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First Canarsie MLK Basketball Invitational hopes to stop gun violence with basketball

Canarsie High School's first MLK Invitational is about more than just hoops.

Greg Thompson

Jan 13, 2024, 11:57 PM

Updated 162 days ago


A new addition to the city's always crowded high school basketball calendar on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend this year, Canarsie High School's first MLK Invitational is about more than just hoops.
The event also aimed to stop gun violence - a cause that now has extra meaning.
Less than two weeks ago, police say Canarsie student Javel Lawton became victim of New York City's first gun-related homicide of 2024.
"We didn't know while planning this this was going to happen," said community activist Ramel Young. "But it's something to help us heal. It might not heal the family, it might not, but it's what we need over here."
Canarsie head basketball coach Jake Edwards believes things like the tournament can help.
"We're trying to let people see that you have got to value life. Value life, value the things that we have out here, and there's other things that you can do besides getting caught up in the streets," he said.
Organizers like Edwards believe playing basketball can be one of those things with high schools from around the area, and a new youth AAU team named after Canarsie native and gun violence victim Pop Smoke spending the day filling the school's gym.
"Every kid out here believes they can play," Edwards said. "And when you give them the opportunity to step on the floor, which we feel like we have one of the major gyms in the city, you get a chance to step on a big court like that, they feel like they're accomplishing something."
Even when the kids weren't playing, people involved hoped they'd take notice of how many adults were also there to support them. This included coaches and volunteers, family members, and local politicians. City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse gave a speech before she told News 12 that events like this give students, "an opportunity, a place to nurture to, breathe and planting seeds."
Organizer Rob White said that's exactly what he and the other coaches at Canarsie try to do and that they make a point to, "Reach out and talk, and touch a kid's shoulder, and give them some words of encouragement, and knowing that you can do other things, you don't have to fall off."
P.J. Singleton, a sophomore on the Canarsie basketball team, thinks the message can break through.
"As long as people listen, and they believe in themselves that they should stop, and help other people, then, we should be good," Singleton said.
Organizers said they plan to bring the invitational back next year with even more teams involved.

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