Friday, September 29, 2017

Amadou's College Application Essay

The community I've been living in since I was two years old isn’t the best. A lot of people in my community have this “If you live in the hood, you're going to die in the hood” mentality. A lot of crimes and gun violence happen daily. Being a witness and victim of these traumatic experiences motivates me to get out of my neighborhood and be someone that both of my younger siblings look up to. 

When I was twelve, I was walking to the recreational center to watch my friend’s basketball game, when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two older men having a huge commotion at the end of the block. They were arguing about a bet, because one guy owed the other money. The argument was so bad that you could see both men's facial expressions changing dramatically, veins popping at the top of their foreheads, voices so loud they had the whole neighborhood’s attention. 

The next thing I knew, one of the guys pulled a sharp object out of his jacket pocket and stabbed the other guy in the ribs in broad daylight! The man rushed out of the crime scene, never to be seen again. After witnessing that moment, my body was so petrified my mind wasn't thinking straight. The man was on the concrete covered in blood, mouthing, “Help me,” while everybody just walked by, ignoring him. 

After witnessing something so traumatic, I was motivated to start doing something in my life and start focusing more on school. Around that time, my first sibling was born, leading me to strive even harder. I didn't want my brother witnessing something like I had at a very young age. 

My first year of high school was very challenging. I lost track of my goals and started hanging out with the neighborhood kids, getting into fights with rival gang members. I was failing a lot of my classes and even went to summer school. All this changed during my sophomore year of high school. I had to take my grades more seriously, because I was in jeopardy of not even having enough credits to graduate. A lot was expected from me and from my siblings. I come from a very religious Muslim household, and my mother knew I was better than this. I didn't want to be another African-American teenage dropout. 

Like the great Malcolm X once said, Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. This relates to me because I am already preparing for my future. I am taking AP Computer Science classes and a Computer Science internship to prepare me to work in the technology field. I am also taking boxing for self-defense and to keep me out of the kind of trouble from the streets that I witnessed when I was twelve years old. 

Coding and boxing have improved me mentally and physically. I have finally found things that I have a passion for. Coding is challenging when we are learning about Javascript and algorithms, and boxing is challenging when I am sparring with someone more experienced than me. Two or three years ago, I would never have expected to have a fondness for these activities. 

As I am now currently at the last year of high school, a lot has changed for me. These past four years, I have grown into a young, educated African American man. Just because you live in the streets doesn't mean you have to live there forever! People have to get that misconception out of their heads. All human beings have a lot of potential that they can realize just by hard work and dedication to something that they really love. These traumatic experiences did have a positive impact on me because they shaped me into who I am today: a champion. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Atlas Cops and Kids Boxers in Hollywood, on Broadway, and in Wooster Group Summer Institute

To be a great boxer, you have to be an entertainer. Atlas Cops and Kids connects youth with diverse opportunities for advancement, including film, television, theater, and music.

Christopher "Lil Bhopp" Colbert, Jr., undefeated pro featherweight, poses on the red carpet at the L.A. Film Festival. Bhopp stars in Jay Bulger's new Netflix documentary "Counterpunch," which also features trainer Aureliano Sosa, and the hip hop of Julian Sosa.

Bhopp is now in rehearsal for a role in Equalizer 2, starring Denzel Washington.

Park Hill boxer Justice Barrios (right) poses with instructor Christopher Stevenson and award-winning actor Kate Valk at the Wooster Group Summer Institute, a free summer theater program co-founded by Valk and Ariana Scott Truman.

Kids in the Summer Institute encounter a text and study a physical discipline – this summer it was the film "Rebel Without a Cause" and swing dancing – and then work together to develop and perform an ensemble piece in the experimental tradition of the Wooster Group.

"We are exposing the kids to process," explains Truman. "How do you work together and not be worried about risks, not be afraid of failure, throw yourself wholeheartedly into experimentation?"

"Justice is a magical kid. So gracious and mature. Even though boxing is a solitary sport, it's instilled him with a sense of community."

