“I Know Why the Black Church Prayed” is a short film written and directed by producer Dona Mitchell, a woman who’s heart for the pandemic led her to specifically address the obstinacy of inner-city churches as their walls are encroached by a world that is increasingly impossible to ignore.
Details of the film
The film centers on an egotistical Pastor who has fallen for the negative stereotypes of HIV/AIDs and is therefore initially defiant, denouncing any responsibility to engage the crisis.
As a minister’s daughter, Dona Glassaway Mitchell was born in Dallas, Texas to a conservative family where she discovered her passion for writing at a young age and later realized her writing was a gift when she “received a calling from God to change the world.”
While she continues to address a variety of issues from gang violence and homelessness to substance abuse and eating disorders, Dona’s path led her to face the HIV/AIDs crisis in 2004 where she plans to commit her talents for the next several years.
This year marks the 30th anniversary for the AIDs crisis and Dona was determined to try a new approach in her ministry.
“Since 2004, I’ve tried teens, mothers, daughters, men, and the elderly…but not the pastors,” said Dona. Dona says her goal for the next two years is to impact the African-American community by reaching out globally to pastors for social change. Dona acknowledges the immensity of the project: “I knew this would be a challenge because I am a female addressing a 30-year-old crisis to a predominantly male audience of pastors on many different levels. But when God calls me on an assignment, I will obey even if that means the journey will be hard,” she says.
For support, filming, and production, Dona tried several times to meet with African American churches in the Dallas area, but was repeatedly rejected. “I learned that there is still work to be done in educating and getting the African American pastors involved,” said Dona. Because many doors were shut in her face, the film had to be shot at Black & Clark Funeral Home. The movie resulted in success despite the challenges she faced from the church. Dona remains optimistic and confident in the Lord’s work, saying, “I believe God will provide me with everything I need to complete His assignments.”
The film expresses her frustration towards unwilling leaders in the church who are too afraid to address the crisis. Throughout the duration of the film, the protagonist (Pastor) is confronted by multiple people who challenge him to step up and use his gifts to facilitate programs and lead the community toward awareness. The Pastor skirts the issue at every turn, claiming that the cause is “not part of our agenda right now.”
“I Know Why the Black Church Prayed” not only addresses how church leaders are avoiding the HIV/AIDS issue, but why. The film also demonstrates the ignorance of the church, explaining that many believe the misconception that HIV/AIDs is a “homosexual disease” and is easily transmitted.
From this premise, the film asks a somber question: How can you fellowship with HIV-positive members when you don’t even want to sit next to them?
Many other serious questions are raised, some addressing the ignorance of the disease while others deal with real statistics and practical approaches. The true impact of the film, however, is when the Pastor finally realizes and accepts his impact on the community: “I see why we need to speak more about this issue; we have the platform to speak about the attitude and behavior of the people catching this disease…we can go off the map to be one of the first churches to make a difference,” a leader says in one scene.
The Pastor’s awakening happens when he finds out that members of his own church are infected and the church’s doors truly cannot keep out the issue. Towards the end of the film, the Pastor has cause to believe that his own son may be infected and confronts him in a final, powerful scene. His son answers, “if it were true, dad, would you still love me the same?”
Dona’s work has reached over 10,000 people since 2004 and, with this film, she believes it will reach the world through social media.
“My biggest prayer for the film is to be used as a global tool to influence and bring together the many pastors who want to get involved but are not sure how. It even provides a platform for them to join forces and get started,” Dona says.
The cast of “I Know Why the Black Church Prayed” consists of 45 volunteers including an HIV-positive 14-year-old, an NAACP National Leader, a film student, four ministers, various Dallas citizens, and a mother affected by HIV who has lost seven family members. Both Dona and her mother appeared in the film as a reporter and a cook, respectively. The executive producer was from 2C Productions.
Dona Gassaway Mitchell still lives in the suburbs of Dallas with her husband of twenty years with three children and two grandchildren. She became an AIDS playwright, actress, film maker, and event manager in 2004 when she learned that HIV was circulating among the teenagers in high schools. Since then, she has produced twelve stage plays, two films, and managed seven outreach community projects.
Mitchell’s work has been in several major newspapers, radio, and has been on network television including FOX 4 News, WFAA Channel 8, and CW33. Celebrity talent from movies such as “Soul Food” and “Big Mama” has also been featured in her plays and films.
The film is meant to be distributed across social media networks and partner with global AIDS organizations, pastor associations, conventions, and conferences. “I believe the ideal place to start is to address the HIV phobia among churches and pastors,” says Dona. Mitchell has committed to the next two years to AIDS awareness and gathering church leaders to eradicate this crisis in the Black Community.
“I Know Why the Black Church Prayed” can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdvQ2WPBEdo
Dona Mitchell can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org