I am honored to announce that we are joining forces with West Side native and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, as well as activist Tio Hardiman, to host a basketball tournament this Saturday Nov. 17. It will bring together young men from rival gangs for dialogue and a day of shooting hoops and hope right here in our gym.

As we know all too well, gang activity on the West Side has triggered an epidemic of shootings and homicides in the last year. The event will raise awareness about the violence, and show a peaceful alternative to the lifestyle that perpetuates it. For those youth who are most likely to become victims and agents of violent crime, it is my conviction that The Peace Tournament will demonstrate how they can find common ground. That they can join forces to form a united front for peace and nonviolence while taking a courageous stand against guns and gangs that plagues our city neighborhoods.

We’re also honored that Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois and the parent of a CTK freshman, is also joining us with Isiah Thomas and other community members to organize the event.

“By getting gang members and other community teens together to play a sport, they have the opportunity to get to know each other better on the basketball court,” Isiah says.

Saturday’s event at our school is the second scheduled Peace Tournament taking place this fall; the first one was in September at St. Sabina Church on the South Side. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has praised the event, saying the tournament “promotes the partnerships we need to get gangs, guns and drugs off our streets.”

Isiah co-hosted the event with Fr. Michael Pfleger. Celebrity coaches included Chicago Bulls stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. They also participated in discussions about how to become peace builders. After the game, the participants were encouraged to return to their community to share a message of peace.

Clifton “Booney” McFowler, a former West Side gang member, is helping us organize our event. It will kick off with a scrimmage between our team and Michelle Clark High School players. A four-team tournament for 15 to 18 year olds follows. Some of those players are affiliated with various gangs on the West Side but have agreed to lay down their conflicts this day. International DJ and producer Zeke Thomas – Isiah’s son who is also the official DJ of the NBA All-Star Weekend – will provide entertainment.

The games will be followed by open conversations about how to embrace peace and non-violence, facilitated by myself, Isiah, Tio, Clifton and our CTK students. Rev. Marshall Hatch and fellow members of the LEADERS Network will also facilitate the talk.

Please come help us continue to make a difference on Chicago’s West Side.

Rev. Christopher J. Devron
President of Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School