Chicago’s South Side has been the topic of public concern for months now as the city’s inner-city streets continue to be ravaged by gang violence, drugs and a skyrocketing murder rate. But former NBA star Isiah Thomas has decided to take matters into his own hands and has been steadily working to bring peace to his crime-riddled hometown.
In July, Thomas began walking in the city’s “Stop The Violence” marches, which encourage youth to go back to school and become positive community leaders.
This past weekend, Thomas hosted the Peace Basketball Tournament at a church gym in Chicago’s South Side, in which teens from rival gangs and neighborhoods were placed on teams together in hopes that they’ll establish common ground and end the senseless violence between each other.
Thomas had help in bringing the kids together, thanks to his pro athlete friends, including Bulls stars Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, who coached a game, NBA refs Danny Crawford and Jim Capers, who worked the game and Chicago native and Bulls legend Derrick Rose, who showed support.
“It’s a historical event where the gangs are coming together and they’re going to play a game involving peace, to stop the killing,” Thomas said. “Murder has run rampant in Chicago the last couple years, but gangs are calling a truce for this. By getting them to come together and play a sport, they might come to know each other. We believe it’s hard to kill someone if you get to know him.”
“The importance of it is building relationships,” added Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina. “We come together to play ball, have fun together. Then we can begin to build relationships and say, ‘Let’s settle problems with each other. And not on the street. Let’s do it in conversation.’”
We give major kudos to Thomas for trying to end the violence in Chicago. And, thankfully, he’s not alone in his efforts. Check out some other celebrity peace makers below. – nicholas robinson