Flatbush Gardens boxer Muhammed Deen just returned from a life-changing summer exchange program in New Zealand. Deen always wins Atlas Cops and Kids' $50 prize for his academic averages and was nominated for the prestigious Posse Foundation Scholarship. This spring, he performed his spoken word on Broadway before a sold-out performance of the blockbuster "Hamilton."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Overcoming Failure

Thanks to boxer/scholar Ethan Munoz for this excellent essay, which won him scholarship money for college.

Overcoming Failure

“And your winner by split decision is…..coming out of the blue corner!” 

I stood in the ring, in front of an audience of around 75 people, my red tank top drenched in sweat, my head bowed in disappointment, and my body slouched from exhaustion. The words pierced through me like a sword. I had lost. But how? I’d been running, sparring, and spending countless hours in the gym. I threw a million punches, and in the last round I dished out a right hand so hard that the referee gave my opponent a standing eight count. But somehow, I lost. After receiving a mediocre bronze medal, I made my way to the locker room where my twin brother rushed in after me and stared at me for a few seconds. We both balled up in tears. Despite the fact that I was the one who actually fought, the pain was mutual. It was my first fight, and I lost.

The pain from losing wore off right away. After all, it's all just a learning experience, right? Plus it was only my first fight, in which I actually did exceptionally well, considering it was my opponent’s twelfth bout. In fact, several spectators from the audience told me that they believed that I should have won. My father told me not to worry because you can’t win all the time. Losing that fight gave me a surge of motivation that caused me to work even harder. 

I lived in the gym after that fight. Every single day I spent at least two hours working hard, sweating to the point that I could barely keep my eyes open because the blinding sweat would trickle into my eyes. I ran like a horse in the park at least three miles every other day. I hated running in the winter, because the thin air made me feel like an elephant was sitting down on my chest every time I breathed. However, I had to keep my speed up or I would freeze. I sparred several rounds a week, and sometimes I would leave the ring with a bloody nose, a bruised limb or a scratched-up back. My body was crying. I had heard about stabbings and rapes that occurred in the park I ran in, and my family members warned me to be careful because strange people roam the park at night. However, I still continued to run in the park daily with nothing but one thing on my mind: victory. After about two weeks, I walked into the gym and my trainer shocked me with a last minute offer, “Hey Ethan, do you want to fight this Friday!?”

My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. Was I ready to fight again... Already? On such short notice?

“Yes!” I excitedly agreed. 

Before I knew it, it was Friday night and I was in the ring once again. The bell rang, and the war began. This time I threw what felt like a billion punches, and I rushed my opponent like a football player. I can’t remember what my opponent did, but it was clearly ineffective. The adrenaline was speeding through my veins like cars on a highway. After the fight was finally over, I hugged my opponent out of respect and bowed my head while standing in the middle of the ring. Than I heard it:

“Your winner is…coming out of the red corner from Atlas Cops and Kids Boxing Gym!”

The referee raised my hand as I leaped for joy. I had failed in my first fight because I wasn’t working hard enough. Through this, I realized that victory comes only through diligence.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Never Be Mine by Maverick Deen

This is the first rap song from boxer Muhammad Deen, 17, a student at Victory Collegiate High School. We think Deen has a bright future, whether he chooses to pursue fighting, writing, or music!

Deen writes:

During the course of life, some discover the key to unlock their talent. This talent isn't specific to a skill. Rather, it's a natural part of your personality that allows you to excel at certain things.

I, Muhammad Deen, had a talent for poetry, so it was evident that rap (rhythm and poetry) and boxing, often referred as "poetry in motion," would be my love in life. Talent for poetry isn't just about writing; it's about seeing the poetic elements in everything in life.

Being Pakistani with Indian roots, my cultural music was an integral part of me. Growing up, I listened to various Pakistani and Indian artists, while my western musical influences included Eminem, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Nirvana, Nas, Tupac, Immortal Technique, Prince and Linkin Park.

Seeing every genre as a different color, allowing my words to be different brushes, I made my first song, "Never Be Mine," about unrequited love. I incorporated hip hop, rock and blues with a live instrumentation.

Photo: Richard Wade
With boxing, the canvas parallel exists, with different punches, feints, angles and other things creating a painting. Boxing is misconstrued to be a violent and barbaric sport. However, it is only a reflection of who we are. The decisions you make during a fight show how you react in life. With poetry being in my soul, of course the love for music and boxing is in me too.