Midnight Basketball Is Back in New Orleans
When Charles West was looking for programs to be part of New Orleans’ new comprehensive crime- and murder-reduction strategy, NOLA for Life, he decided to look back to move forward. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s strategy would use an extensive multipronged approach—job training, summer camps, and collaborative restorative projects, all implemented throughout the city. West, director of NOLA for Life, looked at the data and found that African American men ages 16 to 24 were at greatest risk of being victims of violent crime, and that most such incidents occurred in the nighttime hours. He kept hearing from community organizers, teachers, parents, and the young men themselves that the city lacked activities targeted to people that age.
So West thought of midnight basketball. Meant to provide safe recreational opportunities in crime hot spots for young men during prime hours, a Midnight Basketball league thrived in the city in the mid-1990s when President Bill Clinton’s crime-reduction strategy began funding similar leagues nationwide. But the funding was cut soon after. Now, in collaboration with the mayor’s office and private-sector partners, NOLA for Life operates 10-week seasons of Midnight Basketball during which participants are connected to positive role models, community resources, and employment and educational opportunities. Since its relaunch in 2012, New Orleans Midnight Basketball has touched more than 5,000 participants.