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LOUIS LAVENTURE/THE PIONEER
Diversity Center screens basketball film
February 11, 2015
On Tuesday the Diversity Center at California State University, East Bay screened the documentary film “I Just Wanna Ball” as part of its Black History Month celebration.
The film documented how Oakland’s 2013 McClymonds High School girls basketball team won the Oakland Athletic League championship. The film’s creator and producer Robert “Fleetwood” Bowden attended the screening of the film that debuted in May 2013.
Bowden collaborated with his friend and filmmaker Shaka Jamal to create the documentary after he read about the team in a local newspaper. Bowden and Jamal met while sharing space at an art collective in 1999.
“I admired [Jamal’s] commitment to the revolution of our culture,” Bowden said. “He is a dear friend of mine to this day, my comrade in the fight of oppressed people.”
The film focused on Ahjahna Coleman, Breannie Robinson, Romanalyn Inocencio, and Daisy Powell, four girls on the team who all had to deal with the daily turmoil that came with living in the city of Oakland, which the film refers to as one of the most dangerous cities in the country.
Three of the four girls in the documentary went on to play collegiate basketball, while the other still plays on the team at McClymonds.
Inocencio plays at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Robinson plays at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, and Coleman plays at Contra Costa College in San Pablo. Powell is a senior on the McClymonds 2015 team and she is averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks per game.
“Oakland is very difficult to live in,” Coleman said. “You have a lot of poverty, a lot of drugs, you have a lot of violence around you and it is just hard to not be a part of that.”
Funding for “I Just Wanna Ball” was primarily raised through private donors and the Indiegogo website that helps raise money to get projects off the ground. Bowden has self-distributed the film since its debut in May 2013 however he said he is “currently seeking distribution,” to a wider audience.
For years, the McClymonds girls basketball team was a perennial doormat for opponents in a tough OAL league that features some of the best talent in the Bay Area every year. In just two short years, Head Coach Dennis Flannery and his talented team became a force on the basketball scene that culminated with their 2013 OAL championship, the schools first since 1976.
The challenges faced by some of the girls on the team ranged from murders of friends and family members, to taking care of a mother diagnosed with HIV. The film also exposed the sex trafficking industry that takes place in Oakland, which includes a lot of girls that are the same age as the girls on the team.
“The goal of this film is to let the world see a beautiful rose as it grows from the concrete,” Bowden said. “Our hope is to find assistance within our community for these young ladies as they pursue a higher learning of education and to assist them in maintaining a positive life, while becoming successful shining examples in our communities.”