One text changed everything for Jerrod Clark last year.
Clark, a 17-year-old Brighton High School student, learned in the text he received on Sept. 7 that his older brother was killed in a drive-by shooting.
Visiting the crime scene, Clark said, he saw his brother’s lifeless body and “I felt like I was in a bad dream and I couldn’t wake up.”
This weekend, Clark participated in the eighth annual Save R Streets summer classic in Jeep Jones Park in Roxbury and called it a life-affirming event.
Organizers stressed the importance of education and the love of sports as an alternative to violence.
It was a message that resonated with Clark who, like many in the community, has felt the pain caused by violent acts.
“This just shows that you don’t have to be in a gang,” Clark said. “Instead of picking up a gun, pick up a basketball, pick up a book. This is a basketball tournament, but it’s teaching you more than sports. It’s teaching you about life.”
The basketball tournament is hosted by Score4More Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports and serves Massachusetts student-athletes. Score4More worked in partnership with Ten Point Coalition, a Boston group that works to reduce gang violence.
The two-day tournament ending Sunday brings the community together, said Score4More cofounder Marlon Benjamin. “We try to get basketball to unite the community. That’s the common bond. . . . We all knew each other through basketball.”
The event included free food, drinks, a bounce house, and face painting.
“We get kids from all over — Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain,” said Benjamin. “So once those kids come together in a setting like this, it gives them an opportunity to speak. Basketball has saved a lot of lives.”
Although the event is free to attend, there is a fee to participate in the tournament. The money goes towards an annual holiday party to give gifts and food to the kids, Benjamin said. “Why we do this is because we never had anything like this before,” he said.
Nora Baston, a Boston police officer for 21 years, said the event is also a way for the community to build relationships and trust with local police. “We’re here as police, not here as security,” she said. “We’re here to enjoy it and showing people that we’re also part of the community.”
Many in the community said they strongly supported the event.
“I’ll clean the park if I have to. Whatever they need to get the event done, I’m in,” said resident Russell Paulding. “In a event like this, no one should be above the job.”