Love146 became a personal interest of Christine’s, after her friend, Marilyn started working for the organization and shared the real stories of real girls and the real difference Love146 programs and support provide to children in need.
A few statistics from Love146:
It’s estimated that $32 billion is generated from trafficking people every year.
27 million people are enslaved. Most women are put into the sex industry.
Two children are sold EVERY MINUTE into slavery.
This year, Roam Life will be participating as a TEAM to raise $1,500towards ending child slavery and exploitation.
Interested in joining the movement? Ready to make a real difference?
If you would like to make a contribution but are unable to participate, you can donate at the Roam Life page and help support our campaign.
For those of you willing to contribute $50 or more, Christine will Sharpie your name onto her jersey that she’ll wear during the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in August.
Liz Grover is one of those reflective and airy souls that tend to migrate to the Portland, OR area. She’s an activist, spiritualist, centered individual that has a slew of stories she can tell you but you have to ask. She’s non-pretentious like that. Her travels and spiritual quests are how I became connected to Liz and how I came to interview her on a snowy afternoon in March.
Do you consider yourself a part of a community of amazing women?
I consider myself part of the global community. Women travelers are a unique breed. We have a lot of unique experiences and more restrictions in traveling.
I was treated really well in Afghanistan and in Kabul better than I thought. Sometimes though, I was treated as an object while traveling with a male friend and he wasn’t treated the same way as me. I didn’t like that feeling of inequality. There is a need for community within women travelers and I build it as much as I can.
Women’s empowerment outside of the US is the way that we’ll make the world a better place. It’s really important. Even the UN said that there is a huge imbalance of male and female energy on this planet.
How do you feel like your travels will help move the imbalance to balance?
When people in villages in Asia see me traveling alone they are almost in disbelief that I am traveling by myself and I’m welcomed because of it. I’m an oddity to them but they think it’s cool that I’m out there doing it on my own because women in their own society wouldn’t be travelling like I do and staying with strangers.
I think I impact people on an individual level. Also, I think that I have helped women to realize that they can be empowered and they can do a lot on their own. I was in Kabul where it isn’t culturally acceptable for women to ride bikes. It wasn’t the safest thing for me to do but living in Kabul was a gift and I had a lot of freedom but I also had some cultural constraints. Riding a bike was one of them. So I felt restless and took a bike ride through Kabul a couple of times. Women would look at me and giggle and smile and they were excited. I think it was putting myself at risk but it was good for them to see.
Women travelers are a unique breed. We have a lot of unique experiences and more restrictions in traveling.
The men were mad at me and were asking me, “Why are you doing this?” and a small child threw a piece of food at me just because I was riding a bike. I wanted to show women you can ride a bike and it’s not a sexual act.
I’ve impacted people on the individual level over the years and hopefully as I grow bigger in my work and my reach it can affect people on bigger levels. In America, I have done things that not even my society wants to do or expects me to be like. Our society has restrictions too. When I was 18 I drove across the country from Maine to California by myself and I was doing it as a job for this woman who thought I should have a man with me and it would be safer that way. I went by myself and I had a great time and it was very liberating.
When we first chatted, you mentioned you were writing a book. What was the inspiration and who is your ideal reader?
I wanted to go to Afghanistan to this place that had so many media stereotypes from America and I wanted to know what was really going on. I am experiential so I wanted to go experience it. I wanted to find positive stories to share with people in America that no matter where you go you can attract some amazingly positive, loving people. There is no “we’re good and they’re bad.” I wanted to come back and share that.
I have been sharing it through the internet and talks. And being a unique story where a young American woman went to Afghanistan in the middle of war, on the main stage in the world – I decided to share it as a book. It’s a unique story and it’s inspiring. Finding a publisher has been difficult and I feel it’s because I’m not famous enough. I thought unique and inspiring would be enough. I hope to turn it into a screenplay.
I interviewed a woman who was forced to cook for Pol Pot, the leader of the Cambodian genocide. It was either cook for him or die.
Who’s your ideal reader?
