Far Rockaway is fighting its reputation of violence through a program that brings youth together and puts them under one roof.
The Stack Bundles basketball tournament kicked of its second year earlier this month and will continue through the summer. Twelve teams of 10 players each are traveling the peninsula and breaking territorial barriers. All the athletes are age 18 and over.
“We want to spread the word so these kids get it. Right now, they don’t get it,” said tournament founder Manny Fiallo, who is also outreach coordinator for the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Far Rockaway and a parent coordinator at the Department of Education (DOE).
Fiallo said that in Far Rockaway, people get very protective of their respective areas.
“If you’re from Edgemere, why can’t you go to Redfern?” he said. “We want to bring everybody together.”
Last year, Fiallo got the idea of creating something to “represent the neighborhood, something everyone could look forward to,” according to Fiallo’s partner Lakia Echols.
Stack Bundles was a rapper who lived in Redfern and died from gun violence. Fiallo said the Bundles name is well respected around the peninsula, so he called on it for a stop-the-violence effort and created the tournament.
“It’s great competition,” said returning player David Bostick. “It gives us a reason to do something good for the neighborhood.”
“Plus, it’s bragging rights,” he added.
When the second week for the tournament began, over 100 people from the neighborhood came to watch. Community members from toddlers to seniors were in the audience cheering on the players.
“A lot of kids came out and watched us play,” Bostick said. “After school, kids don’t necessarily have something to do. This gets them off the street.”
Bostick added that it is beneficial for younger kids to see older guys from different areas getting along.
At the tournament, youths affected by violence spoke to the audience and opened up about their experiences. People who lost their parents shared their stories and received support from people all over the peninsula.
Echols said once he and Fiallo have participants at the tournament, they can get their attention and show them the PAL program has job and parent training, too.
Deshawna Thompson-Banrey is a coach at this year’s tournament. She works with Fiallo and said Stack Bundles simply gives people something to do and gets them off the street.
“Right now, they’re doing something productive. This is a safe place,” she said.
The games will continue every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through the summer.