On this page, you will find two preliminary scenes from and a trailer for “Until Her Last Breath,” an in-process documentary about mother and activist Dannielle Brown. These excerpts are about 15 minutes long in total and the final film is projected to be approximately an hour long.
Dannielle Brown’s son, Marquis Jaylen Brown, passed away in 2018 while a student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After having taken two puffs of what was supposedly marijuana, Jaylen returned to his dorm, where he suffered a mental health crisis that attracted the attention of other residents who called campus police in efforts to diffuse the situation. Two campus police officers, a security guard, and a residential advisor arrived on the scene and were in Jaylen’s room at the time that he fell to his death from the window of his dorm room on the 16th floor. The officers did not have body cameras.
For the past two years, Dannielle has been grieving the loss of her son and wondering what happened in his final moments that led to his death. When Black Lives Matter protests surged across the country last summer, Dannielle decided to take action, vowing to get answers about Jaylen’s death. So, she drove down from her home in Washington D.C. down to Pittsburgh, setting up camp at Freedom Corner, a civil rights landmark mere minutes away from the Duquesne campus. Dannielle sat at freedom corner day in and day out, amassing supporters and coming up with a plan. On July 4, 2020, she decided to hunger strike until the Duquesne University satisfied these three demands.
1. All campus police are equipped with body cameras.
2. All campus police have sufficient mental health crisis intervention training.
3. She has access, without any stipulations, to all the documents, evidence, etc. that will allow her to conduct her own independent investigation of her son’s death.
Rejecting solid food and anything with protein in it, Dannielle adopted a diet of minimal salt and sugar derived from liquids such as grapefruit juice, coconut water, and occasional Starbucks frappucinos. She would ultimately remain on her hunger strike for 237 days.
I spent last fall in Pittsburgh and followed Dannielle from day 50 of her hunger strike onward. I hope to present the entire documentary one day soon, but in the meantime, thank you for taking a look at these brief scenes. Please feel free to leave comments and questions in the document linked to the feedback button at the top left of the page. I welcome them as I figure out the direction of this project moving forward!
Scene 1: Protest
This scene will come approximately halfway through the documentary. On day 70 of Dannielle's hunger strike, September 11, 2020, she led a protest that spanned across five college campuses: Chatham University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University, and Duquesne University. This action was meant to garner support from students at universities across Pittsburgh, encourage universities to implement body cameras and mental health crisis intervention training, and to put additional pressure on Duquesne University to meet Dannielle's demands. Moving from campus to campus, this action culminates at Duquesne University, where Dannielle delivers a passionate speech at Jaylen’s memorial bench and an altercation between Duquesne students and protestors ensues at Brottier Hall, the dorm where Jaylen once lived.
Scene 2: Tattoo
(05:31) Filmed on day 112 of Dannielle’s hunger strike, this scene follows Dannielle as she gets a tattoo and delves into her grief that is always present amid this arduous activist work.