My ideal readers would be young adults because I want them to understand that anything is possible. It’s a really important age bracket where you can either wake up and say, “Anything is possible,” or go the other way and say, “I have to get the office job and a mortgage and plug into the American program.” As people get older, they get stuck in that culturally.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on some serious film projects that will be public at a later date. One is a project I’m working on and the director is an Indian man who is out of the closet and proud of it. He’s in India and it’s harder to be “out” there than it is here. He has more of a challenge. He started the first gay film festival in India. The story is about an intercultural couple where an American loses his Indian partner and has to go to India for the first time in his life to tell the family of the loss. He has to tell the family that their son was gay. I like the story a lot because the Americans can’t claim that he’s not legally married to him. It also brings up issues of marriage rights for all.
You spent some time studying under the Karmapa, the supreme leader of one of the major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Tell us about that.
I was in Notre Dame, France for three months before I went to Nepal where I met Kali Baba.I’m not religious but I was in Notre Dame because I wanted to speak with someone in French. I went to confession so I could practice my French. Going to confession it’s their job to listen. I had frustration at the time because I could speak French but I was having trouble with sentences and felt the French didn’t have patience for me. My confession was that I wanted inner peace.
I always wanted to travel to places with extra money but in that situation I only had about $100 in my pocket and I realized that this is me experiencing what the Karmapa lives by.
That was the beginning of my journey for finding my inner strength and I just told the guy in French, “Yea, I want to get over my past and childhood and be a people person.” He prayed for me and I feel that meeting this teacher in Nepal was the answer to that. I was 21 in Nepal when I met a Hindu mystic in a mud hut in the Himalayas. He’s living in pure joy. I’ve never seen anything like it. He is in a place of joy and not worrying about a thing. His job is to be joyful. People take care of him because of that. People give him money and take care of him. He never asks. When I met him he was only eating one meal a day but he was healthy and strong and had a glow about him. I was really inspired by that and during my time with him my energy was turned on.
He would travel around Asia: India, Pakistan, Nepal with nothing but he always had faith that things would work out in the universe. This is not an easy belief to always carry. That’s why I went to Afghanistan with nothing. I always wanted to travel to places with extra money but in that situation I only had about $100 in my pocket and I realized that this is me experiencing what the Karmapa lives by.
You have met some amazing people through your travels. What is a story that was shared with you that changed or affected you?
I interviewed a woman who was forced to cook for Pol Pot, the leader of the Cambodian genocide. It was either cook for him or die. She had to cook for him for three years. She got separated from her family and even though I never experienced that it was one of those sobering moments when you realize, “Wow, I have so much freedom and such a gifted life.” What is amazing is that she survived a genocide, her brother was killed, she was away from her family for two years, and had no idea if they were alive. She couldn’t sleep the whole time. The Khmer Rouge (Cambodian solders) turned children into spies. Every time she would leave her hut she would see kids trying to hide out to find information and they would be eavesdropping.
After all of this, this woman was hopeful and smiling and happy. She became a prominent activist in Cambodia. If she can come out of that experience positive and hopeful, I think, for the rest of us who haven’t experienced that, we can follow in her footsteps and live life in positivity.
Talk about traveling responsibly and how traveling has opened your eyes up to how you impact a society.
Any traveler that goes to Asia goes to the beach. If you don’t know what’s going on in these places it seems like a pretty innocent thing to do. Sihanoukville is the capital of child sex trafficking in Cambodia and is a big beach town. I went there when I was 21 not knowing this. I felt weird and I didn’t want to be in the town but I was passing through and you could tell something was wrong but I couldn’t tell what it was. When I went back six years later, I found out it was a sex trafficking town and most of the hotel owners look the other way. People go there to prey on these kids and they pay off the hotel owners to look the other way. It makes me think about my choices and where I stay as a traveler and because I don’t want to pay money to a hotel that supports those kinds of things.
It boggled my mind why I didn’t take a stance against things like that . I know it’s almost impossible to stop it because there are just sick people in the world but it would be nice to have some kind of civil system and get these people out. When I went to stay in the town my friend told me which hotels to stay in that are against trafficking and unfortunately all those hotels were full. I ended up in a hotel and later as I was going around with an undercover detective, he pointed out my hotel as a traffic hotel.
There is a group of travelers, unintentionally or not, that don’t even have knowledge or don’t know where they are going and don’t realize what they are supporting. They go out to party and don’t think about these things. As far as interconnectivity, my choices as a consumer and a traveler directly affect people in Asia.
