Thursday, March 23, 2017

Winter Basketball Camp in Harlem 2017

It was a cold day in Harlem. It was a good
 day in Harlem.  Even with the snow covered streets of
New York City. The hawk was out, and few people
ventured out of their homes, unless they absolutely
had to. If it were mid-summer the parks and
playgrounds would have been swarmed with
children, and teens, bouncing their afternoons
away in heated competitions. But during these
long, dog days of winter there are far too few 
recreation options for our talented youth. Perhaps,
The Harlem Ice-Skating, Skiing and Bobsledding 
Team needs to be organized.   Hmmmm...
Winter in America, indeed. 
                            P.S. 194 Cultee Cullen Elementary School

What is KWANZAA?

But the halls, and gymnasium, of P.S. 194, the Cultee
Cullen Elementary School, just a three story climb on
144 Street was alive and jumping.  Literally.
Lined-up in the gym were the brightest and
the best players in the neighborhood. The names
of the teams were ANT LIVE, DREW HAM,

Who is Countee Cullen? 

This day was billed as the "Kwanzaa Celebration
in March" "Kwanzaa All Year Long"..."The Winter
Basketball Boot-Camp!"..."Elements of Hoops &
Culture" produced by,, The Harlem
Transformation Project, The Drew Hamilton
Saturday Youth Basketball League, and concerned
New York City residents who contributed financial
resources, program materials, and that priceless,
major community commodity called time.  

Six local teams of teenagers were selected to participate
in the day's event, with their coaches on hand, they 
were put through a battery of basketball skills challenges
with instruction, and life enhancing cultural stations
that encircled the perimeter of the gym.  "We know that
these types of positive programs are needed in our
community," stated Akil Rose of the Harlem
Transformation Project.  He further reflects, "We
partnered with & the Saturday
League at P.S. 123 and this is what we can achieve
when we work together. There's absolutely
nothing that we can't do...The first principal of
Kwanzaa is UMOJA right...UNITY."


                  The writing on the wall on 135th street say's it all.

In addition to the basketball training the youth were re-introduced to African History and Culture.  World geography, the power and
benefits of a positive mental attitude, and how our community can
be a brighter and better place.  These were some of the themes of the afternoon shared with each teen that was present. One of the 
key organizers of the event John Pugh of reflects,"Today was a bit of a challenge.  This was a learning experience for me also. I had to teach several different groups,
with several different learning styles.  This six-station workshop
concept has helped me sharpen my sword, and it shows you that 
you can connect with several young people, and with others it
won't be easy. It was a great experience." 

One of the most powerful workshop stations was conducted 
by Professor Greg Perry, who spoke on "Positive Mental 
Attitude", conflict resolution, and then he demonstrated 
a dynamic introduction to martial arts.  Many of the wide
eyed teens we shocked at the strength and fluidity of
the never aging Harlemite from 154 Street.  Let's just say 
the Professor has a command of his art, and he has effective 
way to command an audience.  He had their undivided
Prof. Perry has mentored, organized, and coached in the 
greater New York area for over forty years, in the fields 
of track & field, martial arts, positive motivation.  His 
teams and students have excelled on the national and
international level.  I have personally benefited, and
continue to do so, from the wealth of wisdom and 
guidance of Baba Perry.

What is a Shekere?
Baba Yuriel Charles in an incredible percussionist with over forty years of  professional experience teaching, touring and bringing
forth the positive healing energy of the Shekere.  

This ancient instrument was a functional part of the royal 
court, and it's presence, and popularity, continues in it's 
rightful place throughout the diaspora.  Baba Uri-el gave 
a detailed explanation and demonstration on the Shekere, 
and he brought several Shekeres for the young campers 
to shake, rattle and vibe with. 

The Shekere was a crowd favorite, and many of the 
teens immediately took to the instrument and the careful 
detailed instruction of Baba Uri-el. Shabree Taylor, 
a hard working fifteen year old play-maker who plays
on the Next Level Team mentioned, "I had a great 
experience today.  I learned about an African 
instrument called the Shekere.  I also learned about 
another instrument called Thunder. The Shekere is 
made out of pumpkin, that they take out the insides, 
and put a skirt over the pumpkin.  To play the 
Shekere you have to shake it from left to right.  I 
also learned about Kwanzaa and what each day 
symbolizes."  Well learned Shabree...and well stated.

        Ancient African Heads in the Western Hemisphere
 Who are the Olmecs?

The popularity of the game of basketball continues to grow.
Not only is it thriving in the inner-cities, and rural areas
of America, it is very popular internationally.  Young cagers
from all over the world have set their sights, and aspiration
on mastering the game, one bounce at a time.

Basketball Without Borders in Africa

 It's safe to say that is was a great day in Harlem, and 
we thank all of the elders, coaches, Babas, Okeyames, 
student/athletes, volunteers, parents, people who 
donated funds, referees, and material to make this 
community event happen.  God Bless each and 
everyone of you. 

Other participating organizations included The Pelham Fritz
Basketball League, Men of Respect Records, The IC Basketball Training System with Whimp Ransom, Crown Trophy [Bronx, NY], About Time Youth Education Through Sports, The Family of Clarence Woods Sr., Coach Floyd Layne/George Washington H.S., and The Puerto Rican Pro Legends.

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