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Grand Valley presents screenings of inspiring athlete documentary "Team Dream" with cast in attendance

Grand Valley State University hosts screenings of Queen Latifah produced short documentary "Team Dream" (2022) with a star athlete and coach from the film present.

/Justin Mills

Grand Valley State University presented two screenings this month of "Team Dream" (2022), a short documentary produced by Queen Latifah and directed by Luchina Fisher. The film narrates the journey of two lifelong friends preparing for the 2022 National Senior Games, overcoming discrimination, segregation, and age-defying challenges. 

Overcoming discrimination, segregation and age-defying challenges, they find support from Team Dream, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to training women of color in various athletic events for national competitions.

“No matter what age you are, you can have a goal and activate to reach that goal,” emphasized Ann Smith, 84, one of the main athletes featured in the film, during an interview with The Rapidian.

The screenings occurred as part of Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration events on Thursday, January 18, at both GVSU’s Allendale and Pew Campuses.

“The biggest thing that I want people to know is that no matter what your age is, there’s always an opportunity to achieve new things, and you should go for it,” Smith said. 

After an impressive career, including becoming the first Black woman to win a statewide election in Illinois, Smith looked forward to her retirement and pondered what would be next for her.

After one of her coworkers began training for triathlons, Smith thought: “That’s what I can do in retirement; I can be an athlete.”

Madeline Murphy Rabb, the other star athlete featured in the film, introduced Smith to her swimming coach, Derrick Q. Milligan, the head coach of Team Dream and a lifelong swimmer.

From there, the journey began.

“We focus on multi-sport fitness,” Milligan said. “If you thought of it like a mall, our anchor store is swim, bike and run.” 

Approaching its 25th year, Team Dream trains around 100 athletes each year, ranging from 18 to 89 years old.

“We’re about promoting a lifetime of fitness to have a high quality of life,” Milligan said. “When you look at African Americans, we lead disproportionality in all the lifestyle diseases — diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers. If Ann and Madeline are focused on optimal fitness and performing well, there's an overlap between that and keeping those diseases at bay.”

Milligan said Smith and Murphy Rabb’s heroic athleticism “demystifies living well.”

Since the film’s initial release and distribution at various film festivals, Smith, Murphy Rabb and Milligan have accompanied screenings at conferences, corporations and universities for events covering diversity, aging well and intergenerational teamwork. 

“We like to say Team Dream is a social justice film disguised as a sports movie,” Milligan stated about the film’s impact and legacy.

Smith has no end in sight, only goals ahead. 

Having visited all seven continents and 70 countries, she plans to achieve her family’s multi-generational goal of reaching 100 years of age – a record set first by her great-grandfather.

For now, she’s back to the pool to achieve her ultimate athletic endgame of winning a top-place medal at the National Senior Games. 

The next National Senior Games takes place in 2025 where the top three athletes in their respective events earn medals.

For athletes to compete in the National Senior Games, they must win a bronze, silver or gold in a state competition – meaning Smith’s 2024 will be full of training with Milligan, competing in state competition events and living well. 

After first screening in Massachusetts at the Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival in August 2022, the film received accolades and awards at various film festivals nationwide, including the notable Ebert Fest in Illinois, where it won a Golden Thumb award.

“Team Dream” was shown following a keynote speech by TaRita Johnson, Senior Vice President of Talent & Diversity at The Right Place. 

After the film, Smith and Milligan took the stage to answer questions from the audience and further discuss their personal and professional backgrounds, providing insights into their goals and motivations.

The short documentary is available on the Procter & Gamble YouTube Channel via the Queen Collective: Year Four collection.


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