I've had many epic accomplishments in my entertainment career, but the most important project of my life will debut later this week. For months, a favorable buzz has been building for Warriors of Liberty City, the six-episode Starz docuseries that follows the lives of everyone involved in the youth sports program that the late Sam Johnson and I founded 28 years ago.
Warriors tells not only part of my life story but also the story of an entire community coming together to give the next generation a fighting chance at prosperity. The show is really about the parents who volunteer for the Liberty City Optimist Club, putting nothing but sweat equity into helping children in the neighborhood.
That's a major reason LeBron James and his business partner and longtime friend Maverick Carter signed on as executive producers alongside myself and Evan Rosenfeld, the Miami documentarian making it big in Hollywood.
It's hard to believe, but this mission began when I was a teenager. At the time, I was being bused to Miami Beach to go to school and play little-league football. I didn't know then that black people had to vacate the city by sundown or they would be thrown in jail. That revelation stuck with me as I grew into an adult. Starting my own youth program was always on mind. Black kids would no longer have to go to South Beach and be subjected to the shit I had to go through.
In 1990, I met Sam, a county bus driver who ran a little-league baseball club who was introduced to me by my good friend Joe. I was also introduced to Charlie Brown, an executive at the Boys Club. I gave him a check for $75,000 to purchase uniforms for the kids and to start a football program at Charles Hadley Park, which is still the Liberty City Optimist Club's home.
In 2001, Chad Johnson became the first Liberty City Warrior to be drafted into the NFL. More than a quarter-century later, the Liberty City Warriors have the most little-league alumni who went on to NFL careers. Among the current pro athletes who played for the local Optimist Club are Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.
However, Warriors of Liberty City cuts through the NFL hype and also tells the stories of the former players who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, and bankers, as well as the dedicated volunteers sacrificing their time to steer black boys and girls on a good path. At a premiere event for the first episode, a lawyer friend of mine found the program so emotional it changed his life.
This is not The Blind Side, where a white person is saving a black kid. This docuseries is about black men and women coming to the aid of young African-Americans, which is happening across the nation in every major inner-city neighborhood.
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Warriors is definitely not a scripted reality show. We follow families going through some real-life shit. For instance, viewers will watch Santonio Carter and his family as they continue to cope with the senseless death of his 6-year-old son King, who was killed by a stray bullet in 2016. Santonio coaches one of the little-league teams. Warriors gives you a perspective of what black people live through every day.
Regardless of color, everybody should watch Warriors.
The first episode of Warriors of Liberty City is scheduled to air September 16 on Starz.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.