By Seth Daniel
The unique and critical summer basketball league that unites several areas of the South End that aren’t always friendly towards one another is ready to kick off its 11th year – and all indications are that the league is continuing to grow.
One Hood basketball league is a cooperative effort between the IBA Youth Programs, Blackstone Community Center and Boston Police D-4. It was born 11 years ago, in 2006, when turf violence between varying contingencies in the neighborhood began to spark serious problems. Young people from Villa Victoria weren’t mixing with Cathedral kids, and Lenox kids weren’t coming together with Mandela youth – and vice versa.
Blackstone Community Center courts were seen as neutral territory, so the league began there and hosts youth age 13-19 for six weeks of games twice a week.
“In fact, when we started the League, the purpose was to bring young people together from different parts of the South End and Lower Roxbury,” said Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, CEO of IBA. “At the time, there had been a concerning spike in violence in the South End. IBA raised money to hire a youth advocate…Part of that was the Blackstone was seen as neutral territory for young people to come from all of the other areas of the neighborhood. We got the people involved and did it at the Blackstone.”
Mayan Tamang – now a youth outreach worker for D-4 – was the long-time commissioner of the One Hood. Now, he said, the new commissioner is Angel Lopez, but Tamang still helps to coordinate it all.
“It’s a very, very important League for the neighborhood because there’s one neighborhood and we’re working together to be one. If I’m from Cathedral and one is from Villa Victoria or some is from Lenox or from 1855 (Mandela Homes) – it doesn’t matter here. We’re all about One Hood. It’s though this basketball league we do it, but it’s really about getting these young people together. It’s a very central point of the program.”
On Weds., July 12, the League draft will take place at 5 p.m., with six teams being formed. That’s up from the long-time number of four teams, and things are growing. At 6:30 p.m. on July 12, after the draft, the first game will tip off.
It will mark a fantastic point for summer peace on the streets, Calderon-Rosado said.
“It’s show great results and I believe it’s contributed – one thing among many – to keeping violence in the neighborhood from spiking in the summer,” she said. “It engages young people. It’s not, ‘You’re from Cathedral and I’m from Villa Victoria,’ or ‘You’re from Lenox and I’m from Mandela.’ These are ballers. They love basketball. It helps to get them talking to one another.”
This year, as part of a pilot program, the One Hood has come far enough in its mission that Tamang and Calderon-Rosado are planning to hold a few games at O’Day Park – which is not seen as neutral territory, but is an area that the Police and the neighborhood are trying to activate.
“We’re going to give it a try and see how that works this summer,” said Calderon-Rosado. “We’re excited about that.”
Tamang said there will be another Youth All-Stars vs. Boston Police All-Stars game at some point during the summer. Also, he said he’s hoping to bring in the Boston Fire Department for an all-star game with the youths.
Finally, there will be a block party in Peters Park for the One Hood also, as many of the young people also play on the courts there too.