What is your favorite meal to cook/prepare on the road?
I like making Indian curries for people. Most people can’t find the curries that I make – they aren’t done in restaurants.
TP question: Folder or crumpler?
Alright. We’ll add your vote on TP to our ongoing research analysis.
Liz Grover travels the world as a spiritual activist, specializing in sharing the voices and events of social movements through writing, film, photography, and Internet media. She is an established speaker as a voice for peace and an inspiration for others to dare to face their fears by saying yes to their destiny. She is now producing her first feature length narrative film called Scarlet Poppy.
Interested in learning what it takes to compete in one of the toughest endurance mountain bike races in the world? Want to know more about South Africa and minimalist traveling? Want to learn how to train and eat nutritiously?
Training hard since October, Absa Cape Epic is not for the faint of heart. It is the longest and most difficult team stage race in the world. 800 kilometers over 8 days of grueling and gorgeous terrain, these two were tested on the journey through the landscape of this beautiful country.
Out of 600 teams competing in the Absa Cape Epic, Josh and Jackie make up one of only 16 from the United States.
Join us as we introduce Josh, endurance rider and founder of Roam Life. Josh will share his experience of training and preparing for the 2012 Absa Cape Epic; an 8 day, 800km stage race located in South Africa. He’ll then present their journey on the road to Cape Epic, the experience of completing the biggest and longest mountain bike stage race in the world – including the frustrations, pitfalls, successes, and…overall bizarre situations that occurred during this agonizingly difficult 8 day race.
We’ll be sharing pictures, video, and stories as well as helping YOU decide on your next big adventure!
For more information or to ask questions, contact email@example.com / 914-584-8760
by Jackie Baker for Liv/giant USA on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 10:19pm ·
Recently, Liv/giant’s Marketing Manager Jackie Baker joined Giant Bicycles’ East Coast Regional Sales Manager Josh Fonner to race the 2012 Absa Cape Epic. The two, racing as the “Giant Honey Badgers,” finished one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world, but getting to the finish line wasn’t all daisies and unicorns, as Jackie explains:
You’d think that eight days of racing a mountain bike across South Africa would give a girl plenty of story ideas. Yet, here I sit, nearly two weeks after taking that final pedal stroke across the finish line of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic, and I still can’t decide on the best way to chronicle my experience.
Everyone seems to expect me to say that although the race was tough, I’d gladly go back again.
The problem is not that I don’t have material to write about: 17 days of international travel; four 10+ hour flights; seven nights of tent camping after spending an average of eight hours in the saddle each day; riding those days with a teammate that I’d ridden with about 15 total hours before arrving in South Africa—all of these facts involve specific quirky anecdotes that would be easy subject matter for an entertaining tale. The problem is that every time I approach a topic, I end up with a lengthy saga of pain and suffering. And who wants to read that?
The “Untamed African Mountain Bike Race” race covers 8 total days of dirt road and singletrack riding over and through the mountains, vineyards, and orchards of the Western Cape. Most of the Epic is an undisputed sufferfest—on and off of the bike. From camping in a tent city with 3-season tents that act as saunas in any temperature above 60 degrees (but turn into sponges at the mention of a rain cloud), to biting into what I expected to be a peanut butter sandwich only to discover that I’d chomped into a mouthfull of Marmite—on a 95-degree day after 70k the saddle, there are plenty of opportunities to tug on a reader’s heart strings, but I’m going to keep it simple.
The term “race” as it applies to the Cape Epic means different things to different participants. To the pros battling for category leader jerseys and stage wins, their competition was with each other, and to see who could complete the course and be freshly showered before their soiguers had lunch ready for them. To those of us at the middle and end of the pack, our race was against the clock. Each day after the 27km prologue, we were given a course ranging from 114 to 143km (that’s about 70-88 miles) with anywhere from 1,500 to 2,900m (5,000-9,500ft) of climbing, and usually about 10 hours to ride it. Just figuring out the difference between a mile and a kilometer was exhausting.
