On Friday, February 14, as part of the kick-off to NBA All-Star Weekend, the NBA launched its fourth installment of their NBA Voices Building Bridges Through Basketball program with the unveiling of a newly refurbished court designed by Project Backboard at Chicago’s Union League Boys & Girls Club. NBA Voices is the league’s initiative to address social injustice, promote inclusion, uplift voices, and bridge divides within the community. In partnership with Under Armour, RISE, and the Chicago Police Department, the NBA has joined together over 13, 000 young boys and girls with members of law enforcement beginning in 2016 with the Building Bridges Through Basketball program.
Building Bridges Through Basketball is a 10-week program designed to bridge the gap and build trust between youth and law enforcement in the Englewood, Pilsen and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. Participants engage in 2.5-hour sessions that incorporate basketball skills with RISE’s leadership and cultural competency curriculum designed and focused on identity, diversity, empathy, conflict resolution, building communities, and more.
“Our mission is to educate and empower the sports community to end racial discrimination, to promote social justice, and to improve race relations,” said Diahann Billings-Burford, RISE CEO. “We have found that the most effective way is a multi-week program, especially with young people, you need more than one touch. You need to keep coming back to these issues to build the knowledge. Our impact model is that we want to change thoughts then attitudes and behaviors.”
NBA Cares Ambassador Felipe Lopez was in attendance along with NBA legend Caron Butler. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Deputy Chief Ernest Cato, and Commander Patricia Casey were also on hand for the unveiling, along with 30 former Building Bridges Through Basketball participants who competed in a 3 point contest, skills challenge, scrimmage, and a series of rotations along with CPD officers.
Paula J. Shelton, Contributing Writer