Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Story of Claressa "T-Rex" Shields

Filmmakers are hard at work on a documentary about Claressa "T-Rex" Shields of Flint, who will become the youngest woman to box in the Olympics this month in London. They need funding to complete the project, and they're looking for help on Kickstarter.

Here's the story of Claressa and the documentary:

T-Rex isn't her real name. Her real name is Claressa. Friends and family just call her Ressa. She's from Flint, Michigan, and next year she'll be a senior in high school. The first day we met, it was her 17th birthday. She had a water balloon fight and a big, yellow cake. She carries her money around in a plastic bottle. She wears her hair in braids (sometimes). She takes the bus to school. She likes Twitter. She likes boys. She writes in her journal. Pretty everyday for a teenager. But this is hardly an everyday story. Six years ago her dad took her to a local boxing gym. She said she wanted to box. He said, "Hell no. Boxing is a man's sport." She ignored him. Next month, women will box in the Olympics for the first time ever. Claressa will be the youngest among them. And that's just where her story begins.
This last year has been anything but normal for Claressa. She turned 17 years old. She finished her junior year of high school. She lived in 4 different houses. She was named "Most Outstanding Boxer" at the Olympic Trials. She flew on a plane for the first time in her life. She beat the number 1 ranked female middleweight boxer in the world. She became a member of the USA Boxing team. She finally moved in with her coach and his family. In August, she'll be the youngest woman to ever box in the Olympics. And then in September, gold medal or not, she'll be back, sitting in first period, at Northwestern High School in Flint.
It didn't take much for any of us to know that Claressa was unique. For Sue, it only took one fight. For Drea, it was a birthday party and a Sadie Hawkins dance. And Zack was looking at homes for sale the moment he landed in Flint. Needless to say, Ressa is special and we knew right away that her story was worth telling.

Everything you read about her will mention how much she has overcome to get to this point: Growing up in Flint, broken family and being a female in a male dominated sport. Everything you read about her will mention the incredible set-up for the Olympics. It's the first time in 2000 years that women boxers will compete at the games and she's the youngest of all of them. All of it is true. But that's just the surface. Claressa is a complex, dynamic, and strong young woman with a complicated past. For the past 6 months we have followed her around the world as she navigates both the promise and the pitfalls of her newly acquired success and celebrity. From Flint to the Olympic Games, this is Claressa's story. 
Having struggled mightily to find funding to support the research for my book about Flint, which will be published in the spring of 2013 by the University of California Press, I know that scrambling for cash can be a real distraction from telling an important story. I got vital support from the readers of Flint Expatriates to spend large amounts of time in Flint over the past three years. It was a huge help. So if you have some money to spare in these tough times, consider helping the film crew pay for this worthy project. Even $1 would go a long way.

Go here to donate.

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