Members of the community gathered on Fricay, July 15 at the 720 Tinton Avenue basketball courts for the first annual Jessica White Safer Community Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Rev. Antonio Hendrickson, founder of the non-profit Lead By Example Reverse the Trend, started the tournament in an effort to remember Jessica White – a mother of three who died at the hands of gang violence.
In March, White and her family were in the 700 Westchester Avenue Park when a gunman came into the park and started firing a weapon in what was believed to a gang-related dispute.
As bullets flew, White ran over to her three children and – as she was shielding them from gunfire — was fatally hit multiple times in her torso.
“We are out here to show support to the family of Jessica White, her three children and her husband.” Hendrickson told those in attendance. “We want the community to know that united we stand and divided we fall.”
“We are together now,” said the reverend, “ and Jessica White, her life will not be in vain.”
Hendrickson said he wants to send a message to gang members that the area is not a place for gang violence.
“Jessica White should not have lost her life protecting her children inside a park and playground,” he added.
Many teens in the community participated in the basketball tournament. In addition, members of the NYPD’s 40th Precinct also entered a team to play.
Hendrickson said kids should know you don’t have to do drugs and be violent to be cool.
“This right here is cool – this right here is what’s up,” said Hendrickson. “When you can come together and play basketball with your neighborhood police officers and interact in peace and harmony that’s what’s up.”
The reverend also thanked Officer Hector Espada from the 40th Precinct and his fellow officers for attending the tournament.
Hendrickson said that despite the current tension between police departments and minority communities throughout the country, the 40th Precinct is an example of community partnership.
The reverend said the department was showing the community love and what ‘dope policing’ is about.
“I’ve been working here for a very long time,” said Espada who was born and raised in Hunts Point. “I love this community and I am apart of this community.”
Espada said he wanted to “let the community know that the police officers love them and hopefully we get that love back.”
“I just want it to be a good neighborhood for both the residents and the police officers of the community,” he added.
In addition to playing basketball, tournament participants also took a pledge, provided by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, to live a drug-free life.
Hendrickson said Lead By Example is working to get the park named after Jessica White.
The non-profit also donated $900 to her family to help them purchase a tombstone.