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They are born outcasts. Discarded by the

They are born outcasts. Discarded by their families, hunted by the police and each other, the young black youth of Englewood are often forced to fend for themselves in the most violent neighborhood in the most violent city. Yet these young men who fought with rage and abandon in the streets somehow turned it off and turned it around to become top notch boxers in the ring. They have turned themselves from castaways into creatives taking the violence, hurt and trauma beset upon them and turning it into trophies, hip-hop tracks and wisdom. In this episode we meet the young men of The Crushers Club, a boxing gym in Englewood that has become an oasis of strength and talk to founder Sally Hazelgrove about her life’s work to serve in a place most people avoid at all cost.

  • I left Chicago in the dust when I was 17, determined never to come back if I could help it. But God and fate colluded and I ended up back in this fateful town in 2010, divorced, broke, jobless, homeless and nearly 280 pounds. Yeah, not a pretty sight. But me, being me, I was determined to ride the horror out. To take that curve ball life threw at me and knock that crap out of the park. You know, do what I do and that's be me, all positive and light and Polly sunshine and stuff. But I no longer had the innocence (blind, stupid faith) of youth. I was nearing 40 and my life which I had so carefully built, planned and orchestrated was falling apart like a sweater with a loose thread--slowly and painfully. None of my old happy tricks worked. Not praying, not crying, not drinking, not meaningless relationships nothing. Not even my mother could get me out of my perpetual funk. Thankfully, I had a mother to move in with. Otherwise, I would have been one of those unique odorous denizens traveling the journey of life with a CTA bus card and no last stop. When I think about it I was totally crazy. I moved to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city and on a wing and a prayer was determined to get back what I thought I'd lost. Money, prestige, title and position. I jumped head first into trying to revive the old Ovetta Sampson that I didn't stop to think why I God put me in the Land of the Valley Lows in the first, cursed to roam the streets of disappointment, broken-heartedness and loneliness. At first I thought I'd lost a bet with God and this was my punishment. Or that I had treated someone horribly wrong and this was her voodoo revenge. It all seemed so strange and woefully wrong that it could happen to me. I had been so careful. So utterly obsessive about every detail of my life. So calculating, going to college, graduating debt free, getting that first job at a small town newspaper, being recruited to a bigger newspaper, leaving to go manage an editorial department, run a magazine, travel the world, each step adding to what I believed was my invincibility. I even beat the odds that's against every black woman, getting and accepting a marriage proposal at age 36. I was on my way and all the while I was losing myself. I was so far away from happiness that I didn't even realize I was miserable. It's so funny now, but I think I delusional. What was it? Was it a momentary lapse in judgement? Did I just make a mistake? Or did I freakin' go plum crazy. Who knows? But I was making all the wrong decisions, doing all the wrong things, getting farther and farther away from my essence that I didn't even know I had lost my way because the path had disappeared. But as I reflect over the three life-altering years I finally realized why I went through what I went through. God wasn't trying to hurt me, punish me or make me suffer. I did that all on my own. But what he did was taught me that I can never go through this world without backup. My experience made me realize my true friends, met new ones and get closer to my family. I was able to spend time with my grandmother before she died. I reconnected with my younger cousins who are now grown and married with babies. I've developed a deeper, less abrasive relationship with my mother and I've learned that no matter how great I am I cannot do what I need to do, fulfill my purpose on this Earth alone. I am no longer saddened that I lost everything. I am glad. Because I learned two valuable lessons: how to ask for help and how to get off my ass and work for what I want. The two are not mutually exclusive. Instead they are forged together in some sort of loop of strength. No one, not even Jesus, did it alone. When I got married I thought this is it, this is what it feels like to not be alone. Yet that wasn't it. It wasn't until I was utterly broken that I realized how much of my life wasn't me but was the work of others. Wow, I know that seems so obvious. But to me it wasn't. Thank you. Words cannot express how I feel about the women who came to my side to hold me up, who picked me up on their shoulders and sheltered me, listened when I cried and told the strong one that it was okay to ask for help. You women know who you are. Cookie, Denise, Kila, Tasha, Angel, Sarah, Kelley the list goes on. You will always have my love and admiration. And for the guys--oh the guys. The men who wouldn't let me curl up in a cave and disappear. Who shared my burden as only guys can with laughter, drinks and sports. Wow, you guys were amazing and I thank you. And so as I embark upon the journey to fit back into my wedding dress I suddenly realize I am not trying to claim a past glory. But for the first time I am fitting comfortably into who God wants me to be, failures and successes and all. I am chasing new glories, new triumphs and new horizons. And I am finally joyous that I will not have to continue this journey alone.

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