ABOUT THE FILM
Executive Produced by Academy Award and Grammy-winning artist, Common, along with NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade, and Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder, this new documentary film from award-winning filmmaker, Mary Mazzio, chronicles the first African American public high school rowing team in this country (made up of young men, many of whom were in rival gangs from the West Side of Chicago, all coming together to row in the same boat).
This project explores not only the safety these young men found on the water (where, as their captain Arshay Cooper reflected, “we were in a place where we could not hear the sound of sirens”), but the trauma of violence and cyclical poverty, examining how these young men were able to support each other in reimagining a different future for themselves, and how rowing and the water provided the backdrop for that opportunity. These young men came together, after 20 years out of the boat, to race this past summer, not only to celebrate the team’s founding, but the fact that they are still alive. This is their story.
Run Time: 95 minutes
UNRATED. We recommend viewing for ages 16 and above. The film contains approximately 3-5 minutes of interviews relating to rape as a result of intergenerational trauma, as well as some mild profanity.
NOTE for HISTORY BUFFS: Although this crew (from Manley High School) was the first African-American high school rowing team, the first African-American team was actually a college team which originated in the 1960s and 1970s at Howard University, coached by Potomac Boat Club’s Stu Law. (Other outreach and community efforts to expand the sport of rowing to young people developed in the early 1990s (Mandela Rowing out of Boston, being among the earlier programs), but much more needs to be done. In fact, one of Arshay Cooper’s goals is to see a dramatic increase in athletes of color named to the 2028 US Olympic Team.