NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – It seems like violence is a constant in many local cities. One city is taking back the community through basketball.
On the court, trouble fades away and all that matters is the game.
“I love playing basketball so I just wanted to hoop,” said Norfolk resident J’shaun Reddin.
Most weekend nights, the Huntersville Rec Center is fairly quiet, but this summer, the Norfolk Nighthawks are taking over.
“Every night, we have a shooting. Every night, we have some type of life that’s lost, and sometimes it’s just because we’re bored,” said C.R.O.W.N. Project co-founder Travis Barnes. “Give us something to do. Let’s go ahead and let’s open the gyms up, we all want to come together and play basketball, and we want to engage the community by doing that.”
The Norfolk Nighthawks program has been around for some time, but stopped for a few years because of the pandemic. This year, the city and community groups, including the C.R.O.W.N. Project brought it back.
“The more investment, the more opportunities you create, and the more accessible you make things, the better the community has a chance to grow,” said Norfolk City Councilwoman Danica Royster.
And it’s not just basketball — organizations will help people learn about applying for jobs, getting their GED, and more.
Barnes said, “It’s an opportunity for us to once again bring that community feel, that village feel and to show that we’re in this together.”
It’s also an opportunity to show what not to do. For Clayton Marquez, that means sharing his story.
“When I was out on the street, I said that I wouldn’t live to see 25 years old. And I did see it, but I saw it in prison,” said Marquez. “I think that if I was in a program such as this, I may not have went to prison.”
Marquez is the founder and chairman of “Guns Down.” The organization is helping with the Norfolk Nighthawks program this summer.
“The common goal is to try to save some lives out here because we’re losing too many children to this gun violence,” said Marquez.
As for those who are on the court, they’re game.
“I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time,” said participant Jason Simmons. “It seemed like they never had programs, something positive going on, so anything that’s going on that’s positive in the community that has to do with sports, I’m trying to be a part of it.”
The Norfolk Nighthawks program runs every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. from July until October and it’s free.
You can learn more by clicking here.