Celebrating 10 Years of One Hood Unity

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Friendly faces smile widely at the camera, as each teen holds up one finger — a symbol of One Hood unity. They pose for their family members and friends who are taking pictures to immortalize the moment and feeling. Young people from the Villa Park neighborhood joke with others from Cathedral. A Villa Victoria boy walks around and embraces one of his friends.

However, this peaceful and joyful reunion wasn’t always like this, different Boston neighborhoods have engaged in violent aggression for years, but on this day the whole community came together to celebrate 10 years of peace. This is the result of a special program: One Hood Peace Basketball League, a multiagency partnership between IBA, the BCYF Blackstone Community Center, and Division D4 of the Boston Police Department.

Lining the walls are pictures that span across years of programming which has provided an alternative to violence. A player for the past three years, Dezmin Díaz, spots familiar faces in the oldest photographs. “I just saw a picture that’s on display from ten years ago, and it amazes me because there are coaches that used to be players back in the day,” he says. “There are also former players that still come to watch our games.”

Dezmin Diaz next to his favorite picture in the exhibit.

Dezmin Diaz next to his favorite picture in the exhibit.

This league has proved to have the power of bringing people together and fighting harmful stereotypes. “When people think about the word ‘hood’ it has a negative connotation. Although we live in a poor neighborhood, our reality is not always negative, there’s also something beautiful within that crack,” says Díaz. “And when we come together it’s not just for basketball it’s also to communicate and for entertainment. If there is ever any tension, it’s always left on the court, rather than with guns, knives, or even physical altercations.”

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The league’s success is seeping into the communtiy and people are taking notice. Officer Miguel Montalvo, or as he’s better known around Villa Victoria, Officer Friendly, wishes this initiative was a reality for some of the other sites he has worked in. “I’ve never seen an organization trying to give so much back to their community — and to youth,” he says. “I’ve seen the results of One Hood in action. I’ve seen a lot of kids promoting this themselves, and I’ve met a couple of these guys playing basketball; they love it.”

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Officer Friendly and colleague during opening night of One Hood 10 Year Celebration

On the surface, One Hood Peace Basketball League might appear to be a recreational sporting activity for neighborhood teens, but it is far more than that. The first girl to every play for One Hood, Raeonah Willis-Miles, has found a supportive family through her teammates and coaches. After the loss of her cousin to violence the league stepped up. “Leaders and coaches make sure you’re ok outside of basketball, my cousin used to play for the league, One Hood knew we had to stay strong for him, he was a strong person.”

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Raeonah Willis-Miles during opening night of One Hood 10 Year Celebration

All One Hood players, leaders, and coaches want to continue to see growth for the league. Díaz hopes it will become national someday. “I would want it to be in different states, not just local, but possibly even national,” he says. “The reason I say that is because a lot of people express themselves through violence, but they can also express themselves in different manners and basketball can be one way.”

The One Hood Peace Basketball League Retrospective is currently on display and open to the public. Stop by to show your support for the league and our remarkable youth.

La Galería: 85 W. Newton St, Boston MA. Open to the public from 1 pm to 5 pm Thursdays and Fridays.

Help support the One Hood Peace Basketball League and consider contributing to the expansion of our program, no amount is too small. Donate here.

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