Week 12 of the "12 Parks in 12 Weeks" tour has brought me to Euclid Park on 98th and Parnell in the Washington HeightsCommunity area. While driving to the park, I saw a stream of bright yellow shirts and decided to get out of my car and see what was going on. I met Toure Richards, team lead of "Brothers on the Block" an initiative created by Pastor Corey Brooks, whose goal is to put 5,000 men on hundreds of the city’s most violent blocks every Friday night during the summer. The volunteers that walk serve as mentors and role models to young people in the neighborhood. I walked up the block with them and then went on to play ball.
Upon entering the park, I could tell there were clicks around and that everybody knew everybody, and that they didn't know me, but if I've learned one thing from the 12th Park in 12 Weeks it's that people are people. If you show up humble and show love, they will reciprocate and you'll be welcomed in any Chicago neighborhood. In fact, a young man told me that he wouldn't play with me at first because he recognizes things are violent in the neighborhood, but one of the ways he stays safe is to memorize the cars that belong to people in the area. When a car or a person comes around that he doesn't recognize, he alerts his friends. Once he opened up, he had a lot of great insight.
I overheard an argument escalating, so I decided to moderate. These two guys were going at each other pretty hard, but the topic is something you have to hear.
Euclid Park kids were great shooters. I mean the little ones who were barely five feet—they could really shoot on those rims. I have to say that we only played one game of 21, so I really didn't get to break in my Reebok Kamikaze's. We spent most of the time talking about life. I asked a teenager what he thought about stats that say 55-70 percent of the black men in his area have been on parole, probation, and prison. He told me that he agrees with those stats because every time he goes to see his probation officer, the office is always full. We also spoke briefly about restorative justice.
Wonderful times lay ahead for My Block, My Hood, My City. I promised you 77 Communities. Can't Stop, Won't Stop.
written by Jahmal Cole