LAKEWOOD, Ohio — The hoops at Lakewood's Madison Park are back up and on Saturday, residents hosted a block party to celebrate but also to continue the conversation about how to make the court and the park a safe and inclusive place for everyone.
The city reinstalled the hoops Thursday. They were taken down two weeks ago as a precaution while Lakewood Police were investigating the shooting of an 18-year-old at the park on April 13.
“It's good to have the hoops back. It really incorporates the community with each other,” said Stephawn Stephens, who plays basketball at the park.
Community members gathered around the court Saturday for the first of 18 block parties being held every Saturday this spring and summer.
“I’ve already met new people. Making connections with people, that's really what basketball is all about,” Lakewood resident Randy Brown said.
The block parties are organized by members of the community, including the Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee.
“The goal is to really build participation in the courts to help with safety and to make sure these are a welcoming space for all people,” said Roger Sikes, a member of the Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee.
In addition to pick-up games, the block party also featured a youth panel led by Lakewood High School senior Olivia Patterson to address uncomfortable topics, including the negative perception some people in the city have about basketball and the people who play the game at the park, which is located in Lakewood’s Ward 4.
Lakewood City Council president Dan O’Malley represents the area.
“It is the most diverse neighborhood in the entire city of Lakewood, we have a lot of low-income families here,” O’Malley said.
“It became really apparent that it was racial profiling in online Facebook forums and groups, when people were kind of just saying ‘Oh Black kids, Cleveland kids’ stuff like that that's really unhealthy for the community,” Patterson said.
During the panel, Patterson asked kids and adults about their experiences with racism and exclusion.
“See how they're feeling about not only the gun violence incidents but also how the community responded initially,” Patterson said.
They also discussed what community members and leaders can do to help.
“I think the most important thing is to invite everybody to the table. You know when we're making decisions like that and having those conversations, it can't just be people who look like me,” O’Malley said.
Along with continued block parties, the city is also investing in a court mentoring program. Mentors will be stationed at the court during peak playing times starting this week.
“We're going to have a mentor up here during heavy times where there's more players that can kind of facilitate games, can model healthy behavior and can deal with conflict resolution among the youth,” Sikes said.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor should sign in at one of the block parties, which are scheduled every Saturday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m., or email Sikes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.