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Building bridges with street basketball

The B-Ball on the Block and Block Arte program in Little Village, a summer series of basketball, art and food, kicked off its second session on June 23 with a hip-hop performance of the LV B-Block dancers, then moved into a series of fiercely competitive basketball games for local youth ages eight to 18.

Photo: Sarahmaria Gomez

Kids gather around the water coolers for refreshment.

The second Friday-night gathering of this 11-week series attracted more than 150 children and adults to the corner of 32nd and Komensky, where the air was filled with the shouts of excited players and the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled by program co-sponsor CeaseFire. View an audio slideshow of B-Ball on the Block.

When the eight-year-olds took to the court, on a street blocked off by police and local parents, they were as intense and proud as the older players, running hard between the portable hoops and scoring upwards of 25 points in a short, 20-minute game.

Mostly organized through local schools, the youth dreamed up creative team names including “Phenom Ballerz,” “Little Magics” and “Comets.” 

Tough territory

“The event isn’t just for kids to have fun,” said Jaime De Leon, New Communities Program (NCP) director for the Little Village Community Development Corp. (LVCDC), which organized the series. “It also gives kids something to do on a Friday night when it gets to be pretty dangerous.”

 ? hspace=Keeping kids away from gang activity was just one motivation behind mounting the summer series. The activity also promotes healthy activity, a theme reinforced by the presence of Mt. Sinai Hospital and Lawndale Christian Health Center, which offered free blood-sugar screenings and other health services.

The series also builds bridges across neighborhood and racial gaps and helps establish an understanding among people who may not necessarily interact on a regular day basis, said Cesar Nuñez, Little Village’s NCP organizer.

With the streets full of people (and local police), "it becomes a safe place,” Nuñez says, “and brings together kids from the east side (of Little Village), kids from the west side, kids from North Lawndale, and creates a community.”

Goal: 20 teams

LVCDC’s goal is to establish 20 registered teams, six teams ages 8-10, six teams ages 11-14, and eight teams ages 15-18, with approximately eight kids in each team, bringing total participation to 160 kids. Pick-up games after the regularly scheduled games are also offered for those who have not registered.

Photo: Sarahmaria Gomez

Teams participated from all over Little Village and neighboring North Lawndale.

Financial support for the summer series was provided by Second Federal Savings and LISC/Chicago. Also supporting the program are Ald. Ricardo Muñoz; 10th District Police; CeaseFire; Little Village Chamber of Commerce; the Dr. Jorge Prieto Health Center; and the YMCA Street Intervention Program, which crossed gang boundaries to pick up kids who otherwise might not have participated.

The series runs from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday at locations around the community:

6/30/2006 - 26th and Springfield

7/7/2006 - 22nd & Kildare

7/14/2006 - 25th & Ridgeway

7/21/2006 - 25th & Christiana

7/28/2006 - 28th & Komensky

8/4/2006 - 23rd & Christiana

8/11/2006 - 31st & Hamlin

8/18/2006 - 24th & Avers

8/25/2006 – To be announced

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Crime/safety, Parks/Recreation, Youth , Block clubs

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