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Monique ‘Hollywood’ Holder: a star on every field

Jimmy Myers
Monique ‘Hollywood’ Holder: a star on every field
Holder during her days with the Mass Mutiny football team. COURTESY PHOTO

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When you hear the name “Hollywood,” you immediately think of movie stars and the glitz and the glamour of the silver screen — a land of make-believe that sometimes channels truth into the stories it produces.

In the case of women’s football standout Rumunda Monique Holder, who grew up in Boston’s Mission Hill, the adopted “Hollywood” moniker describes a woman who has starred on every stage she has mounted, from the fields of athletic endeavor to the battlefields of the Persian Gulf.

Asked about her nickname, the Boston Latin School alum said, “It came from me always wanting to put on a show for anyone who watched me perform.”

Holder on patrol in the Persian Gulf. COURTESY PHOTO

For Holder, the show began as an outstanding Little League athlete, widely considered the best player in her Roxbury neighborhood. It extended through her six-year military career, playing softball and basketball for Army teams when she wasn’t saving lives and winning medals as a medical specialist in the Gulf War.

And it continued for the two-time Bronze Star-winner through the University of Massachusetts Boston and in an outstanding 13-year career in women’s tackle football with the New England Storm, Mass Mutiny and Boston Militia teams.

The swift 5-foot-4 star, whose football hero is New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater, made a lasting mark on the gridiron as a cornerback, safety and special teams player, one of the best open-field tacklers in the game. She also founded the Boston Women’s Flag Football League, became the first female football official of color within the Association of Independent Officials and still teaches the game and competes on flag teams. All while holding down a full-time job with the Department of Defense.

To Holder, football “is the only thing in life that challenges me. The success and failure elements of the game are compelling, but I am driven to succeed regardless of the obstacles,” she said. “Win or lose, football teaches you discipline, teamwork and camaraderie.”

Coaching for the Boston Militia women’s football team. COURTESY PHOTO

That competitive nature flourished under the care of her parents, Pearl and Franklin Holder, who raised their four children on Mission Hill.

Pearl Holder was the second Black woman named to the Massachusetts Parole Board. Franklin Holder, a native of Liberia who worked for 30 years as a design engineer for Polaroid, is nicknamed “The Quiet Storm” for his imposing presence.

“He got that title because when he speaks, which isn’t too often, his words shake you to your core,” said Hollywood Holder.

The Holders were the first Black Family to move onto St. Alphonsus Street at the top of Mission Hill in the 1980s, a time when families of color lived in the Mission projects but were not welcome higher up on the Roxbury promontory.

“I remember the police being outside of our house on a daily basis — possibly thinking that we would not stay,” recalled Pearl. “That thinking was incorrect. We got to know the people of the neighborhood and were treated very well during our stay.”

Franklin Jr., their oldest child, created and currently operates “The Humor Mill,” a digital urban comedy website, and launched “The Black Comedy Awards” in Hollywood.

Pearl recognized her daughter Rumunda’s talents from the start. “She was the best player in little league baseball but was denied the top trophy, which was given to a boy. They wanted to give her a smaller trophy. We left the awards banquet as a protest. Rumunda Monique was hurt, because she knew she was better than all the boys. But as my husband and I always taught our children to never back down from a challenge — especially when you know you are right.”

The Holder family COURTESY PHOTO

Delayed justice came years later in a formal apology from then-state Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald, who ran the Little League program.

Their daughter’s subsequent athletic accomplishments came as no surprise to the family, but Pearl remains unimpressed with the nickname.

“I named her Rumunda Monique Holder. I don’t know who this ‘Hollywood’ character is. I call her Rumunda, her first name, when upset or confused by her, which is a rare occurrence. We have discussed the Hollywood thing, and she knows my feelings,” she said.

So does Hollywood Holder ever expect a call from Tinseltown to make a movie about her remarkable life?

She shrugs.

“I do what I do to bring honor to my family name and the heroes — my mother and father — who raised me right,” she says.

Boston Militia, Boston Women’s Flag Football Leagu, Mass Mutiny, Monique Holder, New England Storm, women's football