The problem is not that I don’t have material to write about: 17 days of international travel; four 10+ hour flights; seven nights of tent camping after spending an average of eight hours in the saddle each day; riding those days with a teammate that I’d ridden with about 15 total hours before arrving in South Africa—all of these facts involve specific quirky anecdotes that would be easy subject matter for an entertaining tale.
Still, every day seemed like an achievable task at a moderate pace, until the black holes of time started to add up. First we’d enjoy a bottlenecked hike-a-bike up a steep hill with several hundred of our fellow racers; then I’d have to pee, then Josh had to pee. Because of the lengthy saddle time, energy gels were usually not an option, so it was mandatory to stop, unwrap, and chew food. Someone flatted; someone had a shifting issue (and by someone, I mean me). The next thing we knew, we were worried that if anything at all went wrong in the final 20k, we’d overshoot the cutoff time and be eliminated from the race—meaning a year of preparation would be dedicated to watching from the sidelines while everyone else took off on the next day’s stage. No matter how badly pedaling hurt, the thought of not completing a stage always hurt more.
Everyone seems to expect me to say that although the race was tough, I’d gladly go back again. Or that I’m going to fill my summer with a series of grueling races and rides. The truth is, I’m satisfied. I am not an endurance racer. To prepare for the Epic, I meticulously followed a training program provided by Giant-Factory Off-Road’s cross country guru Kelli Emmett—without which, I would have been completely lost. I finished the race with my teammate Josh. We did it.
There were elite athletes who dropped out of the race. There were many seasoned Epic veterans who failed to cross the finish line as a team. For finishing, and for pushing through some of the toughest moments I’ve ever had on a bike, I’m extremely proud. Yet I don’t look back on the race and wish that I could relive any part of it—well, I could go back to some of the ridiculously fast descents and short-but-rewardingly-flowy singletrack sections. And there was one time that I felt really strong on a flat dirt road and pulled Josh and several other guys up to the next singletrack section (at which point I promptly exploded—but I would like revisit the few minutes prior to self-destructing). Other than that, I’m glad that my lengthy saga of pain and suffering has come to an end—and don’t hold your breath for a sequel.
Photos taken by Christine Perigen of Roam Life.
Visit http://www.facebook.com/goroamlife for more photos documenting our Epic.
Race time is EARLY. Alarm is beeping at 5:00am and all I can feel is mildew on my sleeping bag and the tightness of muscles. Usually the morning starts with, “Jackie???” and an answer of, “Yea….” then the unzipping of tents and the trudge to the port-o-john and off to breakfast. Honey Badgers don’t have time for a lot of words. They are about to head out on a 119 kilometer race day.
Breakfast starts at 5:30am in the dining marquee then bikes are retrieved from the Pragma bike wash park (click to watch the video!) and tuning/repairs are done. Cape Epic is tough on bikes. Long days, loose gravel downhill, and lopping off into the bushes to pass the slower folks (don’t ruin the roosting!!) can really ravage some of the parts on your bike. An hour later, the Honey Badgers are lining up in the starting area. It’s now only 6:30am. We won’t see the team again for another 6 hours and 45 minutes (they don’t know that yet).
The Absa Cape Epic is the most difficult, most televised, and most hyped mountain bike stage race in the world. Athletes from every competitive sport prove their toughness (or attempt to) by competing in this race. Water ski champions, mountain bike champions from all over the world, Formula 1 racers, triathlon champs, actresses, cancer survivors, you name it and they are here. The media coverage of the “Top 50 to watch” is frenzied.
Today, the Giant Honey Badgers will take on 119 kilometers and 1,650 meters of climbing (for you non-metrics, that’s over 5,400 feet of climbing).
Feeling great about completing the prologue and stage 1, Josh and Jackie head out for stage 2. After a bit of climbing (ok, a lot) and a river crossing as well as some aggressively friendly high fives from the local children in McGregor, our team crosses the finish line back into the Robertson Cape Epic Village.
A unique characteristic of Jackie and Josh: They always finish side-by-side. Cape Epic tests you personally and tests your ability to support another person on a team (and feel supported). With all honesty, this most important component of finishing Cape Epic is something that brought a cohesiveness and strength to the Giant Honey Badgers that MANY other teams struggled to maintain. These two genuinely cared that the other made it through to the end each day and got up and did it again.
