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'Peace Tournament' basketball games to bring rival gangs together

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Chicago priest is hosting a basketball tournament aimed at stopping the violence on Chicago streets. Father Michael Pfleger has invited rival gang members and others to play basketball -- rather than use violence against one another.

ABC7 first told you about the plan last night at 10. It is being called the "Peace Tournament." It will be held on Saturday at St. Sabina Church.

Pro athletes, including Isaiah Thomas, the Bulls' Joakim Noah and the Bears' J'Marcus Webb are adding the star power to the event.

The point of this one-of-a-kind tournament is to get rival street factions together to communicate and build relationships with each other:

After spending time In Cook County Jail for robbery, Patrick Vance decided it was time to become part of the solution rather than the problem.

"I got out, and said, 'Man, that is not where I wanted to be. I'm a smart young man,' " said Vance.

So Vance joined an anti-violence group with other former gang members. They canvass the neighborhood, hoping to save teenagers from a life in a jail or death. Their latest job is to recruit the bad kids to a very unique basketball tournament this weekend at St. Sabina Church.

Father Michael Pfleger is calling it the "Peace Tournament."

"We believe this is a great thing," Pfleger said.

Pfleger and former NBA star Isaiah Thomas came up with the idea to bring rival gang factions together for a basketball tournament.

Several of Chicago's top pro athletes have agreed to attend.

"We are not going to preach to them," said tournament organizer Asa Powell. "We just want them to meet people from this side of the street and that side of the street that they might have had differences with, and then we all collectively see how we can work it out and see how we can build from that."

The organizers are also from the community. They say what comes after the tournament is key.

The plan is to bring the kids down to the St. Sabina basement to talk and let them know that communication is the way to end conflict, not violence.

"I ain't going to say this one tournament is going to make everything right, but I'm saying we will keep building it and building and building," said organizer Cobe Williams.

Father Pfleger says he wants kids who choose violence to know his church is a way to get on the right path. Pfleger says he provides mentors, GED classes and jobs. Although, the South Side priest would not get specific on what kind of jobs he plans to offer.

Security for Saturday's event will be provided by the Nation of Islam.

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