Bronx kids who want play ball in a new league would have to abide by the No. 1 rule: Give back to the community.
The proposed Community Board Athletic Leadership League – C-BALL – would require participants, boys and girls ages seven to 17, to regularly attend community board meetings. Abdul “Sleep” Johnson, the founder of C-BALL, brought together community board officials from the around the borough March 15th to launch a campaign aimed at starting the league by next year.
“This is a league like no other,” said Johnson, a Community Board 3 member and founder of Yo! Magazine, a publication produced by children in afterschool programs.
C-BALL would include basketball, baseball, soccer and other sports, as well as chess. Teams from the Bronx’ 12 community districts would compete, making time to go to monthly community board youth committee meetings.
“This will be the biggest thing the Bronx has seen, period, since Yankee Stadium,” predicted Walter Bell, chair of CB 7’s youth committee.
Johnson first proposed C-BALL six years ago while chairing CB 3’s youth committee in Morrisania. The Bronx Borough Board signed off on the idea, but left Johnson to develop the program.
Since then, Johnson said, he’s gathered support from friends from Black Entertainment Television and the music industry. However, he told the youth committee chairs gathered at St. James Park Recreational Center March 15 that they are the “most important people” in getting C-BALL running.
The chairs’ mission includes raising $1,051 each by collecting donations at board meetings. They’re also tasked with surveying local kids on what stars they’d like to see perform during C-BALL halftime shows.
If C-BALL takes off, it could transform the youth committee sessions of the 12 Bronx community boards. With several sports and activities planned, multiplied by six age tiers – and by two for gender – Johnson foresees an explosion in meeting attendance.
“I keep telling the youth chairs that soon you’re going to need a bigger place,” he said.
Leaders of other afterschool programs in the Bronx welcomed the possible addition of C-BALL, which aims to keep kids off the street and get them more involved in their communities.
“You’re just reaching more kids, that’s what you’re doing,” said Alberto Rodriguez, the athletic director for the Kipps Bay Boys and Girls Club.
Joann Terrelonge, youth chair of CB 11, said she believes requiring kids to attend community board meetings will tap into the youths’ leadership. “We have a lot talented kids out here,” she said. “They just have to find their identity.”
Johnson is confident some kids will be attracted by the chance to have a voice on civic matters and to connect with their peers throughout the borough.
And, he said, there will be food: “Finish your homework, come to the meeting and have food.”
“It’s only one meeting a month. It won’t hurt,” Johnson added. “I would go if I was a youth.”