NEW ORLEANS, LA—Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the New Orleans Hornets and PlayNOLA announced details for the third season of the NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball League, which gets underway on Saturday, March 2, at KIPP Central City High School. The inaugural season kicked off in January 2012, and since then, the program has seen a growing interest from the community. Last season, there were nearly 1,000 participants. The NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball League is a part of Mayor Landrieu’s plan to reduce murders in New Orleans.
NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball will consist of a series of 5-on-5 tournaments from 8pm to midnight each Saturday from March 2 until May 4, 2013. It is free of charge and open to males over 16 years old. Each Saturday night tournament follows a NCAA-type tournament structure. In addition to providing safe recreational opportunities in crime hot spots for young men through the game of basketball, mentorship and educational support are also key components of the program each Saturday.
“We are very excited to kick off the third season of our Midnight Basketball League,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Being able to provide safe and worthwhile opportunities for our young men is vital if we are to truly change the culture of violence on New Orleans’ streets.”
“We will not stop caring. We will not stop being passionate about giving young people alternatives,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc of the New Orleans Hornets. “These young men are the ones who can change our city.”
"We are grateful to partner with the City of New Orleans and the Hornets to coordinate this vitally important community project,” said Lavonzell Nicholson of PlayNola. “We not only love watching the young men play basketball, but also see this as a way to support them in making smart, safe choices both on and off the court."
The first Midnight Basketball season was launched in early 2012 as a result of the Saving Our Sons Crime Action Summit in partnership with the New Orleans Hornets and ran from January to March. Initially, the tournaments took place every other Saturday night at the St. Bernard Center from 8pm to 12 midnight. Last season, the program moved to Joseph Clark Preparatory High School in the Treme neighborhood. This seasons moves to Central City and a weekly schedule.
Each season of NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball also focuses on a specific enrichment theme. The 2013 theme is “Dreams Are Weapons.” The goal is to encourage these young men to believe that they can accomplish great things and to give them a blueprint to turn these dreams into action.
Through the enrichment portion of the program, positive role models from the community will engage the participants of Midnight Basketball through mentorship, conversation and collaboration – all focused on ways to define dreams as weapons for success. The enrichment partners will all be stakeholders and members of the community, including entrepreneurs, local business owners and community leaders.
“Midnight Basketball is a worthwhile, enjoyable program,” said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. “Young men who participate in these games can count on meeting some good people who only want to see good things happen for them. The program is also an obvious answer to providing these men with a safe place to go and simply have fun. It’s an easy choice for them, as opposed to other option of hanging out in the streets where they could possibly be hurt or run into trouble.”
“We understand that the murder epidemic is a multi-layered problem that requires an all hands on deck solution,” said City Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo. “We are working hard to combat these problems through NOLA FOR LIFE. We are combining mentoring, mental health, public safety and public health approaches to end the violence. Midnight Basketball is a great initiative that encompasses the work we are doing.”
“Our young people deserve to have safe and healthy ways to have fun. Providing recreational opportunities may be one of the most obvious means we have to keep our kids away from dangerous situations,” said Susan Guidry, Councilmember District A. “As Chair of the City Council Criminal Justice Committee, one of my priorities is to identify and support community activities that provide alternatives to crime and violence. I fully support the Mayor’s NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball games.”
“It’s vitally important for our youth to have access to quality out of school activities that also support their health and well-being,” said Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Councilmember District C. “Midnight basketball also helps to foster a sense of community for everyone involved, so I’m hopeful the program continues to grow.”
“The youth of District D are excited that the NOLA for Life Midnight Basketball is about to begin again, said Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Councilmember District D. “Midnight Basketball has many benefits including recreation, team building and self-esteem. We all look forward to attending this third season of games.”
Developed in May 2012, NOLA FOR LIFE is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s comprehensive murder reduction strategy to tackle the city’s historically-high murder rate. Recognizing that law enforcement alone cannot solve the murder problem, the NOLA FOR LIFE plan takes a holistic approach to get to the root of the problem, and divides the plan into five main categories including: Stop the Shooting; Invest in Prevention; Promote Jobs and Opportunity; Improve the NOPD; and Get Involved and Rebuild Neighborhoods. Development of the NOLA FOR LIFE plan was fueled by the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and the City’s public safety and public health experts. For more information, visit www.nolaforlife.org .
You can also follow NOLA FOR LIFE at on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NOLA_for_Life and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NOLAforLife.