As Jay Bryant, the brains behind the Harlem Magic Masters basketball and the emcee of its events, called out the name of each member of his team, a gymnasium filled with 300 campers from a half dozen organizations at York College on July 24 went ballistic.
The children visited the school to see athletic acts by the Magic Masters, a basketball entertainment group. And they were rewarded with a dizzying display of dunks, alley-oops, Harlem Globetrotters-inspired hijinks and a positive message against bullying.
“Bullying is not cool, keep it out of our school!” Bryant shouted, before asking his enraptured audience to repeat it. A chorus of hundreds of elementary-aged children echoed Bryant, and explained the importance of inclusion and respect for your peers.
Anyone familiar with the history and shtick of the Globetrotters can picture what a Magic Masters show might look like, however Jay Bryant and his father Jack, who founded the organization in 2008, have incorporated a message to their core youth audience that resonates with adult community leaders.
“The message is extremely important to us,” Bryant explained. “When we started this organization, it was to help schools to raise money. Now we are trying to help spread positive messages to our youth. The main message here is sportsmanship and respect. There is no place for bullying.”
Although none of the names Bryant shouts, such as “’The Punisher, Roderick Burnett” or “Cliff ‘Jetblue’ Malone,” carry particular fame, each member of the Magic Masters is a certifiable basketball veteran, and all of them know how to put on a show.
Bryant has been traveling with the Magic Masters up and down the Eastern seaboard to put on shows and reach out to impressionable youth groups and to lend positive support. They have traveled to elementary, middle and high schools in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Maine.
“What I hope the kids get out of it is adhering to the message, to try to make friends instead of bullying or alienating peers,” Bryant said. “Everyone has an individual talent; we encourage students to find it and to use it to make friends.”
Although not everyone’s talent is high flying basketball, it acts as an entertaining and positive medium with which to garner attention, particularly when the Magic Masters pit themselves against the camp counselors who attempt to wrangle campers on a daily basis.
One of those counselors, Shaniqua Edwards with the University Settlement Camp from Brooklyn, appreciated the message Bryant and his organization have been working to spread.
“I think it’s a great message, especially the rhyming quote. I’m going to take that back to my kids and apply it,” Edwards said. “It’s especially good that they’re teaching this while playing basketball, because now I’ll have the kids talk about anti-bullying before they play basketball.”
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