When you think of Baltimore these days, if you live outside the city limits, you likely think of the 2015 uprising and its devastation or the mean streets of West Baltimore, where much of the classic HBO TV series The Wire was filmed. You might even think of the TV shows Homicide or The Corner, all of which have contributed to the idea that Baltimore is a city choked in hopelessness and despair, especially in its inner city.
The documentary Step, out Friday, August 4 in select cities, then on to wide release August 18, may help change that image. Set in and around the Baltimore Leadership School For Young Women, the movie shadows three young women who started out in the school’s original sixth grade class who are now seniors. Blessin Giraldo, Tayla Solomon and Cori Grainger are also members of the school’s step team, Lethal Ladies, which provides an activity, an outlet and a little inspiration through dedicated step coach Gari McIntrye and the school’s amazing principal Paula Dofat.
Though the Freddie Gray incident happens during their junior year, Step takes place not in the streets of Baltimore but inside the girls’ homes and families. Grainger, a serious young woman, hopes to be a doctor, although her blended family is struggling. The charismatic Giraldo is seemingly raising herself due to her mother’s mental illness. Solomon is being raised by a single mother determined to see her daughter succeed even though it’s unclear if the daughter is quite as motivated.
Step has been billed as a movie about a dance team. And while it has some nice moments in that respect, what the movie is truly about is the power of sisterhood and mentoring. Dofat deserves all the accolades she’s likely to receive for her unwavering support of the young women enrolled in the school and McIntrye’s clearly has the right stuff to corral a group of young women who often bring their family, social and emotional issues to step practices.
Young Black women from the hood are demonized, disrespected and disregarded. The contrast between what some of the girls who attend BLSFYW have to contend with as opposed to your average private school student is appalling -although both groups are somehow expected to have the same outcomes.
Step shows that no matter how stark the circumstances or how great the need, there are people willing to provide a leg up, a shoulder to cry on and the guidance and resources for young people who sometimes their families cannot.
We see all three women face down some pretty significant odds. Blessin’s troubles at home are affecting her grades, her place on the step team, her attitude and her future. Grainger is focused and loved but can her family get her all the way to the finish line for medical school? Solomon is started to tune out her mother’s pushing while still dependent on her to provide the buffer between herself and the real world.
You will be brought along for the ride with these young women, hoping that they are able to carry through to a better life for themselves. In some ways, Step is the Hoop Dreams for young women, except that excelling at dance won’t provide these girls the kind of wealth an NBA career would. They can only believe that their resilience thus far as well as the shoulders that carry them will be enough to direct their futures.
Step is a movie that shows what the power of love, commitment and passion can do and even more than Girls Trip, it’s a primer on the power of sisterhood.
Take your daughter, niece, lil’ cousin, sister, godchild or mentee to see this movie. You will all leave the theater feeling encouraged and empowered.
Watch the Step trailer below: