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In and Out of the Boxing Ring, Two Men Confront Very Different Demons

BROOKLYN, N.Y -- Adam Friedman celebrates his 40th birthday by going in the ring with his colleague Alvin Valentine, a former Golden Gloves boxer at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Friedman and Valentine come from two entirely different worlds yet they found common ground working for Exodus Transitional Community, a non-profit organization that helps ex-convicts get their lives back on track. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

BROOKLYN, N.Y -- Adam Friedman celebrates his 40th birthday by going in the ring with his colleague Alvin Valentine, a former Golden Gloves boxer at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Friedman and Valentine come from two entirely different worlds yet they found common ground working for Exodus Transitional Community, a non-profit organization that helps ex-convicts get their lives back on track. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Alvin Valentine on the rooftop of Exodus Transitional Community in Harlem. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Adam Friedman at Exodus Transitional Community in Harlem. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Outside the offices of Exodus Transitional Community in Harlem. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Alvin Valentine gives a lecture at Exodus Transitional Community for new clients, who come every Monday morning. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Julio Medina, the founder of Exodus Transitional Community in Harlem, outside of the organization's headquarters. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn, where Friedman and Valentine took to the ring. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine boxing at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine boxing at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine boxing at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Outside the offices of Exodus Transitional Community in Harlem. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine boxing at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Headline: Exodus Transitional Community.

Headline: Exodus Transitional Community.

Friedman and Valentine after the boxing match at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine after the boxing match at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Friedman and Valentine after the boxing match at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Alvin Valentine in his office at Exodus Transitional Community. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Alvin Valentine gives a lecture at Exodus Transitional Community for new clients, who come every Monday morning. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Alvin Valentine gives a lecture at Exodus Transitional Community for new clients, who come every Monday morning. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Adam Friedman after the boxing match at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Adam Friedman after the boxing match at Gleason's Gym in Dumbo Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

 

Text by Daryl Khan / Photos by Robert Stolarik

On a bitter cold winter January morning in 2008, Adam Friedman and Alvin Valentine, friends and co-workers, climbed into a Brooklyn boxing ring and proceeded to go after each other for three hard-hitting rounds. There was nothing particularly artful about what transpired in those grunting six minutes. Some solid blows were landed, there were no knock outs, and, thankfully, no blood. It was one fight of probably dozens that transpired that day.

But for both men, the boxing match represented something very different. For Alvin, a Blood gang leader and longtime inmate, it was a chance to fight for something other than his life — to fight for fun instead for respect, or to instill discipline in the yard or to send a message to a fellow inmate. For Adam, it was a chance to face down a monster that had tormented him since childhood — fear.

That both men would ever cross paths, let alone end up facing each other down in the squared circle, was unlikely. They came from as different backgrounds as New York City can offer, a distance much farther than the trip from the Upper West Side and Brownsville, Brooklyn that separated their apartments. The nerd and the hood, the poor kid and the middle class geek, the professional and the prisoner.

But a shared passion — to help convicts find their way back into society and prevent them from returning to prison — brought them together. They met at Exodus Transitional Community, a grassroots organization with the goal of helping recently released inmates make their way back into mainstream society.

There they worked together using very different pasts to forge secure futures for strangers. Adam used the Clockwork of his experience as a fundraiser and former advertising executive to organize and attend to the details that would make the programs a success; while Alvin used the Orange of his authenticity in the life, drawing on his violent past as a badge of credibility to convince the skeptical clients that change was a real possibility, that the people at Exodus weren’t peddling sentimental dross.

In the immediate wake of the fight, neither Adam or Alvin’s lives changed much. Life at Exodus went on much as it did before, the slog of work illuminated by moments of transformation with clients desperate for a change. But over the years, the fight grew to take on different meanings for both men, and it took on a life of its own to strangers who saw the fight in countless workshops and drew inspiration from it in their own way. Alvin and Adam are no longer at Exodus. They have moved on to new jobs, with the help of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, they went on to new lives.

Click here to read the full story of Adam and Alvin, the fight they had, and how in small ways it still shapes the men they are today.

One Comment on “In and Out of the Boxing Ring, Two Men Confront Very Different Demons

  1. Pingback: In and Out of the Boxing Ring, Two Men Confront Very Different Demons | Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

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