The start of the Fall school semester marks the end of one of the Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) summer initiatives; Hoop, Don’t Shoot. This series of events was started with the intent to create safe spaces throughout the community that allow young people to participate, regardless of where they live and play, in a regulated basketball tournament. Having started on June 23rd, 2023, SWOP’s Hoop, Don’t Shoot tournament ran until August 26th, 2023, allowing eight opportunities for people to come out and engage in the sense of community that was being created. Although the basketball tournament was the focus of these events, Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) workers pulled out all the stops; providing free food, music, arts and crafts, and much more to ensure people of all ages could be engaged in whatever way made them most comfortable. One of the larger days of this event saw partners and participants from across the southwest side and well over 300 community members coming together to enjoy the festivities. From a petting zoo, game truck, pop-ups, elected officials, and resources of varying types, each and every partner brought something unique to the neighborhood.
During one of the events, a community member had this to share, “I’d never seen anything like this before. Like, I’ve seen block parties, but this was something put together to combat violence in our neighborhood, so just knowing that, made us feel like we wanted to be a part of it. People that never talk to each other are talking and hanging out. It’s nice to see stuff like this.” For the Outreach Workers, just knowing that they are making a difference in communities that have been marked with labels like “Dangerous” and “Unsafe” really makes the work worth it.
When asked about the initiative, Armando Mancilla, Senior Case Manager of CP4P, shared this. “We just wanted to create something where kids can just be kids. Every Tuesday and Saturday we host open gyms for young people to come out and when they’re in those spaces, they know that they’re safe and among friends. We wanted to bring what we were doing in those open gyms out to the public. There are people who don’t feel safe going from one neighborhood to another, so we created these spaces in different communities to build relationships and let them know they can connect with unfamiliar areas in a safe way.”
Though this puts an end to “SWOP’s Hoop, Don’t Shoot” initiative for this summer, CP4P insists that this is just another step in their plans for more interactive community building events and encourages everyone to check out SWOP’s calendar for upcoming events of all kinds. This includes an upcoming Thanksgiving event, Day of the Dead Light in the Night and many more!