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Feb. 23, 2015

Basketball game promotes community unity

By Ashli Speed

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On Sunday, Feb. 15, the recreation center gym was filled with men of all ages and from all walks of life coming together for fellowship and friendly competition.

Through the efforts of Prester Pickett, coordinator of the Howard A, Mims African- American Cultural Center at Cleveland State and Cleveland State University’s Black Studies Department, Cleveland State University students, alumni, City of Cleveland Police Officers, City of Cleveland firefighters, Cleveland State University

Police and community members joined together from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the first ever Black History Month All-Star basketball game.

The gym was filled with an upbeat and welcoming atmosphere as DJ. M. Stacks played music throughout the event, and those present enjoyed a variety of healthy snacks.
One focus of the event was to tear down barriers between police and the community in a friendly and inviting way.

“We hope this event can be a catalyst to promote a positive reaction and to yield a beneficial outcome for the community and CSU and potentially be a model for the nation,” said Pickett.

Not only was the game an opportunity to interact with law enforcement, according to Pickett it also was an opportunity for the people in attendance to potentially learn about a career as a police officer or firefighter.

“If you’re willing to interact and learn about our career you’ll find it beneficial,” said Cleveland Police officer Anthony Harper who played on one of the teams during the event.

Harper a member of the Bureau of Community Policing has been a police officer for 19 years.

“I love events like this, it is always good to be able to interact with the community, especially youth. It helps give a different perspective on police, we’re not out to get you, we have a job to do,” said Harper.

Members of the Cleveland State University Police Department were also present.

Officer Tom Lear of the CSUPD was a spectator and one of few officers present that were dressed in uniform rather than sweats.

“I came to represent for our police department, this is a good community outreach event,” said Lear.

In addition to community and police relations the event was also used to recognize the accomplishments of Dr. William Wasson founder of the National Intramural – Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA).

Dr. Julian Earls opened the day’s events with remarks. During his speech he congratulated Pickett for the idea and the opportunity to display unity among various organizations (police, students, community members).

“When I see all those different people come together for an event, it speaks volumes, we are all on the same accord. The event showed the value of unity through the recognition of Dr. William Wasson and the brilliance of Pickett,” said Earls

The game also provided the opportunity for those not a part of the Cleveland State community to learn more about what the university has to offer.

“There are many challenges faced by the community, lives are being lost,” Pickett said. “We hope to improve relations with each other so we can address issues and create engagement to allow people to see how connected we (community and law enforcement) are.”

The game provided the opportunity for participants to play on teams with police officers and firefighters.
City of Cleveland Police Commander Ellis Johnson with the Bureau of Community Policing played in multiple rounds.

“This event is a good way for police to interact with the community and see that we are human too,” Johnson said. “It’s also nice to support CSU and its Black History Month programs. Hopefully today is the first of an annual event and we can grow and expand from here.”

Cleveland State Students participated as players, spectators, score keepers, coaches and referees.
The wining team adorned a Cleveland State Basketball with their signatures, the ball will be housed in the cultural center.