Opening Day of the Sundance Film Festival was also the same day our 45th President of the United States was inaugurated into office amidst adversity and protests. A woman’s march erupted worldwide and the women of Park City, Utah joined right in. I was there and watched some young ladies from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women join in the spirit of the occasion by performing a routine from their Lethal Ladies Step Team. They injected a shot of B12 into an already pumped up crowd and encouraged filmmakers to attend the debut screening of their documentary STEP.
Unable to grab a ticket at the festival, I was able to catch the final summer screening at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of the Arts). Wow, am I glad I did!!! Mistakenly, I assumed that the film would be centered around the origins of ‘step’ associated with the fraternities and sororities, but instead followed the journey of some young women in Baltimore striving for a better life and beating the odds to become the first in their families to obtain a college education.
It made me remember what it was like to watch my own mother graduate from Nursing School to fulfill her dream of becoming a R.N. The day I graduated from Howard University was a relief for me, but one of the proudest moments of my parents’ life. I literally had never seen their grins so wide and joyous. So, it goes without saying that a lump stayed in throat for the 90 minute journey I experienced thanks to the direction of Tony winner Amanda Lipitz putting a spotlight on these very special young ladies in her beloved hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Lipitz and her Mom founded the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women (BLSYW) charter school in 2009. In Step, she focuses on three distinctly different members of the Lethal Ladies squad.
Blessin Geraldo is by far the glamour queen of the bunch with dimples so deep you could drink a cup of coffee out of them and a fierce personality to match. However, this doll has missed at least 53 days of school during her senior year and is dealing with a mother who suffers from depression and anger issues. The odds of Blessin graduating seem near impossible. However, thanks to the dogmatic, no-nonsense guidance and determination of her college counselor Paula Dofat, Blessin makes that walk across the stage with her classmates having earned every little step.
On the flip side is valedictorian Cori Grainger, whose biggest challenge is her parents (a very hardworking and supportive couple) coming up with funds to send her to college. Specifically…Johns Hopkins University. Last, but not least is only child Tayla Solomon. Tayla is probably the more sarcastic of the bunch and has a Mom that loves to watch step practice when not in the trenches as a correctional officer. Often embarrassed by her Mom’s enthusiasm, it warmed my heart to see a single mother so in love with her child.
Step gives humanity to the city of Baltimore, which often gets a bad rap and is mostly associated with the African-American community. Like any other urban city in America, there are all corners of life that live in this city that are not ethnic and Amanda Lipitz made it her business to make sure we knew the good that the BLSYW is doing by turning loose young women determined not to be a negative statistic.
Produced by Fox Searchlight, Step hit theaters over the weekend and trust me when I tell you how full your heart will be inspired with an overwhelming desire to give back in your community. Check out the trailer to this high-stepping documentary below…