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Special Segment: Peace Basketball Tournament

September 18, 2012 10:00:53 AM PDT
Father Michael Pfleger will announce a new strategy Tuesday to use sports celebrities to help stop the violence in Chicago. Joakim Noah, Jabari Parker and Isiah Thomas are among those on the team.

ABC7's Cheryl Burton went one-on-one with Thomas to talk about the Peace Basketball Tournament, which will take place on September 22 at St. Sabina Catholic Church.

Thomas beamed with pride recently as he walked through his old neighborhood on the West Side. The apartment building where he was born is vacant but there are still some familiar faces.

The intersection where he grew up was named to honor his mother Mary Thomas. He credits her with his success in the classroom and on the courts.

"Before drugs invaded the neighborhood, my mother was an activist. She worked the streets and the community to make sure they were fed and socially conscious about education," he told ABC7.

Thomas is trying to continue her legacy by helping educate young people.

At the Boys and Girls Club where he perfected his basketball skills, he talked about the value of a good education and how that can change young lives.

The St. Joseph standout, Indiana Guard and former NBA All Star says the escalating violence in his hometown prompted him to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House and discuss ways to stop the violence.

"The most important thing I want them to now is that we are a race of people who died to be educated," Thomas said. "Instead of arming them with weapons I want to arm them with knowledge."

Last month, Thomas took his message to the streets when he marched with Father Michael Pfleger on the South Side.

"We had 244 kids killed in Chicago, 154 killed in Afghanistan since January. This is an issue," Father Pfleger said.

So Father Pflegeris sponsoring a basketball tournament with professional athletes and neighborhood factions from four different areas of the city. It's called the Peace Tournament.

"I got to feel like we are taking a chance," Pfleger said. "We got to try something because the stuff we are doing isn't working."

"We believe through sport you can bring people together," said Thomas. "Once people begin to know one another and share sweat and talk to one another, it's hard to kill that guy."

Thomas said he doesn't play basketball anymore but he did go one on one with ABC7's Cheryl Burton to prove he still has it.

The Peace Basketball Tournament will take place on September 22 from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. at the St. Sabina gymnasium at 7800 S. Racine. For more information, visit www.saintsabina.org.


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