If you sat down for a cup of coffee with Angel Bovee, you’d never guess that she was one of the most accomplished female boxers in the USA. With a dimpled smile, contagious laugh, and a heart of gold, Angel is one of the most unassuming national champions you’ll ever meet. Although Angel and I used to meet for the occasional beer and chat-fest, we’ve since moved far away from one another and we recently had to have our beer session via telephone. I decided to sit down and ask Angel a more formal set of questions and realized even I didn’t know all of her amazingness. She truly is an amazing and inspiring woman and is now featured in our Amazing Women Series.
Angel was an Olympic-style boxer from 1999 – 2007 and it was her dream to compete in the 2004 Olympic games, predicted to be the first time women’s boxing would be included. At the time, Angel was ranked #1 in the country and was one of only 6 athletes to represent the USA at the first two women’s world championships ever held for Olympic-style women boxers. She was captain of Team USA for the second world championships in 2002 and won national championship status. Unfortunately, even with all the hard work in promoting equality in women’s boxing, it was still not included in the 2004 summer Olympics and Angel was still unable to compete.
Angel’s award winning boxing career ended bittersweet. Due to the upper age limit of 35 in Olympic boxing, Angel had to hang up her gloves without having the chance to realize her dream as women’s boxing was still excluded from the Olympic Games. Just before her birthday in 2007, Angel chose to finish her impressive career in her own backyard by becoming the NY Golden Gloves Champion for the third time at Madison Square Garden.
Redefining her dreams, in 2006 she was voted as the only woman on the 10 member USA Boxing Board of Directors which is responsible for Olympic-style boxing in the United States. The focus and driving force behind Angel’s competitive career and now with her position on the Board, has been to try and promote women’s boxing and gender equality in sports, both in and out of the ring. She would like to see women get the same respect, training, resources, media exposure, and competition opportunities that male boxers receive and then increase these opportunities for both men and women boxers around the country.
We asked Angel to rap with us and here’s what she had to say:
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I would be a private detective. The TV detective shows always focused on the problem solving, the physical nature of it as well as the sense of adventure seemed like the perfect fit for me. Only later did I realize that really only existed on TV.
In meeting you, I’d never guess you were a champion boxer with several titles on your resume. What are people’s first responses when they find out you are a boxer?
I think that is a common response when people meet me, which just goes to show you the stereotypes involved when you hear someone is a “boxer.” I had a reporter once say to me that they had never met a boxer who smiled so much. Boxing, like other sports, defies labels as people from all walks of life are involved. ESPN recently rated 64 sports for levels of difficulty, and boxing came out as #1. This difficulty and challenge attracts a special kind of person to enter the ring.
ESPN recently rated 64 sports for levels of difficulty, and boxing came out as #1. This difficulty and challenge attracts a special kind of person to enter the ring.
There was recently a controversy about women boxers being required to wear skirts in the Olympic competition. What’s your opinion on the proposed requirement?
I think it is a huge slap in the face. A bunch of us worked so hard for years to finally be the last sport in the summer Olympic Games to get included . . .and when we finally do they say they can’t tell the men from the women so the women need to wear skirts? It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, but it shows you the kind of entrenched sexism and challenges we have had in trying to get women included in the last bastion of male dominant sports. The message they are sending is that you can’t be a woman elite athlete with an athletic body because it makes society uncomfortable.
This particular fight we fought in the press and our International Federation finally backed down and are making skirts for women optional. This is still problematic because for many countries, where women are lucky to have training facilities and boxing gear, the choice won’t be optional. They are so happy for the opportunity to compete, they will do whatever their national organizing committee will tell them to do. For example, Poland has their entire team wearing skirts. Even in our country, there is undue pressure on our athletes to wear skirts as some of the older men in power mistakenly believe it will give our athletes some type of advantage with the judges. We have done the statistics on this and proven that it’s just not true, but they don’t seem to be willing to listen. Before the 2010 World Championships, one of our athletes who was the only athlete to go on to win a gold medal, was in tears because the US male coaches wanted her to wear the skirt. That is not something an athlete should be thinking about before their world championship bout. I am embarrassed for our sport.
What’s your opinion on prize money for male vs. female boxers?
