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Hot town enjoys Hoops, markets, festivals

Summer in the city has meant no shortage of outdoor activities in NCP neighborhoods, ranging from the annual B-Ball on the Block/Hoops in the Hood basketball leagues, to a blooming array of farmers markets, to street festivals of all varieties.

The B-Ball/Hoops program, which combines basketball for youth, arts activities, health screenings, and a police presence to ensure the peace is kept, has tipped off in nine neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham, Back of the Yards, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale, Pilsen and West Haven. (More on farmers markets and street fests here.)

Photo: Juan Francisco Hernandez

A happy hoopster sports a smile wider than the 3-point arc.

NCP lead agencies Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp., Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., Enlace Chicago, Lawndale Christian Development Corp., The Resurrection Project, Teamwork Englewood, and Near West Side CDC are managing or co-managing their leagues. GADC is paired with In the Paint, Teamwork Englewood is working with Safety Nets, and Enlace is holding court alongside Beyond the Ball.

Other lead agencies include Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield, and Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council in one of the non-NCP neighborhoods participating in the league. In addition, LISC/Chicago has given a small grant to an organization called Men In Action that’s started a league as part of its Bridging the Gap program in Cabrini Green, says Keri Blackwell, NCP program officer.

Little Village once again kicked off its league during the June 12 Healing the Hood street festival and has once again paired B-Ball with Soccer on the Street, while North Lawndale first hit the streets June 26 during the Hip-Hop Youth Summit. Most of the neighborhoods are holding court on Fridays, although Auburn Gresham and West Haven are holding contests on various days throughout the week, while North Lawndale’s events are on Thursdays.

North Lawndale Starts the Rotation
Back of the Yards, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale and Pilsen are rotating to different blocks each week, while the other communities have set locations. North Lawndale has taken its league outside and is rotating it to different blocks for the first time this year, Blackwell says.

Photo: Juan Francisco Hernandez

As evening turns to night, thumps, grunts and swishes continue.

“They’re so pumped about it. They’re so excited to make this leap,” she says, adding that the program’s public safety aspect has already become obvious. A shooting occurred the night before one of the dates and three shootings occurred the night afterward on the location of the tournament. But on the Thursday night when hoops were played, organizers asked a group of men hanging out on the corner to move on.

“It has become an important tool to not only engage kids but to calm the violence,” Blackwell says. “We’re getting people out of their houses and getting their eyes on the street.”

The five-week league has traveled to the West Side Association for Community Action, which has a playlot on 19th and Drake just off Ogden; Henson Elementary School, 1326 S. Drake; Blessed Sacrament Church, 3528 S. Hermitage; and Mason Mathematics & Science Academy, 1830 S. Keeler St. The league wrapped up Aug. 5 at the 10th District Police Station, 3315 W. Odgen Ave.

“It’s a big party,” says Tracie Worthy, NCP director for LCDC, which has partnered with the aforementioned host organizations as well as CAPS, block clubs and other agencies. “It’s focused on ages 8 to 14. We’ve gotten a lot of parent participation. We’ve played outside for the most part.”

More than 100 kids have registered, and at last week’s event, only 10 were coming out for the first time. “It means the kids are following the games,” Worthy says. “They come with their parents. The community comes out and supports them. On a block that may have issues or trouble on it, during the time we’re there, we have a really great time. We haven’t had any problems at all.” 

Photo: Juan Francisco Hernandez

This young man clearly worked hard for his trophies during the 2007 Hoops finals..

Bickerdike has spread the logistical work by engaging partner organizations in Humboldt Park to take the lead each week, Blackwell says. “They reached out and asked if partner organizations would adopt a block. It gets more organizations engaged in the program and alleviates some of the logistical pressure for Bickerdike itself – which is a creative way to further engage the community and sustain the program.”

The organizations involved in this Adopt-A-Block program include: Safety NetWorks, La Casa Norte, Barreto Boys and Girls Club, Association House of Chicago, Ryerson Elementary School and Chicago Commons. Bickerdike’s organizing staff handled one week’s event.

“Those particular agencies shared in some of the responsibilities in recruiting the youth and participating in the overall day itself, as far as the hot dogs, dispersing the T-shirts, refereeing the games,” adds Keith Muhammad, NCP outreach worker.

West Haven Promotes Education
West Haven’s league moved to Malcolm X College this summer, which has provided the opportunity to showcase one of the area’s continuing education institutions for the benefit of students and spectators alike, says Oji Eggleston, director of youth programs at Near West Side CDC.

“It gives us an opportunity to promote education as a part of sports, which is a big component of what we do. As always, the sports is the carrot to provide all these life skills,” Eggleston says. “For the spectators, promote the GED program for continuing education, and the variety of classes and programs that Malcolm X has to allow the spectators to improve their lives.”

Photo: Juan Francisco Hernandez

In addition to the hoops itself, Hoops in the Hood brings together art activities -- which these girls clearly enjoyed -- public health information, and a public safety presence.

The broad reach of the league allows athletes from different parts of the area to become acquainted and get beyond school or geographic boundaries, he says. “That’s no longer ‘that person from south of Madison,’ or ‘that person from north of Madison,’ but, ‘that’s a person I played against in a basketball tournament and had the opportunity to get to know,’ ” Eggleston says.

Englewood’s league, which runs from 5 p.m. through 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, began July 15 at Ogden Park, 65th and Racine. The league is shifting to Englewood High School, 6201 S. Stewart Ave., and will run through Sept. 3.

The 2010 season is dedicated to a 14-year-old boy who played in the league last season and was shot to death in gang crossfire, says Darryl Bell, NCP community outreach worker for Teamwork Englewood. “He was one of the quiet ones,” Bell says.

For the full B-Ball/Hoops schedule, with times, dates and places for the all the other neighborhoods besides Englewood, please click here.

To read on about farmers markets and street festivals in summer 2010, please click here.

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