POWER POINT: Midnight Basketball, a safe place
TELLING people I grew up in Seattle often evokes one of the following responses: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Frasier or Grey's Anatomy.
Life for me growing up in the Pacific Northwest was none of those things.
King County, Washington State, the US equivalent of my local council, in the mid-nineties had a very high crime rate, youth gangs were at their peak in popularity and violence in school and around the neighbourhoods was common place.
There were not many places I would deem as being safe for young men in particular to hang about.
If it wasn't constant fear of running into the wrong group, it was fear of being hassled by police for loitering. Of course, often we were our own worst enemies as we as youth were definitely up to no good.
I grew up with a love of sports. Most Americans, like Australians, do.
When I started high school I was introduced to an initiative which combined my love of sports and the ability to hang out with my friends late into the night out of home. My high school hosted one of many inner-city midnight basketball initiatives.
These Friday nights for many of us were the first positive interactions we had ever had with police, not to mention access to local services we otherwise would have never been aware of.
Overarching all of this was the sense of safety and neutrality within that gym. Quite often, groups of us, who outside the gym would be in conflict, often violent, for that period of time while playing put all outside conflict aside.
I do not recall in the four years of attending midnight basketball any violence, threats or ever feeling unsafe. That stands out, because as a young man in the environment in which I was raised those feelings of safety were very uncommon.
I am honoured to have been approached by the likes of Gary Martin to be able to sponsor a team as headspace Grafton for the Clarence Valley's Rebound 2460.
I am so grateful there are men and women like the ones in this community who take the initiative to ensure programs like this exist and services like New School of Arts, ETC, PCYC, Gurehlgum and Social Futures who back these community members.
I am grateful for the local and state government for funding this initiative to ensure it lasts.
Most of all I am grateful that some of our young people, for at least one night a week who might not otherwise, can feel safe and secure within our community. Thank you Gary.