As of 2010, Olympic boxing was an amateur sport and you received no money for competition. Professional female boxers make about 3% or less of what their male counterparts do at the highest levels. I managed a three-time world champion female professional boxer. At that time she was receiving about $10,000 for a world title fight. That was before she paid her coach, cut-man, etc. She had a full-time job and also had to take a week off of work to compete so the small amount of salary was a wash. A male fighter fighting for the same title makes millions. Promoters use the excuses that women don’t sell tickets, yet they don’t put women on the cards, so they don’t have an opportunity to build fan support—it is a Catch 22 seeped in sexism. When a woman does find a way to compete on a card, you often hear fans say it was a much more interesting and entertaining fight than any of the mens’ bouts. The fighter I managed happened to box as the main event on the Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show, and that episode had the highest rating of the season. Women enter the ring for the love of their sport, NOT for the money, which inherently makes better fights!
Who handed you your first set of gloves?
I was a martial artist and kick boxer and kicking was always my strength. AT 25 years of age I decided that I better improve my hand skills so I walked into a dirty, dark, smelly boxing gym. . . looked around. . . didn’t see a single woman in the place. I picked up a pair of gloves and I never left. I fell in love with the power, strength, speed and grace of boxing.
Boxing gyms historically been a place where individuals from different ethnic and religious backgrounds could come together and work at a time in this country when that wasn’t true of society at large. Imagine my surprise when I found out that ideal didn’t hold true for a woman in the gym. Up until that point, getting in the ring was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. Years later that got replaced by trying to gain gender equality in the sport, in which the boardroom replaced the ring and became the hardest challenge I ever had faced.
You had your sights on competing (and winning) in the Olympics, 2004. How did you manage the disappointment of women’s boxing not making it there?
It was my dream and I lived every waking moment moving towards that dream. At 25 I had no business thinking I could ever be competitive enough to compete in an Olympic Games, but I really didn’t think about that. Lucikly, I grew up in a household where no one ever told me I couldn’t do something because I was female, because I was gay, because I was old. . .My parents were on welfare when I was real young and never were well off, yet they were such out-of-the-box problem solvers I never felt that we were economically different than anyone else. I grew up in an atmosphere where independence and resiliency was fostered. . .you set a goal and then work extremely hard to achieve that goal, no matter what it was. I credit my parents and being a lifetime member of the Girl Scout organization for helping to foster those skills within me. People always look at me like I am crazy when I told them I quit my job as a television producer and moved out of my apartment and moved into my Plymouth Sundance at the Poughkeepsie Train station so I could commute everyday to the famed Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn and train full-time to achieve my dream.
People always look at me like I am crazy when I told them I quit my job as a television producer and moved out of my apartment and moved into my Plymouth Sundance at the Poughkeepsie Train station so I could commute everyday to the famed Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn and train full-time to achieve my dream.
Others saw it as an incredible risk but for me it was an easy decision. Anyone can have a job for 40 years working towards the house and the white picket fence. To me, the zest of life comes not in saving for retirement, but having as many unique life experiences as I can, when I can while trying to do some good along the way. Boxing has allowed me to travel the world, and have so many experiences that I would not otherwise have.
I am fortunate enough to have been open to certain experiences and have had the extreme pleasure of having experiences like: hanging out with Billy Jean King in her box at the US Open, have taken a team of 16 and 17 year olds to compete in Ecuador, another team to Istanbul, trained in Merida, Mexico for 10 weeks in a tiny gym under the stairs of an outdoor sports stadium, managed a 3-time professional world champion boxer, spent three weeks in Toyko while participating in a pay-per-view event, lived in a Clarion hotel in Scranton, PA for a month because the women’s Team USA wasn’t yet allowed to train at the Olympic Training Center, driven- by myself, without a coach, across country numerous times to compete, assisted in opening the Boxing Resource Center a unique athletic and educational facility, in Nashville, TN, and just got to participate in an NBC shoot for boxing promos they are going to air for the Olympics. . .on and on. . .and those are the good experiences. . . it has been a wild ride!
Boxing has allowed me to travel the world, and have so many experiences that I would not otherwise have.
