As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to expand and the idea of sharing Black stories becomes more prevalent, NBC Universal’s Peacock brings us A Most Beautiful Thing.
The upcoming 2020 documentary highlights the history of the first U.S. African American public-school rowing team composed of young men from the West Side of Chicago.
A Most Beautiful Thing follows the story of Arshay Cooper, the row team captain as he reunites with teammates twenty years later to prepare to race in the 2019 Chicago Sprints, the largest rowing regatta in the Midwest. Their journey was particularly special because not only were they the first Black row team in the U.S., but the team was composed of rival gang members that came together for a bigger purpose. “It was an easy yes for me because I wasn’t a part of any team, I had no other friends but I just wanted to go somewhere. And it was just passionate mentors and passionate coaches that understood our community and understood us and wanted to take us on a journey,” shares Cooper. That journey didn’t come without several challenges and obstacles including racism and bullying from opposing teams as well as peers in school. “There were guys saying, ya’ll rowing boats like slaves in slave ships,” Cooper recalls however this only increased his focus and eagerness to dominate in this typically White sport.
Former Olympic rower and director of A Most Beautiful Thing, Mary Mazzio was blown away by Cooper’s story and the incredible flight they accomplished. After reading Cooper’s memoir, A Most Beautiful Thing, Mazzio was compelled to reach out to Cooper, and shortly after, talks of a documentary were set in motion. “Arshay has taken us on a journey that has really been unbelievable,” states Mazzio and she was not the only person blown away by this story of resilience and determination. The likes of Grant Hill, Dwayne Wade, Common, and 9th Wonder all were equally as thrilled to be a part of the film and contribute to its execution.
The Knockturnal spoke exclusively with Arshay Cooper and Mary Mazzio so be sure to check it out. A Most Beautiful Thing premieres on Peacock on September 4.