‘Enter a Challenger, Exit a Champion’: an interview with Zimbabwe Davis

by Apollonia Jordan

Growing up in the foster care system is in my view the most frightening thing a child can experience. Many times, children are taken out of one bad living situation and put into an even worse situation.

Enter-a-Challenger-Exit-a-Champion, ‘Enter a Challenger, Exit a Champion’: an interview with Zimbabwe Davis, Culture Currents Overcoming the foster care system is a lifelong struggle. After emancipating from the system, many youth are left to live on the streets. After being dependent on a system, at the age of 18, you instantaneously become an adult and left alone.

Zimbabwe Davis understands the struggles foster and former foster youth experience. He went from having all these challenges to becoming a champion, all while fighting to overcome the foster care system.

As an avid community leader, Zimbabwe now gives back to the youth in his community by working as a mentor and facilitating life-skills workshops in Oakland.

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Giving back to these foster youth and his community, Zimbabwe released a new documentary titled “Enter a Challenger, Exit a Champion.” The film highlights the trials and tribulations of Zimbabwe and other youth growing up in the foster care system.

This documentary is a must see because despite the negativity that comes with being in the foster care system, this film shows the positivity and tenacity that these youth have, shows the supportive community, and gives the audience an in-depth look inside the life of a foster youth. I sat down with Zimbabwe to understand why he decided to create this dynamic film, and this is what he had to say …

Apollonia: Can you tell me about the workshops you are currently facilitating for foster youth in Oakland?

Zimbabwe: I wanted to do this film for the younger generation in foster care. Along with this documentary, I also facilitate an eight-week training course of different topics, such as mentorship, budgeting and traveling. I encourage the youth to make the right choices, and I’m really just pushing a hard line on this positive, educational Enter a Challenger, Exit a Champion movement.

Apollonia: Tell us a little bit about the documentary “Enter a Challenger, Exit a Champion” and how you began this entire movement.

Zimbabwe: The film is basically about my personal experience in the foster care system. I entered the system at the age of 13, due to my mother passing away from kidney failure. I had a lot of struggles after my mom passed away. I was moved around a lot. I was placed in special education and I went through a lot of ups and downs.

I was moved from Oakland to Reno once and then moved back to Oakland and began living with my aunt. My aunt at the time suffered from drug abuse and I was unable to continue to live with her. I moved in with my cousin, Mistah FAB, and his mother helped me get enrolled back into school and into a program called Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP), which is a program that helps foster youth gain independence.

The film is basically about my personal experience in the foster care system. I entered the system at the age of 13.

I came up with the concept of the movie from the struggles I had growing up in the foster care system. I never let my circumstances define me. I want my story to be an inspiration to youth who may be experiencing similar situations in life.

I want to inspire these youth to know that you can overcome these challenges, despite your circumstances. You can be a champion in your own right.

Being a champion can be anything from owning your own home, graduating high school, going to college or getting your first apartment. Those things are hurdles for foster youth and youth, period! These youth face these challenges daily, and I want to let them know that there are other people going through this same experience who have survived, and that they can survive too.

I want to inspire these youth to know that you can overcome these challenges, despite your circumstances. You can be a champion in your own right.

Apollonia: What do you want youth to take away from this documentary?

Zimbabwe: I want youth to know that they have a voice. Then, I want them to use this voice and share their experiences and to be okay with being vulnerable and sharing their experiences with others, so that they can be educated.

Lastly, I want youth who watch this film to be inspired and understand that their past does not determine their future. I want them to understand that story telling is therapeutic and to know that it is okay to talk about these experiences.

Apollonia: What is your definition of being a challenger vs. a champion?

Zimbabwe: A challenger is someone who is faced with adversity. Being in special education and being ashamed of it, I gave up and lost hope. A challenger has all these obstacles in front of them that they must overcome to be successful and become a champion.

A champion, on the other hand, is someone who overcomes those obstacles, but also builds healthy relationships and gives back to the community that helped them. I personally like to give back with my workshops and doing screenings of the film to current and former foster youth.

Apollonia: I really commend you for doing such a great job with this film and doing all that you do for these youth.

The movie is currently online at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/enterachallenger/179729745. You can follow Zimbabwe on Instagram @zdaviesfilms.

Bay Area journalist and longtime Bay View writer Apollonia Jordan can be reached at apollonia@sfbayview.com.