Boxing has been the conduit not only for me to have a platform to discuss and fight for gender equality in sports but also to be a positive example of an openly gay and out role model. It is a way to show young girls and women that you can do anything you want in this world, if you are willing to fight the good fight.
When the IOC (International Olympic Committee) denied women’s inclusion in the Olympic Games in 2004 and again in 2008, boxing became the only summer sport not to have women on its Olympic program. As you can imagine, it did not set well with me that I wasn’t allowed to compete on the worlds largest stage, not because I wasn’t good enough, but simply because I was a woman. Of course I was angry, absolutely pissed that I could work so hard and not be able to complete my dream because someone deemed boxing wasn’t appropriate for women. How dare they!
After a period of anger I realized it was my responsibility to restructure my dream and do everything within my power to not let any other young boxer be denied and have to feel what I was feeling. So I got elected to the Board of Directors of USA Boxing in 2006. I served as the only woman on the board from 2006-2010. And boy I thought boxing was hard! Serving on the board, up until today, has been the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none. The sexism that exists at the top level of sport organizations is so deeply entrenched that it becomes very difficult to convince people that have been allowed to think a certain way for so many years without challenge, to change their way of thinking to be inclusive. They see it as a personal affront to their power. Being on the Board I have learned things I never was interested in learning—how to play politics, how to pick your fights, what issues exist that you simply can’t compromise on and have to fight to the end even when it takes a large personal toll.
I am still on the Board today and I am happy to report that in 2012 you will see the inclusion, although on a limited basis, of women’s boxing in the Olympic Games, making this the VERY FIRST Olympic Games that will include men and women in all sports. We still have work to do to gain equality in the number of weight classes and number of female athlete slots in the Olympic Games, but we have broken through the glass ceiling.
Just in the past month, women’s boxing has been on NPR, NY Times, BBC, the View, NBC Nightly News, and almost every national news outlet there is, including a full spread in this weeks TIME magazine. When is the last time you saw a men’s Olympic boxing story in one of these outlets? We kept telling them this would happen but they refused to listen. I will be in London to witness this historic first and hopefully close the chapter of that part of my life.
What was your biggest challenge as a professional boxer?
Boxing is not all you do. You’ve had a career in television as well as an advanced degree in Recreation Management. What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
The worst jobs I have ever had were working in the dish room at the dining hall in college, delivering Auto Trader magazines to gas stations around Albany, NY, handing out towels and keys in an exclusive health club at 5am in the morning, and being a certified pool operator for another health club which involved lots of chemicals and manually draining and scrubbing the hell out of the 12 person hot-tub every week so I could have enough hours to get health insurance.
You’ve definitely influenced women’s boxing and the advancement of the sport. What has been your most valued accomplishment?
Besides being a part of getting women’s boxing included in the Olympic Games, I think representing athlete rights on the Board of Directors has been one of my biggest accomplishments.
How have you seen boxing positively impact women from other countries?
It is amazing that countries like Afghanistan, Syria, China, India, and Egypt have established women’s boxing programs. What we are doing goes so much further than just a sport. These woman are changing the social norms of a culture. That is so powerful. Last month I attended the IOC’s 5th annual Women in Sports Conference where 800 delegates from all over the world attended. To hear their stories of struggle were not only empowering, but you start to realize that you are simply one spoke in a wheel of social change in the world and you are not alone. I have visionary sisters fighting all over the world. While I often find myself extremely impatient for this change, it is happening, while albeit slowly, and that keeps me going!
Women’s boxing has gotten some great media coverage since entering the Olympic arena. Tell us how the Olympic battle was won.
The battle was won by all of us standing on the shoulders of the pioneers that came before us. In my sphere of influence, it was a group of women that have been fighting since 1995 for this to happen. I am proud to be a part of this group which includes volunteers from around the world that have been working without pay and without recognition and with numerous roadblocks from our own boxing organizations. Women’s boxing appeared in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics and it has taken 108 years to appear again.
I am so proud to announce that one of the leaders of our group and one of the hardest working women I know, was recently recognized by the US Olympic Committee and selected as this years winner of the prestigious Olympic Torch Awards. This Award has been won by President Gerald Ford, Bonnie Blair and other incredible individuals that have contributed to the Olympic movement. As she was recognized by this prestigious award in a dinner hosted by NBC’s Bob Costas, our own organization, USA Boxing, didn’t even acknowledge the achievement, so you can see the types of sexism and challenges we still face.
