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Community Based Violence Intervention's Anti-Violence Basketball Tournament
An annual youth basketball tournament hosted in Newark by United Community Corporation (UCC) this summer served as a powerful reminder of the positive impact that sports can have in promoting social change and unity in the community.
More than 30 youngsters ages 14-17 from the Greater Newark area participated in UCC’s 2nd Annual “3 on 3 Anti-Violence Basketball Tournament,” which was held June 24 at West Side Park Community Center in Newark. The program provided youths an opportunity to compete in fun, back-and-forth action on the court and shot contests while also raising awareness around the importance of anti-violence in the community.
“The reason we host this tournament is because we want to use basketball to bring in people from different parts of the city. Once they’re here, then we promote the message of anti-violence,” said Charles Mainor, Coordinator of the Community-Based Violence Intervention Program at UCC.
The program came to a community where overall violent crime – defined as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – decreased 6% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to Newark Department of Public Safety data, yet still persists. Public safety officials said in 2022 there were 39 fatal and 187 non-fatal shootings. Additionally, gun recoveries were up 26% in 2022, and gun arrests increased 41%, according to city officials.
UCC’s Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) program, launched in March 2022, is designed to provide services to youth between the ages of 16-26 in a community where crime is prevalent at an increased rate compared to neighboring municipalities. CBVI’s goal is to assist individuals that were convicted of violence, victims of violence and those that are considered at risk of being involved with violence.
CBVI conducts workshops on different forms of violence, such as gang or school violence, and hosts different events that are coordinated to boost self-confidence, educate participants, and build bonds while interacting with professionals that youth can emulate.
For UCC officials, the three-on-three basketball tournament was another tool for using recreational activities to drive home the message around preventing violence in the community.
“There’s still crime here in Newark, so we figured that this tournament is one small way of trying to reach many people,” said Mainor. “This is the first event of many that we're going to do to keep pushing the message about anti-violence.”
Alongside showcasing their athletic skills on the court in hopes of winning various prizes that were up for grabs, including video game consoles and Amazon gift cards, the youth discussed what the event’s overall message of anti-violence meant to them.
“I came here to play but also to talk to people about teamwork, communication and picking your head up,” said Kwamir Jeter, a 17-year-old student at West Side Park High School. “People [in the community] keep getting killed, and young people start joining gangs and see that other people here are doing it because they think it’s cool. It’s not.”
The timing of the tournament is just as important as its message. Historically, violent crime rates in Newark spike during warmer weather months when more people tend to go outdoors.
With young people and families being no exception as they go outside to enjoy summer leisure activities, spreading the word about anti-violence in the community is critical at this time of year.
“Heading into the summer now, we want people to feel safe to come outside,” said Craig Mainor, UCC Executive Director. “We want them to feel safe, come to the parks and socialize.”
The CBVI 3 on 3 Anti-Violence Basketball Tournament was made possible by the state Department of Law and Public Safety Office of the Attorney General, Amerigroup, Saint James Health, Essex County and Newark Centers of Hope.