A Most Beautiful Thing – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Most Beautiful Thing

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Hobart rowers, sophomore Bryce Miltenberger and first-year Conrad Palmer, moderated a Zoom panel with Arshay Cooper discussing “A Most Beautiful Thing” a movie inspired by his memoir “Suga Water.”

The film is also available on Amazon Prime. On the Zoom panel, Cooper was joined by Khuram Hussain, Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Paul Bugenhagen, head coach of the Hobart and William Smith rowing teams, and Fatim Cisse, a William Smith sophomore.

“A Most Beautiful Thing” is the moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago’s west side who form the first all-Black high school rowing team. The crew was made up of young men, many of whom were in rival gangs that came together to row in the same boat. The film explores not only the safety these young men found on the water, but the trauma of violence and cyclical poverty, examining how they were able to support each other in reimagining a different future for themselves, and how rowing and the water provided the backdrop for that opportunity.

“When we were on the water, we were in a place where we could not hear the sound of sirens or bullets,” said Cooper, the team’s captain. “That allowed us to shape a different vision for ourselves of who and what we could become. That was a beautiful thing.”

These young men came together, after 20 years out of the boat, to race this past summer, not only to celebrate the team’s founding, but the fact that they are still alive.

The film is narrated by Academy Award and Grammy Award winning artist, Common; executive-produced by NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade along with Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder; and directed by award-winning film maker and Olympic rower Mary Mazzio.

“A Most Beautiful Thing” has received high-praise from critics. It was called “amazing” by the Chicago Sun-Times. “One of the best documentaries to unveil at South by Southwest” by the team at Roger Ebert. An “absolute must watch” by Deadspin, “a film we could really use right now” by the Hollywood Reporter, and “one of the best films this decade” by ChicagoNow.

Miltenberger and Palmer played an important role in bringing the film and discussion to campus, working in collaboration with the student activities office. Miltenberger met Cooper through a similar event hosted by his high school rowing team. Palmer was mentored by Cooper in high school.

“Seeing the timeliness of Ashray Cooper’s movie and book release, and the relevance it has in today’s world regardless of the sport, we thought that we would provide the idea to the student activities board and see if we could spread the message to the school,” Palmer said.