Saturday: Philadelphia CeaseFire teaming up with residents for ‘A Game of Peace Basketball Tournament’

What happens when you launch a basketball tournament in a neighborhood known for high rates of gun violence?

A Game of Peace.

Philadelphia’s 22nd Police District lead the city in homicides last year but Philadelphia Ceasefire is now organizing an event that has proven to reduce violence in another city: Chicago.

Forty basketball players will come together for the tournament Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center at 2101 Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Marla Davis-Bellamy and Philadelphia Ceasefire organized the event to raise awareness about gun violence prevention, adding that there were seven homicides and approximately 60 shootings in the 22nd District last summer alone.

If one young person gets to know another through the tournament, they will be less likely to shoot each other, according to Davis-Bellamy. But she also emphasized the need for community support and “wrapping our arms around” the issue of gun violence — in the 22nd district in particular, but also across the rest of the city.

Davis-Bellamy is the director of Philadelphia Ceasefire, an intervention organization created to address gun violence, and which has focused heavily on the 22nd District but encourages all Philadelphia communities to join their efforts.

Philadelphia Ceasefire modeled its program after Cure Violence, which utilizes public health strategies with the understanding that violence is a learned behavior which can be prevented with disease control methods.

The three-step process interrupts transmission, strives to identify and change the thinking of the highest likely transmitters, and to change group norms.

Cure Violence — formerly know as Ceasefire Chicago — created a basketball tournament in 2012 to promote peace in that city’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood — which has also suffered from high rates of gun violence. NBA legend Isiah Thomas and Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest and social activist, have lent their support.

In Chicago, the tournament grew and expanded into a weekly Peace Basketball League at the ARK of St. Sabina, a local community center created as a safe haven for youth.

At the same time, homicides are down. According to a Chicago Police statistics, 36 people were killed in the in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in 2011, but only 17 were killed in 2012, according to a report from DNAinfo of Chicago.

One of the participants in Chicago explained that people who had been engaging in conflict and violence attended the tournament, but he stayed in touch with many of the other players and said he feels safer, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.

To register a team or learn more, call Philadelphia Ceasefire at 215-204-3321 or email astones@temple.edu.

Last summer, the Gun Crisis Reporting Project spent a few hours walking through sections of North Philadelphia and Strawberry Mansion Tuesday night with Philadelphia CeaseFire — wearing orange — and other groups taking to the streets for National Night Out.

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