It was a day for hoops, hip-hop and hope.
The Luv ’N Basketball Classic and Life Fair on Saturday offered all three at Highlands Middle School on Jacksonville’s Northside.
Hope was highest on the list at the event, which was conceived by 22-year-old Darrell Turner. He has turned his life around after serving time in prison for second-degree murder in an incident that took place in 2009.
“I’m doing this because I want to give back to the community,” said Turner, who said he is troubled by the amount of gun-related violence in Jacksonville. “I want to put out a message that gun violence is not the way to go.”
Turner’s brother, T’Juan Kimbrough, a rap artist who helped put together the event, said: “We’re pushing a message of ‘Think about it.’ We want people to think about the actions they take before they take them, and before you are sent away [to prison] and have 20 years to think about it.”
Back in the spring, Turner and Kimbrough approached the Rev. Tywanna Estell, senior pastor at New Life Power Ministries, about organizing the event. She was glad to help.
“We are promoting a message of positive change,” she said. “We can breathe hope and life into our children.”
The event began in mid-morning with the Life Fair in the halls of the school. A variety of groups were present to offer advice on such topics as education, writing resumes, credit repair and health safety issues. There was information to help ex-felons re-enter the workforce.
Options. Choices. Guidance. Each can motivate a person to achieve independence, said Jacksonville businessman Reggie Holliday, who coordinated the groups.
“I love letting families know that they have options,” said Jimminda Thompson, district relations manager for Florida Virtual School. “We exist to help people get the education they want,” she said. “The online experience is a way to make that happen.”
In the context of Saturday’s event, the online school was there to tell young people, “Never give up on yourself,” Thompson said.
“Life is choice-driven, and if you’re prepared, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
By early afternoon, the focus shifted to the gymnasium, where four teams were scheduled to play a total of five games. Most of the players, Turner said, were musicians and rappers from Jacksonville. Hip-hop tunes filled the gym during much of the time that teams competed, helping to fuel the energetic atmosphere.
Stephanie Robinson of the Westside sat on the bleachers and watched the game with five of her children, ages 8 to 17.
She said she hopes this kind of event would make a difference in the lives of young men in Jacksonville.
“It’s a good thing,” she said. “There’s so much crime in the community.”
Money raised from the Luv ’N Basketball will go to four groups: Mentors of Tomorrow Athletic Association youth football program, Clara White Mission, Project 16 and Project Save Our Sons. There are plans for a second Luv ’N Basketball Classic and Life Fair, possibly as soon as December.
“I’m doing this because I want to give back to the community,” Turner said. “I believe in second chances. I’ve was blessed with a second chance.”
“We saw it as a way to get out a message about the importance of making positive choices,” Estell said. “We all have had times in our lives when we have not made the best decisions. We have the opportunity to teach our children to make the right choices.”
David Crumpler: (904) 359-4164