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    28-year-old David Johnson and 17-year-old Abriel Harris focus on Amaris Harris, 16, while she demonstrates her combination punches. Amaris has been attending the boxing program with her father since he started it. Photo by Bruce dePyssler/ Campus Echo Advisor

The School of Hard Knocks Rocks


It was a cold, rainy night when David Johnson wandered into The School of Hard Knocks.

Twenty-eight-year old Johnson is a Durham resident currently staying at the Durham rescue mission.

“I was just wandering by when I seen the lights on,” Johnson said, “It’s my first time here but I’ll be back.”

He spent two hours learning the basic of boxing taught by Bishop Arnold Harris with the help of his three daughters.

The School of Hard Knocks is a storefront gym located at 951 East Main Street in East Durham.

Harris opened the gym about two years ago next door to his church God First, People Second, in hopes of giving the community something new to do.

He says, “The idea is to save lives, make a difference.”

David Johnson, 28, concentrates on his form while preparing for combination punches with Bishop Arnold Harris. Bishop Harris helps David with words of encouragement. Photo by Bruce dePyssler/ Campus Echo Advisor
David Johnson, 28, concentrates on his form while preparing for combination punches with Bishop Arnold Harris. Photo by Bruce dePyssler/ Campus Echo Advisor

The School of Hard Knocks is open for all ages and is free with no membership needed.

The gym is usually open seven days a week depending on his schedule.

To pull people in, Harris places a large sign outside that says “Boxing club FREE Ages 12 To 30”.

The boxing program is offered from 6 pm to 8 pm everyday. He also offers personal training, taekwondo, and general workouts.

He describes his philosophy as, “Consult through training.”

The boxing programs allows him to talk one on one with a person about issues they’re dealing with while learning techniques, skills, and discipline.

In the gym, you can feel the enjoyment and high energy, but you can also tell how serious everyone is about the boxing program.

Harris’s three daughters Amaris, Abriel, and Annelise also attend the boxing program.

The youngest of the three, Annelise, aka “Baby Hulk” is 14 and loves boxing.

“I get to hit stuff and let out energy,” Abriel says, “Working out is the only drug I’ll ever need”.

They join their father at the gym as much as possible to workout and train and to also help.

Harris is passionate about the gym, “Everything you see I paid for out of pocket from the heat to the equipment.”

The gym has a wide range of workout equipment from weight benches, bikes, treadmills, mini trampolines, and weight machines.

Harris decided on a gym rather than other activities because, “I’ve always been a super athlete,” and “I love to give back.”

He hopes to soon renovate the gym by receiving more donations and help from the community.

“Hopefully I can get some interns so that the gym can be running seven days a week all day.”

He also hopes to start a GED program to further help educate the community.

To schedule any personal workout sessions, to see if the gym is open, or donate to The School of Hard knocks a person can call Bishop Arnold Harris at 919-638-0469 or stop in.

The gym is also building a website that will have additional information on the programs it offers.

Story by Ebony Sain. 
This story first appeared in the Durham VOICE, a community newspaper produced by NCCU and UNC-Chapel Hill journalism students.


The Campus Echo is the official student newspaper of N.C. Central University, an HBCU in Durham with about 8,250 students. The Campus Echo is one of the most highly recognized HBCU student newspapers in the nation. In the last 15 years our print and online editions have won over 250 national and regional awards from the Black College Communication Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press and the North Carolina College Media Association.

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