Breakthrough’s Chicago Peace League is a men’s league for ages 18+ that helps instill peace into the community, city, and most importantly the athletes using the game of basketball. The league hosted a tournament during Memorial Day weekend and tipped off the summer season the following week.

The Chicago Tribune recently highlighted the program. The story is included below.

Chicago Peace League Promotes Peace Through Basketball 1
Chicago Peace League players and organizers pray before basketball game during Memorial weekend tournament. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

The game starts with a prayer circle, and the jerseys are printed with peace signs. Jimmie Brooks, founder of the Chicago Peace League, says he wants to remind the players that they’re here for a mission that’s beyond just basketball.

There’s a loud “AMEN,” then the tipoff, and a semifinal game of the Memorial Day Weekend tournament has begun.

It’s important, Brooks says, “especially on Memorial Day weekend — the weather’s usually good — just being intentional about our space, and making sure we have an experience to stay off the street.”

Brooks began the Peace League last year, under the auspices of Breakthrough, a West Side community organization. They try to schedule games during “peak times” when violence is more likely; Friday nights, for example. During the weekend tournament, teenage Breakthrough participants manned the scoreboard.

The game gets intense in the semifinal round. It’s a defense-heavy contest, and the players are talkative, Davevontay Johnson notes. It’s good, he says, for the kids to see the players communicate with each other on the court.

“I want them to learn to be competitive in life but also be in control of your emotions,” said Johnson, who grew up nearby and used to work at Breakthrough. “(The game) shows them how to deal with losses and prevail even when the odds aren’t in your favor.”

The semifinal goes into overtime, then the team in red — GGAB, or Go Get A Bucket — clinches the win with a few pristine 3-pointers. They advance to the championship game. It begins with another prayer circle.