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.

Flint Artifacts: Deluxe Bar Matchbook


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Streets of San Francisco in a Ford Fiesta



Any Flint Expatriates out there who happen to drive a Ford Fiesta and planning a vacation to San Francisco? If so, here's a handy video trip planner.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

William P. Arbuckle

Anyone know anything about a Flintoid named William P. Arbuckle, who was around in the 1920s?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Reader in Favor of Moving the Flint Farmer's Market

An argument in favor of relocating the Flint Farmer's Market:
I spoke with TWO of the vendors and they were absolutely thrilled with the idea! Let's see, that's three now out of 76...two absolutely thrilled and one "less than thrilled." The two I spoke with are year round (indoor) vendors that feel that "climate control" is essential to their products and ultimately their businesses. The facilities as they currently exist make this a challenge. Oh, I also took a moment to ask a young man confined to a wheelchair, as well as an elderly women using a walker, how they felt about the market potentially making significant changes. They were equally thrilled and both mentioned how they had heard many good things about Steady Eddie's Restaurant upstairs, but it was too big of a challenge (if not impossible) for them to make it up the stairs to its current location.

The argument that was made about the argument being made that the market was "moving based on the futility of the post office" is just plain sillier and concocted. Nothing was mentioned about people avoiding the market if the post office closed. However, if a new building is being considered because the band-aid on the broken arm treatment it has recently endured does not quite feed the bulldog, logic would dictate that a less desolate area should be considered.

Most people living in Michigan could easily draw a comparison in this situation to Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park. Tiger Stadium wove tradition, history and memories into the hearts and minds of baseball fans across this great state and beyond. The Flint Farmers' Market has also woven tradition, history and memories into the hearts and minds of countless numbers of people across Flint/Genesee County and beyond. The idea for a new ball park (Comerica), roughly a mile away, that was more centrally located and in closer proximity to growing businesses was met with skepticism too. It certainly was unfortunate that Tiger Stadium had to close and could not have remained open like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. The difficult decision was made because the area around Tiger Stadium was in disarray and the updates and repairs were no longer worth the effort. Comerica Park, although not the same as Tiger Stadium, was designed in a way that enables individuals to not only hold close the old tradition, history and memories of Tiger Stadium, but it also enables them to build on them and create new ones as well. A new Farmers' Market that is wisely designed could accomplish the very same thing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Flint Artifacts: Downtown Lions Club Pin


A Reader Weighs In on Plans to Move the Flint Farmer's Market

Sable Pelt responds to reports that the Flint Farmer's Market may be relocated to the old Flint Journal Building:
Before I launch into this, let me establish a few things first:

1. The Mott Foundation and Mott Family have unquestionably done great things for Flint. I have no doubt the city would be much worse off without all support the city has received from the Motts.

2. I believe that it’s possible for developers and investors to make money and improve Flint at the same time. In other words, just because someone hopes to profit from a deal doesn’t mean the deal can’t be beneficial for the city. I say this because it seems as though many people automatically attack Uptown because there is a profit motive involved. I don’t think that’s fair.

Having said that, it distresses me to see the level of control Uptown, which appears to be controlled by a Mott scion, Ridgeway White, and the Mott Foundation has over the City of Flint. While acknowledging the good the family has done for the city (see #1 above), both the Mott Foundation and the individual family members have made horrible decisions over the years that have harmed the city. Case in point: AutoWorld. There are others, but let’s stick with the most obvious. Just because the Mott’s are willing to spend money, doesn’t mean they are always right. Even the well-intentioned can screw things up royally. Let me put it to you this way, if a family or entity with more insight and skill had been in charge of all the money the Motts have lavished on Flint, don’t you think the place would be in a little better shape today? (Again, it pains me to criticize an entity that seems to have its heart in the right place, but let’s be honest here.)

There is also something unsavory about the cozy triangle of power formed by the for-profit Uptown Developments LLC, the non-profit Uptown Reinvestment Corp, and the Mott Foundation. It’s not illegal, but it’s an arrangement dominated by a single family that pretty much does whatever it wants with very little public input or transparency. It’s not the profit motive that bothers me (see #2 above); it’s the unchecked power in the hands of people who do not have a great track record when it comes to public policy.

I fear this is all playing out again with the plan to move the Farmer’s Market. Judging from the terse, unyielding missive from Tim Herman, president of Upton Reinvestment and CEO of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, there’s no intention of getting public feedback. There was no mention of public meetings or an email address to solicit thoughts from the folks who sell and buy items at the market. I hope I’m wrong, but this seems like it’s going to happen.

Think about this. A city that is a poster child for economic failure is going to tinker with something that has deep historical roots and has somehow survived. Yes, it survived with the help of Uptown, but that doesn’t give them the right to move it because they hope to up the value of one of their properties. And, again, given the track record of the people involved, do you have any confidence the market will survive in a new location?

We’re about to let another piece of Flint history slip away. Yes, the buildings need some work. Historic preservation, in short-term rehab expenses, is often costlier than other alternatives. That’s why strip malls exist. That’s why the old Vogue store, the Sill Building, and countless other Flint landmarks are gone. But history, tradition and memories have a less quantifiable value. They are worth preserving, especially in a city where they are in short supply.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Murky Future of the Flint Farmer's Market

A less-than-illuminating update on the fate of the Flint Farmer's Market via the market's Facebook page:
The following statement can be attributed to Tim Herman, President of Uptown Reinvestment Corporation and CEO of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce. 
"Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) in collaboration with Uptown Developments is off to a good start this year with redevelopment projects in downtown Flint. Just last week it was announced that Landaal Packaging Systems will open a Packaging Innovation Center and bring their corporate offices to the area. In addition, the URC Board of Directors are exploring a variety of options for use of the former Flint Journal properties including Michigan State University’s medical education and public health program, private businesses, the Flint Farmers Market, a technology incubator lab as well as other project proposals. If and when we have something to announce, we will communicate with all of our stakeholders and the community."
Can someone explain who actually owns the market? Is it Uptown? Is it the City of Flint? Is it some other entity?