“The Sweetest Land” Screening at ReadingFilmFEST to Address Violence Prevention

Radarra McLendon recently completed a mentorship program with the O’Pake Institute of Alvernia at its Reading CollegeTowne campus. Together with Alvernia, McLendon founded and received funding to create The Village of Reading, a new non-profit organization working directly with the city’s youth, aiming to provide full-time support for his initiative. McLendon herself is a victim of gun violence, has lost four family members in her lifetime, and countless others affected; friends, neighbors, classmates.

According to WITF’s Anthony Orozo in his October 2022 report, “Reading invests nearly $3 million in community groups to address violence,” the trend of murders and violence has increased in the city of Reading since ‘it peaked at 19 deaths in 2018. Mayor Eddie Moran asked to use funds available from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 stimulus package, allocating $1.5 million to groups like Village of Reading dealing specifically with violence prevention. Reading is one of the only towns in Pennsylvania to use these funds to support nonprofit work.

ReadingFilmFEST brought award-winning filmmaker and teacher Jeffrey Teitler to screen his film “The Sweetest Land” on Friday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. at R/C Reading Movies 11 & IMAX. Teitler’s film is about violence prevention efforts in Hartford, CT, another town, like Reading, where violence has made national headlines. Teitler teaches at Central Connecticut State University in the communications department.

McLendon learned about this film and, with the blessing of Alvernia and ReadingFilm, brought together a diverse panel of public servants and mental health professionals to speak after the film, addressing lessons in violence prevention that could be shared in the Greater Reading community. Says McLendon, “This ReadingFilmFEST panel will shine a light on the victims and the importance of the involvement of many entities. McLendon’s next project is a Friday cafe in Reading City Park bringing together victims and mental health professionals to provide a caring ear and resources. Says McLendon, “A village that stands together built together”.

“The Sweetest Land” has been featured by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard School of Law and major hospitals nationwide. The film received numerous awards and accolades from national and international film festivals, including the Lower East Side Film Festival in New York, the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles, the London International Motion Picture Awards, while winning a Humanitarian Award from IndieFest accolade. The Sweetest Land is supported by an LEF grant, Peter Knox, Jr., the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and the Wise Foundation. “The Sweetest Land” humanizes violence, but more importantly it asks the question, what is REALLY being done to prevent it?

The village of reading, a non-profit organization founded in Reading, Pennsylvania, has a mission to prevent youth violence and create a safe place for minors (ages 13-18). The Village works directly with community partners to provide resources and services aimed at preventing gun and street violence through education, awareness, promoting community norms change and providing a safe place for young people .

This event is sponsored by Alvernia University CollegeTowne Campus and Berks Community Action Program and supported by ReadingFilm.

Learn more about “The Sweetest Land” box office and post-screening panelists here: https://readingfilmfest.com/events/the-sweetest-land/

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