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Starz’s “Liberty City Warriors” Documentary

By Pastor Rasheed Z. Baaith

      “For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my hope from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

At first glance, one would think the STARZ 6 part documentary “Liberty City Warriors,” excellently produced by LeBron James among others, is about little league football.  And it is but only ostensibly.  Because clearly in Liberty City, football is more than just a game.

What it really is about is how these children, their parents, and Liberty City invest in the children as persons of great intrinsic value. In these children are placed their community’s pride, hopes, fears, and dreams.  It is about how each of these potentials carries heavy weight that is placed on the shoulders of these children. The children carry the heaviness of what is expected of them and perform to the best of their ability.

Their best is sometimes not enough for the adults around them including their parents and coaches. They are screamed at, cussed out and insulted, yet they never give up. They are determined to excel. No doubt some of us will look what the films show and believe there has to be a better way to motivate children.  Or there are other dreams children should have except for becoming a professional athlete.  Maybe.  But for the children of Liberty City and Over-town and Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, what other agency can they utilize to become able to leave where they are.

We hear, not so much from the elementary age children but from middle and high schoolers, the desire to be able to move away from their incredibly volatile present.  That, while they love Liberty City, they want not to have to live there for all of their lives.  Their hope is fastened to their departure. And the game of football can purchase the ticket to leave.

The parents are as much a feature of the film as the children. They are hard-working, family oriented people who want a better life for their children and for themselves. They struggle to keep their families together, a roof over their heads, sneakers on the feet of the children, and hope in their hearts. There may well be too much of their hopes assigned to the success of their children, but we pull strength from where we can.

For the parents, these footballers in miniature represent the hope that their child like the 25 youngsters who went into the NFL before them will be become high school stand outs, college stars and then professional athletes. These parents and these children understand that only a certain few ever attain that elite status.  But they know the dreams can be made real if there is no aversion to hard work.  And these children do work very hard.

It is more real for everyone in Liberty City to dream of a child becoming a professional football player than becoming a doctor or a lawyer if the child lives in Liberty City. And probably in a lot of places in this country just like Liberty City. After all, children from Liberty City or Overtown or Chicago hear the names of professional athletes on a daily basis. Not so with doctors or lawyers.  For most of these children there is no other agency for attaining fame and fortune except for excelling in athletics or entertainment. So they and the adults around them have co-constructed this road to success.

We may not like the road but it’s the road chosen and until there is another road just as successful or our communities evolve a change, let them walk it.  Better a dream than no hope at all.


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