CROWN HEIGHTS — Chris Wise was hanging out in the Jackie Robinson Playground basketball court with friends last month when he watched a shooting unfold right in front of him.
“Two shots went off right outside” the basketball courts at McKeever Place and Montgomery Street, he said. “From where I was, I could see them — you know, the sparks from the gun.”
The experience shook him up — and got him thinking.
“What are we actually going to do to organize around this issue?” asked Wise, 22, “It’s not like this is a crazy violent neighborhood, but it is here.”
Another instance of violence happened just blocks away earlier this week, as police said three men were injured by gunfire about 3 a.m. Wednesday on Carroll Street between Washington and Franklin avenues.
Wise, 22, grew up in the Ebbets Field Apartments, right next to Jackie Robinson Playground. No one within his close circle has fallen victim to gun violence, but he sees its impact all around him, he said, and wanted to see how he could help.
This Saturday, Wise is hosting “I Am Peace” at Jackie Robinson Playground, a three-on-three basketball tournament for teens that's built around the theme of peace. He worked on the idea for the program with the nonprofit Crown Heights Youth Collective.
Eight teams of four players between the ages of 14 and 18 are signed up to play, Wise said.
“The neighborhood’s gonna be out at the park to show their support,” he said.
It’s not the first time Wise has brought a community together to play. As a student at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he said he often organized basketball tournaments. Since moving back to Brooklyn to study hip-hop management at Medgar Evers College, he has organized health events in the neighborhood to help people get in shape.
But "I Am Peace" is different because of its message: Gun violence has no place in Crown Heights.
Wise said he hopes the tournament's theme will extend outside the court and onto social media. He is encouraging those involved to post photos of themselves and the words "I Am Peace," which Wise is promoting through his nonprofit, Black Market Wares, a media collective.
The I AM PEACE tournament will take place Saturday, Aug. 9 at 1 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Playground in Crown Heights. For more information about the event or to sponsor a team, visit Wise’s event website.