RYS has a foundation in self-advocacy. Explain what self-advocacy is to you and why it’s been an important part of your career.
If I didn’t learn how to be a self-advocate I would have never made it out of the local boxing gym. To move towards my dreams, I had to learn so many skills other than boxing. I learned early on that when you have a dream, it is contagious. If you believe in yourself and that comes across in your body language and your passion, other people flock to you like a moth to a light. I am not sure why that is, but excitement and passion are contagious.
Self –advocacy was crucial to my success. Olympic boxing is an amateur sport and you receive no money for competing. You have to fund all your own travel and training fees. I often call my time in boxing my first master’s degree. I had to learn how to do graphic design and photography so I could create press kits, a website, publicity photos, and marketing materials to promote myself. I had to learn about sports performance so I could open my own personal training business to help fund all of my competitive travel as well as make sure I was optimizing my training time. I had to learn how to fundraise and how to talk to potential sponsors and to the press, not only promote myself and women’s boxing but to also promote women’s equality in sports. I was fortunate that these skills that I learned as well as the contagious nature of a dream kept me in the press and helped me gain many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I simply just “boxed” and didn’t learn these other skills. You can be modest and still live your life very openly, very truthfully, and the simple sharing of your experiences can help other in unexpected ways.
For instance, when PBS “In the Life” did a documentary on my partner at the time and myself, we got so many e-mails after it aired about the importance of being out gay role models. So many people that watched the documentary contacted us to say that we really inspired them to come out and live open and honestly and the sense of empowerment that that gave them. We were just living the way we knew how to live. I never knew I would have that kind of voice as a boxer. So you really can influence people in unexpected ways simply by honestly sharing your life experiences—the good and the bad.
Important question: TP, do you crumple or fold?
Crumple-I have no time for folding. I don’t fold my underwear, handwraps, or socks either!
What’s the future look like for Angel Bovee?
I just started a new job working for Adecco and the US Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs administering the Team USA Career Program. I place Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls in part-time jobs that are flexible with their travel and training schedules so they can gain some career experience to help not only fund their Olympic and Paralympic dreams but also help with their transition out of sport. Even thought I have a master’s degree and experience representing athletes, I have no HR experience and I got the job primarily because I was an elite athlete myself. Never in a million years would I have guessed my boxing experiences would have lead to a job. That makes me chuckle.
I hope my future is one of great life experiences.
Money has never been a driving force in my life so that leaves me open to all sorts of non-traditional experiences. I have also chosen to minimize fear in my life. We only have so many minutes on this Earth, I don’t want to spend any of my minutes being afraid—afraid of being judged and hated, afraid of not having a 401K, afraid of picking up and starting over in a new location . . .I do plan on trying to simply and get some projects off my plate. I am learning the difficult lesson of just because you can make a difference doesn’t mean you say “yes” to every project that comes along. I want to finish the multitude of projects I have on my plate and spend a little more time on myself and spend time strengthening the relationships in my life.
You’ve chosen “fighting” to create a sense of identity and a sense of empowerment within yourself. Discuss.
I guess I was born a fighter. Fights inside the ring are unique because at the end of the day, you are in there competing against yourself. Can you be faster, stronger and more skillful than the last time you stepped through the ropes? That is thrilling to me!
If we all had equality and were afforded the same opportunities and civil rights, I guess none of us would feel the need to fight. My biggest fights have occurred outside the ring and I really don’t enjoy the process, but just like in boxing, knowing you can make a difference and learning from the fight makes you more effective the next time. As you learn to become effective, your sense of responsibility increases. I am continually surprised why people and organizations don’t just do something because it is the right thing to do. That guiding light should be brighter than economics, personal politics, fear, or anything else that typically is used in making decisions within organizations. Things that seem so simple to me sometimes end up being my biggest fights.
Angel Bovee was an Olympic-style boxer from 1999 – 2007 and holds multiple and impressive titles from her career. She is heavily involved in women’s Olympic boxing in the USA and still sits on the US Olympic Boxing Board of Directors. For more information or to contact Angel, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.