LOS ANGELES, DECEMBER 28, 2020 - The Los Angeles Rams and Pepsi, in partnership with Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions, Operation Progress and content creators Shamrock Studio / DLP Media Group, are launching "Fighting For Light, The Concrete Rose," a short film that tells the inspiring story of amateur boxer Meryland Gonzalez, a 14-year-old Watts Native and nine-time national boxing champion determined to thrive in the face of difficult surroundings.
Meryland grew up in a 500-square-foot apartment in Gonzaque Village, a housing development in Watts, with her parents and two sisters. Currently the No. 1 ranked boxer for her age group in the nation, Meryland is determined to chase her dream of competing in the Olympics and succeeding against all odds. Meryland's parents both work in a chicken factory and in the face of a pandemic and reduced hours, have struggled to cover the bare essentials, including food for the family.
"Meryland is an incredible young lady. Her story is inspiring. She's had to overcome so much and fight for everything she's been given," said Michael Hughes, Founder and CEO of Peabody and Clio award-winning Shamrock Studio / DLP Media Group. "But even the best fighters need a team around them, and it's clear Operation Progress and the Rams have played a meaningful role in mentoring and helping Meryland reach her full potential both in and out of the ring."
The film tells the story of a rose growing in Watts, California. A rose that blooms in the most adverse of conditions, but blooms nonetheless. Helping along the way is Operation Progress (OP), a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower underserved youth to become educated, ethical and productive adults who reach their full potential and positively contribute to society. Given the pandemic, OP's focus right now is on food insecurity. The film follows the Gonzalez family attending a special grocery shopping event along with 70 other families from the community, one of the many ways OP and partner organizations are supporting the community of Watts during this unprecedented time.
"Here at Pepsi, we know that when we come together with our valued customers like Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions and partners like the Los Angeles Rams, that our impact for the community can go far and wide," said Claudia Calderon, vice president of marketing for Pepsi Beverages North America's West Division. "As one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, PepsiCo has made it our business throughout this pandemic to address food insecurity and provide tangible help to the communities that need it most, and we were honored to help provide much needed groceries for Meryland and 70 other families in the Watts area."
"Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions have a strong history of giving back to the community and working with organizations that share our commitment to hunger relief and supporting youth initiatives," said Melissa Hill Director, Public Affairs & Government Relations, The Albertsons Companies Foundation. "We are incredibly humbled to give back through this partnership with the Los Angeles Rams, Pepsi and Operation Progress and help support these very deserving families during this holiday season."
Watts-native Brandon "Stix" Salaam-Bailey composed and performed the vocal track for the film. Stix has worked his way to become a rapper, record producer, songwriter and entrepreneur over the last 17 years. Beyond his accomplishments as a musician, Stix is an advocate for giving back to his community through his THINK WATTS Foundation and continues to use music as a platform for something bigger. This is the third collaboration between Stix and the Los Angeles Rams.
"Meryland has become part of the Rams family and continues to inspire us with her resilience, determination and positive attitude," said Molly Higgins, Los Angeles Rams VP of Community Affairs & Engagement. "Through this film, we are proud to be able to shine a light on Meryland, while also highlighting the critical work of Operation Progress. This year more than ever, people need help putting food on the table which is why we're so happy we could support Operation Progress, along with our partners at Pepsi and AVP, to provide deserving families with meals for the holidays."
"This film has been a labor of love," said Head Of Production at DLP Media Group Matt Schlef, who directed the documentary. "Meryland is not only a fighter, she is a natural talent, gifted in so many ways. This unique film could not have happened without her and her wonderful family. And the collaboration with our partners including Pepsi, AVP and the Rams, helped make this an aspirational piece of content, and a truly memorable experience."
This film builds on the work the Rams and Operation Progress have done together, including a virtual five-week character development series for middle school students in Watts hosted this fall. Each week, Rams players joined Operation Progress scholars to explore different character traits such as personal responsibility, perseverance and self-discipline. The Rams' head of security, Dave Love, who spent 28 years with LAPD and served as an Operation Progress mentor, concepted and spearheaded the program. The Rams players also recently awarded Operation Progress with a $30,000 social justice grant to help fund their monthly grocery program. One of the film's highlights shows Love with Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay surprising Meryland with a game ball over Zoom.
"We've been so fortunate to partner with the Rams," said Theresa Gartland, Executive Director, Operation Progress. "The relationship goes so much further beyond financial support, the Rams are truly invested in developing relationships with Operation Progress families and ensuring a positive outcome for them. The example the Rams, their staff and the players set for our children is invaluable."