Mateen Cleave, Flint native and a favorite athlete, met me at Berston Field House on Saginaw Street to assist in location scouting for an upcoming music video for his friend Jon Connor, rapper and producer. Guerilla Hollywood Productions flies in from L.A. next week to shoot.
Berston is the home to nearly every African-American athlete who has come out of Flint for 94 years and the one remaining refuge in the dissolving north side community.
Saturday was a busy day. The building filled up quickly with people participating in activities. Father and daughter dance lessons proceeded, blue mats were laid out for gymnastics in the gym, and Mateen and hundreds of basketball hopefuls played there too.
We entered the boxing room downstairs and where hit with steamy 90-degree heat that fogged my glasses and camera.
The boxing room was packed. Boxing championship belts, newspaper clippings, and boxing equipment were densely pilled around the yellow floor ring where Claressa Shields learned to box before earning the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal for Women’s Boxing. This is the way she likes to train – hazy and hot!
Mateen and I traveled the community, visiting closed Flint Northern High School, infamous D and H Liquors, empty streets and abandoned homes.
“I feel sorry for the kids living here now. No hope, just mess. When I grew up here, there was still a sense of community. It is now gone,” lamented Mateen.
“And now, with the water problem, even people with well-kept homes can’t sell.”