It was an honor to see NBA Legend Isiah Thomas, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Quentin Richardson come together on Saturday, September 22nd to promote peace and brotherhood at St. Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham community on Chicago's South Side. The majority of homicides and shootings in Chicago are likely directly related to the fact that many young people do not know how to work out situations without the use of violence. Just as these basketball players may have been former foes on the court, they showed the youth that what's more important is coming together in peace and unity. The youth, who represented four different factions from the Auburn Gresham community, headed the message and came together to participate in the Basketball Tournament for Peace. After the game, the young men got a chance to break bread with the NBA Players and each other.
There was plenty of positive dialogue between the young men and the NBA Players and one could visibly see the respect that the young men had for the players. This event served as a good example of how professional athletes can help bring young people together and begin the process of bridging the gap between the different groups of warring young men. Many of the youth in attendance would probably try to fight or shoot at one another if they encountered each other on the streets. This all-inclusive community event is where everything starts when it comes to changing mindsets and behaviors associated with violence.
Most of the young men come from tough communities and violence is viewed as a way of life or another subculture. The young men got a chance to take their minds off of the violence in their community and discuss some of the issues related to the peace process. Now, the young men in attendance can become messengers of peace and goodwill in their respective communities. Everybody needs a boost sometimes and the NBA Players helped to provide a much needed boost of positivity for the young men from the Auburn Gresham community.
Now it's all about follow up and holding the young men accountable for their actions. The young men should be inspired by the fact that the NBA Players took time out of their busy schedules to help promote peace; and now they should return the favor by promoting peace in their own neighborhoods. Good deeds should not go unreturned. The NBA Players did their job and now the young men have an uphill battle to convince their peers that the violence should stop right now. This would be the best possible outcome from the Basketball Tournament for Peace.
Chicago is on pace to reach a chilling 500 homicides this year; as such, we have to become very diligent in our efforts to help stem the tide of violence that continues to plague certain communities. The NBA Players kept their word by being present for these young men, and now it's their turn -- and all of ours -- to take the message of peace to the streets.