By Maria Mitri
At 10 years old, Oronde McClain’s life was forever changed when he was shot in the head. Years later, after a seemingly endless medical and emotional recovery, he says he has discovered his life’s purpose: empowering other survivors of gun violence and raising awareness about what they experience.
In 2019, he founded The McClain Foundation, an organization that provides accommodation for children who are receiving medical care as a result of gun violence and those facing mental health challenges including PTSD.
Last month, the foundation organized an event at PhilaMOCA, including the in-person premiere of “They Don’t Care About Us, or Do They?”, which McClain narrates.
Produced with the support of the Credible Messenger Reporting Project here at the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, the documentary tells the stories of gun violence survivors including Semaj Obranty, Uhara “Free” Russ, and Leon Harris.
McClain was the lead Credible Messenger Community Journalist on the project, WHYY journalist Cherri Gregg was the Professional Partner and Brett Williams, a gun violence co-victim himself, was the team’s Credible Messenger Video Producer.
More than 150 people attended the event which featured a panel discussion and live performances including spoken word artist Taizu and singer Image the Voice. Maxayn Gooden, a gun violence co-victim who works at the Center as the Credible Messenger Community Engagement Manager, moderated the conversation.
Featured panelists included Obranty and Russ, as well McClain and Williams. It took nearly a month to plan the event, an effort helmed by McClain to show his body of work to the world and make sure that survivors of gun violence are heard in a significant way. “For two hours and 30 minutes, we were blessed to see our loved ones on the screen and to hear survivors’ stories,” he said.
But he also included a segment honoring slain victims and their families “because gun violence just isn’t about survivors, it affects us all as a whole,” he said.
McClain recently joined our Center as the organization’s first ever Credible Messenger Newsroom Liaison and is continuing to tell his story and empower other survivors to do the same. He is planning more events now to “honor victims, co-victims and survivors every couple months because we are the forgotten,” adding: “I, Oronde McClain, a gun violence survivor, will never let them be forgotten again”.