3RD Annual Phoenix Classic Men’s Anti-gun Violence Basketball Tournament: ‘Take a stand. Lend a hand’
by Jaspreet Grewal
Sports have been pivotal to the progression of community unification and engagement in almost all parts of the world. In North America, particularly, there seems to be a large sense of homogeneity and togetherness within the confines of poverty ridden neighbourhoods or areas where opportunity for positive individual development is almost a chimera. The feeling of camaraderie and selflessness is epitomized in any team sport; in the same sense, a community progresses only as far as the people within allow it to.
In order for there to be a sense of solidarity amongst residents within a neighborhood, there needs to be a presence of leadership; in many circumstances, this is where charitable organizations step in and, ultimately, help amass members of a community as a plea for the cessation of violence or drug related activity.
4Reasonz – a not for profit organization geared towards ‘providing personal development opportunities for youth’, and founding executive director, Amiga Taylor, and 4Reasonz have worked tirelessly to spread the message surrounding anti-gun violence.
From July 25th to the 27th, the community group will be hosting their 3rd annual ‘Phoenix Classic’ basketball tournament at Ryerson University (Kerr Hall) to promulgate and bring awareness to the war on guns, especially in the Toronto area.
For Taylor, who has experienced the desolation and dejection tied to gun violence, the motivation behind the Phoenix Classic was – initially at least – for a personal reason.
“Primarily, we decided we wanted to do the Phoenix Classic a few years ago. Sarah [Amiga’s sister] and I had lost our brother (Ephraim Brown) to a stray bullet in the Jane and Sheppard community, and for many years my sister and I were unable to do anything in his name- mainly because we were grieving. When we felt strong enough, we decided we wanted to do something in his honour, and he loved basketball, so it made sense to us, then, that what we would do is to raise money for a community centre that was opened up in his name.”
Gun violence, a prevailing issue and one that seems to permeate into all sectors of the world, has become increasingly common in Toronto and the surrounding areas. In many circumstances, sports are considered an outlet to a world away from guns, drugs and violence, particularly in areas where positive opportunity is hard to come by.
Although the Phoenix Classic is only in its 3rd year of existence, the tournament has made large strides to help 4Reasonz become one of the more prominent not for profit organizations in the GTA, notably within the realm of both anti-violence and anti-bullying awareness; in doing so, the event has flourished exceedingly, especially in comparison to its inaugural year.
“Now that we’re three years in, it’s grown from a 12 team tournament, to a 16 team tournament and, now, to a 22 team tournament”. says Taylor. ” It’s amazing and we’re actually quite humbled by the success of the event and being able to not only honour Ephraim, but also to bring all of these basketball players and community residents together from priority neighbourhoods across the city, and to stand up against gun violence in an environment that promotes exclusivity, communication and sportsmanship.”
Although basketball may take centre stage at the Phoenix Classic, the true purpose of the event far proceeds any other element. For 4Reasonz and Amiga Taylor, basketball is secondary to what’s really important.
“Basketball is, believe it or not, second tier to the message. We use basketball as a platform to discuss these issues and to unite all these players from various walks of life, from all across the city and, in some cases, the province”, says Taylor. “Having guest speakers, particularly those who have been affected by gun-violence and even those who have been perpetrators of crimes, is very beneficial for the youth.”
So long as 4Reasonz continues to receive added support from community members, basketball players, assisting organizations and, ultimately, anyone who’s willing to contribute to a positive cause, it will be sooner rather than later when we see a decline in gun violence and an upsurge in extra-curricular activities.
With regards to the actual basketball event, the community group has recently added two new age groups – a 15U and 13U boy’s division- as extension to the men’s tournament. The motivation behind the two new age groups stems from another event that 4Reasonz hosts in November (during anti-bullying awareness month) called the ‘Phoenix Undercard’.
Similar to the Phoenix Classic, the Phoenix Undercard focuses its attention on promulgating another relatively common issue that has seemingly plagued the younger generation: bullying.
“We had the Phoenix Undercard, which ran its first year last year, and we had 20 high-school teams- which was fantastic in regards to the amount of basketball players that came out.”
Many of us, as Taylor mentions, have experienced the plight of bullying at least once in our life- no matter which end of the fence we were on.
“We’ve all been victims of bullying or bullying behaviour or have been bullies ourselves, so we wanted to do something that, again, using basketball as a platform – because of the success of the Phoenix Classic- gets young people to start thinking about bullying behaviour and all of its effects, and to also discuss preventative strategies on how to combat the issue.”
Using sports as a facilitator for positive discussion and behaviour has been successful in areas of destitution . In many cases, simply talking about a particular issue is not as effective as, for instance, engaging community members through a series of activities and entertaining events.
Through the advent of social media, the rapid development of technology, and the coordination of events directed towards positive causes, such as 4Reasonz’ Phoenix Classic and Phoenix Undercard, a world without gun violence and bullying doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
For Taylor, nothing takes priority over the message surrounding gun violence.
“For us, it’s not so much about adding different components as it is about making sure that the message is put out there, and I think every year we get better at doing that”, says Taylor. “We try to find creative ways to really drive that message home. Again, it’s important to us that we discuss the issues surrounding gun violence as opposed to simply slapping the label of ‘anti-gun violence’ on the event title without any real dialogue about it.”
You can catch the Phoenix Classic live from Ryerson University’s Kerr Hall from July 25th-27th. Help spread the word on gun violence!
“Take a stand. Lend a hand”
“Truth, Justice, Peace, Love & Freedom, one event at a time”
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Hashtags: #4Reasonz #PHXClassic #PHXUndercard
Written By Jaspreet Grewal
Posted by Drew Ebanks