytelling.

L to R: Christopher Norris, Eric Marsh Sr., Reuben Jones, Derrick Cain, Ameen Akbar, and Dr. Aaron Smith

“When I was engaged in the work I was thinking to myself: how much time do I spend focused on the problem as opposed to being the solution?” shared Dr. Smith. “I’m sitting here with the young men, doing what I’m supposed to be doing as opposed to pointing out what they’re not doing and it was just a real epiphany for me as a facilitator…”

Dr. Aaron Smith, "The Rapping Professor" delivering an educational rendition of "Dreams and Nightmares" by Meek Mill

The second panel, Messages in the Music, moderated by Syreeta Martin of Love Now Media, featured perspectives from artists Jacqueline Constance and Neptune XXI, TizzMatic (producer), and Mazzie Casher, who is an artist and founder of the Philly TRUCE app. The conversation explored the often blurred lines between amplification and imitation in musical storytelling.

TwizzMatic, Mazzie Casher, Neptune XXI and Jacqueline Constance

“When you start giving different narratives…you start giving different experiences…[and] you start giving young people different tools, then it starts reflecting in everything they do and not just the music,” said Constance. “It’s like, ‘I’ve experienced these things but I’m not of these things.’”

Heart of the Story community initiative and finale celebration were made possible with the partnership and support of the Independence Public Media Fund, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Resolve Philly, WURD Radio, Jump Button Studio, and The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund.