One Hood: Police & Youth Play For a Stronger Future

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Music filled the South End neighborhood surrounding the Blackstone Community Center last Friday night. Community members mingled with one another – children and adults alike had their faces painted, everyone enjoyed hot dogs and sweet swirls of cotton candy, people danced, teenagers joked with their coaches, but what was most noticeable were the smiles on everyone’s faces. It felt like a block party was in full swing, but what really brought all these people together was the One Hood Peace Basketball League.

The All Star vs. BPD game 'tips off' (Photo by Kyra Constam).

The All Star vs. BPD game ‘tips off’ (Photo by Kyra Constam).

This year’s All-Star game, in which the youth team went head to head with the Boston Police Department (BPD), was a total success. Many came to cheer on the players in what was a close game; ending in an intense overtime where the All Stars took the victory over BPD with a final score of 66-62!

For a lot of program participants, One Hood isn’t just about the game, it’s about something much bigger.

Jozef, a One Hood player for six years said, “It’s all about family and brotherhood.”

“I think this is a good tournament for kids to stay off the streets, and actually do something and stay active instead of getting in trouble,” said Vaughn Skinner, a second-year player.

“Community is what it’s all about,” Sgt. Lucas Taxter said.

Joseph Haddad, or Coach Joe, said, “It’s about the kids. Working with them… keeping them out of trouble… telling them education is more important than anything else. And then, seeing these kids go off into the world and realizing their futures.”

Vaughn Skinner smiles for the camera after his interview (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Vaughn Skinner  (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Each person defines One Hood a little differently; but looking around at all the players, coaches, and fans, from a variety of Boston neighborhoods and a range of ages, you saw hugging, teasing, dancing, and laughing on Friday night. Players informed us how the game is not only keeping them in shape and helping them enjoy their summers but how it is introducing them to new friends they might not have met otherwise.

Skinner told us, “I’ve made a lot of friends. I’m basically friends with everybody on every team.”

Jozef agreed, “I’ve made a lot of friends. There’s one [player] I met, his name’s Richard and he plays on the opposite team – he plays on Black, I play on Red – and me and him met 4 years ago and we became very good friends. We hang out almost every-other-day.”

Jozef and Richard stop for a picture during warmups (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Jozef and Richard stop for a picture during warmups (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Boston Police Officers not only played in the game, but others came to cheer on both teams while handing out ice cream to those in attendance. Sgt. Taxter shared his appreciation for the event, “As law enforcement, we usually see people at their worst, so it’s really good to be able to interact with people on a good and friendly basis.”

IBA is proud to pioneer this program, and we’ve been able to grow the interest of teens throughout Boston. Even as we’ve expanded the program there’s still a wait list forming with youth hoping to join the league. We’re setting the stage for the youth of our community and creating lifelong memories in the process.

Coach Joe described the ultimate reward of the program, “Seeing these kids play hard and give it all they’ve got; then they go to college and call me saying, ‘Thank you, Coach, for doing what you did, it kept me out of trouble and you kept me in the game.’”

Coach Jamory Lewis jokes with his players on the sideline (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Coach Jamory Lewis jokes with his players on the sideline (Photo by Kyra Constam).

Jamory Lewis, a first-year coach but a One Hood veteran who participated as a player for five years, gave encouraging words to those skeptical of joining the One Hood League, “I would say there are kids from all over Boston, from a bunch of different neighborhoods; don’t let that intimidate you. This is a safe zone and don’t knock it ‘til you try it.”

It’s been a great decade, giving healthy alternatives to our youth and investing our efforts in their futures. Help support the One Hood Peace Basketball League for years to come and consider contributing to the expansion of our program, no amount is too small. Donate here.

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