Eric Woodyard, a 25-year-old sportswriter for The Flint Journal in Michigan, has succeeded in a place where success doesn’t come easily. He’s succeeded in a city whose reputation reminds folk of South Central L.A or nearby Detroit. Flint is a place where trouble follows brothers, including ones who have tried to play life straight.
Woodyard has survived this urban minefield, and he has proof: a documentary that tells people about it.
His 34-minute documentary isn’t as much about him as it is about the so-called “Flintstones,” those Flint brothers (and sisters) who find themselves two or three generations into that grinding cycle of poverty; those brothers (and sisters) who see sports as their escape hatch. Yeah, and they might as well count on the MegaMillions lottery, too.
What they have needed instead of these long-shot dreams are at-the-ready role models. They have needed Black men who could step into their lives and provide hope and guidance, which explains why I’m writing about Eric Woodyard, himself a “Flintstone.”
For now, I just want to thank the brother for doing what too few of us do: help Black boys who need our help.
For a couple of months, Woodyard worked on his film project and he kept it secret from most of the men and women on the NABJ Sports Task Force list serve. He revealed his project a week or two ago when he announced he had released his documentary, titled Flint Made Me, to inspire Black youth in Flint.
His documentary is partly a story of his rise – or his escape – from a meager background, facing down the challenges in a tough town like Flint that, according to U.S. statistics, sends nearly as many urban Black teenagers to prison as to college.
In his documentary, Woodyard shares his assent from those circumstances to his position as an award-winning sportswriter, which some can look at as a miracle that might be as difficult as turning the water in Lake Erie into champagne.
Discussing his film’s launch the other day, he said he plans to take a portion of the money he makes and set it aside for a college scholarship for one of the seniors at Flint Southwestern Academy, a high school that gave the NFL Mark Ingram and the NBA Charlie Bell.
Woodyard hadn’t asked anybody to play the frontman for his film. He only asked people to watch the trailer, which isn’t a lot to ask. But if you watch, you have to give the man high fives for showing that from the worst of American conditions can come Black boys who do great things.
He is one of those boys – a Black man now, a Black man with no felonies on his record, with a bachelor’s degree to hang on his living room wall, a decent J-O-B and, perhaps the most important of all, a social conscience.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
(Photo: Courtesy of Rynelle Walker | Rynelle Walker Photography)