This true story is one of hope. It is powerful and timely with the recent events occurring across this great country. The book and the documentary helped me to see a glimpse of what it is like to live and grow up in an environment of drugs, gangs, violence and poverty. It changed me and how I look at the inner-city strife.
This is the story of the first all-black rowing team in the country. It starts with a rowing boat in the Manley High School cafeteria with an invitation to join the rowing team. Manley is one of the most violent schools on Chicago’s west side. It graduates less than 60% of its students and a small percentage attend college. Arshay Cooper takes a chance and joins. He sees this as an opportunity to be different and perhaps a way out of his terrible environment. He is soon followed by other neighborhood boys; Marc, Alvin, Elliot, Pookie, Preston, Malcolm, Josh, Ike, and Ken which forms the nucleus of the team. They come from different gangs, different neighborhoods of the tough west side.
They learned how to trust in themselves, trust others; including the Chicago Police and the rewards of teamwork. By believing in themselves they went on to make a difference in their own lives, the lives of their teammates and their families. It is an amazing story of overcoming huge odds, overcoming fears, self-leadership, faith, and perseverance. Both the book and documentary will give you hope and will bring a tear to your eye.