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One Hood vs. BPD: Playing For Community

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On a warm afternoon this past Friday, the Blackstone Community Center came to life as the One Hood All-Stars trickled onto their home court. Hip-Hop music underscored the excitement as players greeted each other with high fives and began to warm up. It’s hard to believe there was a time when these kids didn’t get along. Members of the Boston Police Department (BPD) showed up shortly after, out of uniform and ready to make a comeback after last year’s loss. One Hood players and community members alike embrace officers, circling around their bench to catch up.

Ajhalae, 17 year-old All-Star and 4-year One Hood player, says, “I just love how everybody’s different, coming from different places, and we just get to play together and have fun.”

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“Watching the kids come together to play as a team is the best part for me,” says Angel Lopez, One Hood Commissioner, explaining that he created the league to facilitate peace across neighborhoods when conflicts  caused distrust between the different communities.

The Boston Police Department became involved with the One Hood tournament to figure out ways for kids to get to know them “outside of conventional relationships.”

Daniel Mulhearn, Director of Public Safety and former Chief of Boston’s Gang Unit, says the program, “immediately broke down barriers between law enforcement and young people in the neighborhood.”

Even kids who weren’t playing in the game showed up to support the All-Stars, cheering and dancing on the sidelines. People would swarm the court during breaks between periods to sneak in a few free throws or chat with the officers.

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The All-Stars held a close lead until the final quarter, when the BPD scored and won by just three points in the final minute of the game. The competition was fierce, but that didn’t stop All-Stars from lending a hand to an officer who took a spill on the court. That sense of community is what One Hood is all about. Despite how close the game was, no one could recall the final score—winning or losing wasn’t as important as having fun.

“During a time where there have been a lot of challenges with police and community relations, it’s really been a different baseline for everyone involved,” Mulhearn says.

The BPD has also made internship opportunities and employment opportunities available to many One Hood participants, which is a perfect example of how games like this one continue to have a positive effect on the community.

“I wouldn’t be hesitant to join,” says Ajhalae. “They accept everyone. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what race you are…they want you to get better and keep playing in the league. It’s a good environment.”

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As the All-Stars and the officers pack up their things and go off to grab some well-deserved ice cream from The Dream Support Network. Mulhearn remarks, “it’s the conversations that take place before and after that have really taught us a lot about our obligations to young people and I think it gives those young people an opportunity to connect with us on a much more human level.”

The One Hood Basketball League is essential to keeping this community together. To help support these games and the relationships that come from them, please consider contributing—no amount is too small.

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