Uniting South End and Lower Roxbury teenagers since 2007, the One Hood Youth Peace Basketball League recruits players from rival neighborhoods that share a history of conflict. In 2009, league organizers began using a new strategy to defuse the tension: placing teens from different neighborhoods on the same team. Now, kids from the Cathedral housing development play with kids from Villa Victoria. Teens from Lenox Street shoot hoops with teens from Castle Square Apartments, racing across a court as they shoot balls instead of bullets.
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 one of the league participants. “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.”
The league is mostly made up of boys, though some girls play. Once a summer, adults can join in: a team of all-star athletes from the One Hood League will take on their coaches and scorekeepers Wednesday, after playing a game against the Boston police gang unit.
Daniel Mulhern, director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety Initiatives, said: “efforts like the One Hood League need to be valued.”
“If we continue to do this [program], we will have a positive impact on this neighborhood and other neighborhoods across the city,” said Mulhern, who is a former chief of the gang unit at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. “It’s very difficult for a young person to harm another young person when we remove the anonymity between them. ”
The program recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
This is just one example of the many innovative programs created in the Blackstone Community that the Activist Lab is proud to help sponsor.