‘Hoops 4 Homeless’

Preview and coverage published by The Prince George’s Sentinel

All-Star game features Redskins receivers, TV actors and pro boxers

Actor Jermaine Crawford – best known for his performance of Duquan “Dukie” Weems in the HBO hit The Wire – is playing basketball with three professional boxers, a pair of Redskins and a famous streetballer to raise money for homeless youth in Prince George’s County on Saturday.

Crawford spoke with the “real Dukies” – homeless Baltimore teens – when he was researching and developing the character for the critically-acclaimed show. In 2012, he found that more than 148 teens were homeless in Prince George’s County.

“I’m definitely humbled by it,” he said. “What separates them from me?”

More than 1.5 million children experience homelessness in America each year, according to the American Institutes for Research.

“When I found out that was a reality for a lot of people that were my age, I couldn’t not do something about it,” the 20-year-old said. “I really wanted to do something for my hometown for these kids.”

The actor from Bowie launched CODE BLUE, a campaign dedicated to raising awareness of youth homelessness and fighting issues that “threaten youth.” Crawford’s campaign helped raise $200,000 to open the Promise Place shelter in Seat Pleasant, Md.

It has broadcast public service announcements and participated in inaugural balls, but Saturday will be the first time CODE BLUE features an all-star basketball game.

“I wanted to do something for youth by youth that, you know, people my age could truly enjoy just a really great time. And what better than that than a basketball game?” Crawford said.

Crawford doesn’t want to “jinx it” by publicizing a financial goal, but he is confident there will be a great turnout. Fighters Dusty Harrison, Lamont Peterson and Anthony Peterson and streetballer Randy Gill “White Chocolate” are just some of the players headlining the event.

Harrison tweeted about the event Wednesday. “IF I CAN GET 3,000 PEOPLE AT MY FIGHT I SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET MORE PEOPLE TO COME AND RAISE MONEY FOR THE HOMELESS,” the District-born boxer said.

The game starts at 6 p.m., but doors open at 2 p.m. An AAU game will precede the main event at the Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online or at the door.

The halftime performer is Baltimore musician Reesa Rene. Chick-fil-A and Rita’s Italian Ice will be selling food and drinks.

But Crawford is most excited about the chance to play basketball with Washington Redskins receivers Joshua Morgan and Niles Paul.

“I’m a huge Redskins fan,” he said. “Play with athletes from my favorite team, for my cause, for these youth — I mean it doesn’t really get much better than that.”

Crawford is optimistic that the organization and shelter will continue to decrease the rates of youth homelessness on a coast that can compound the problem by rendering it invisible in a cold climate.

“It’s so much more dangerous on the East Coast,” Crawford said, pointing to “couch-surfing.” Couch surfing is a secondary form of homelessness defined as frequently moving from one temporary shelter – “staying with friends, relatives, family and sometimes with complete strangers” to another shelter, according to Yfoundations, a network that “seeks to create a future without youth homelessness.”

“It’s my goal to eventually have so many places in Prince George’s County for homeless youth to go to that homelessness isn’t a problem for our youth,” Crawford said. “Those are our next senators our next congressman our next doctors our next lawyers. We have to revive the generation now.”

When asked about what it meant to use his celebrity for youth homelessness, Crawford rejected the glamour title that came with portraying a homeless teen on national TV. Instead, he focused on the issue’s proximity and urgency.

“I really don’t look it as a celebrity giving back,” he said. “I’m a guy from PG County giving back to kids from PG County.

“This is my hometown,” Crawford added. “We have a real problem going on in our own backyards and it’s time for us to do something about it now.”

Street ball all-star game raises money for children on the streets

Players inbounded the ball off their opponents’ back in typical street ball style, but there was no retaliation. They were playing for the same team – the same street.

DSCN5663Code Blue, an organization launched by actor Jermaine Crawford, hosted an all-star game Saturday in Upper Marlboro to benefit Promise Place, the only emergency teen shelter in Prince George’s County that opened its doors after Crawford’s organization raised about $200,000 for homeless youth.

Washington Redskins receivers Niles Paul and Joshua Morgan, actors from the HBO hit series “The Wire,” fighters Dusty Harrison, Lamont Peterson and Anthony Peterson and famous streetballer Randy “White Chocolate” Gill headlined the all-star rosters at the Henry A Wise Jr. High School gymnasium.

“It was more show-offy,” Harrison, the 6-foot tall Welterweight said of the game. “Nobody wanted to check ‘White Chocolate’ and look dumb.”

CodeBlueGame_w250The location and roster choices were deliberate.

“I wanted to do something for youth by youth (that) people my age could truly enjoy,” Crawford said. “I’m a guy from PG County giving back to kids from PG County.”

More than 140 of the nation’s 1.8 million homeless youth were identified in Prince George’s County in 2012, according to statistics cited by Code Blue.

“When I found out that was a reality for a lot of people that were my age, I couldn’t not do something about it,” the 20-year-old Code Blue CEO said.

DSCN5552Harrison has also seen how homelessness has hit friends in Prince George’s County and the District, while driving through cities with his dad. He has reached out to shelter leaders to try to organize free gym training for homeless youth to “give them something to do outside of (the) shelter.”

“At the gym, we have a lot of kids that came from, you know, group homes, shelters,” he said. “It’s good that this is for kids to help them, so they’re not like this for the rest of their life.”

Crawford aimed to “revive the youth in their own backyards” by starting on the hardwood.

For 13-year-old Jonathan Craft, who has personally experienced homelessness, the game offered more than cool street ball tricks and big-time dunks.

DSCN5567It was a chance for homeless youth to “be around” other comforting people who “know how to have fun.”

“Basketball (is) something we teens do,” said Craft. “Reaching out to people, it’s all about that.”

The 13-year old from Mitchellville has lived in shelters in the District and Prince George’s County. He considers Crawford a “brother,” even though he has no blood relation.

Hip hop artist Chris Landry came to support “the homies,” actors Crawford and Nathan Corbett. The 18-year-old homeschooled senior who signed with Bobby Valentino’s label Blu Kolla Dreams said reaching out to youth at their level through basketball is crucial.

“It changes lives,” Landry said.

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