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Night Out With Meaning: Ending Gun Violence & Empowering Communities to Heal

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Storyteller: Movita Johnson-Harrell

Movita Johnson-Harrell lost her father, only brother and a cousin to homicide. On January 13, 2011 Movita’s youngest of four children, Charles Andre Johnson 18 years old was shot and killed. The Philadelphia police found that Charles was killed in a case of mistaken identity by two young men ages 23 and 25 with previous arrest records. Prior to his death, Charles worked full time in the family business. He worked everyday caring for over 100 chronically mentally ill adults. Charles had applied to school and the family received his acceptance letter the day after he passed away. 26 days after Charles died his only child, Khalif Johnson was born.

In April of 2011 after Charles’ murder, Movita created The CHARLES Foundation, (Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering). Since implementing the foundation Movita has worked nationally to protect and empower our young people and communities on both sides of the gun. Movita coordinates survivor’s empowerment groups as well as therapeutic activities for child survivors of homicide. She created and sponsors a “Be The Change” summer internship where she pays young people that are identified as “at risk” to participate in a 8 to 12 week program of empowerment, education and mentorship. She has been the Moral Voice of the Community for The City of Philadelphia for The Focused Deterrence Strategy where for several years she has engaged those likely to kill and/or be killed. In the first year of the Focused Deterrence pilot there was an over 50% reduction in homicide and gun violence.

Movita is a wife, mother and grandmother. She graduated in May of 2004 from the University of Pennsylvania with her Masters of Social Work. As the executive director of MECA, for over two decades she has advocated, cared for and fought to improve the quality of life for disenfranchised groups that include the chronically mentally ill, dually diagnosed (mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse disorders), intellectual disabilities, homeless, seniors and children. She is a Department of Human Services approved master, trainer and administrator.

Movita is the Vice Chair for Heeding God’s Call to Eliminate Gun Violence which is a national interfaith organization dedicated to get the illegal guns off of the streets. She has worked with The District Attorney’s Office, CeaseFire PA, Delco United for Sensible Gun Policy, Moms Demand Action and many other initiatives to eliminate gun violence in Pennsylvania and nationally. For the past 7 years Movita has worked to engage and educate legislators to advocate for public safety and health initiatives, education, and to end mass incarceration. Movita goes to SCI Graterford Prison to engage the Lifers Association and to teach an Impact of Crime class to reduce inmate recidivism and has participated in their Annual Day of Responsibility. All activities and events for survivors are free. Movita does all of the work for The CHARLES Foundation with no outside funding. She is dedicated to ending gun violence and empowering communities to heal from the trauma. January 2018 Movita was appointed as the Victim Witness Services and Restorative Justice Supervisor for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office by District Attorney Lawrence Krasner. Movita is the first homicide survivor and hijabi to hold this position.

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