A Queens native is making a positive impact both locally and nationally through sporting events that help bring communities together.
Haron Hargrave of Rosedale is a professional basketball player, community activist, philanthropist and hip-hop advocate who founded Ballin’ 4 Peace, after the death of a close friend from gun violence in Hollis.
Ballin’ 4 Peace is a series of celebrity charity sporting events created to help bridge the gap between sports and establish peace throughout New York City and beyond, Hargrave said.
“It was an idea that was put to paper that was actually executed. I didn’t know I was going to be this peace leader/entrepreneur putting these events together,” Hargrave said. “Ballin’ 4 Peace is us coming together as one to fight the battle of human rights, we all know what’s right and wrong.”
Through Ballin’ 4 Peace, Hargrave has organized celebrity basketball games, flag football games, a “Back 2 School” supplies drive with the NYPD, and a “Battle of the Boroughs” bowling party benefiting local charities.
Hargrave started playing basketball at the age of 3 and credits the sport for keeping him on a straight path in life.
He played for P.S. 30, JHS 72 and starred as a student-athlete at Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Heights.
Hargrave earned a scholarship to Sacramento State University where he led the Hornets in scoring with 13.8 points per game during his senior season and became known as a premiere guard in the Big Sky Conference. He then went on to play professional basketball overseas in Romania, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
It was in New York City he earned the nickname “H2O” after scoring points in a Hoops in The Sun Tournament game, where the announcer said his jump shot was “pure like water.”
“I trademarked my streetball nickname ‘H2O’ and made it into a company and business,” Hargrave said.
Wanting to give back to the community, Hargrave established Queens Day in 2008. It had started as a one-day basketball tournament and became a week of festivities.
“I did it because of all the senseless acts of violence in Queens,” Hargrave said. “I had lost my best friend, my mom, and it was a lot to come home feeling empty because every time you come back, you’re losing people and that sucks.”
Queens Day festivities include bouncy houses for kids, face painting, clowns, a men’s basketball tournament and a $1,000 prize. It was Hargrave’s first taste of giving back to the community, he said.
“When the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner happened, it was at a point where people would do peace marches, and peace through sports is something I live by,” Hargrave said. With basketball you’re trying to hit one goal, we’re all in it together. It doesn’t matter what color you are, you’re on a team and trying to win.”
In 2014, Hargrave launched H2O Basketball, a youth basketball training program benefiting upcoming players in Jamaica and surrounding communities. H2O Basketball provides students and adolescents with the opportunity to learn versatile techniques through weekly training sessions specializing in strength and conditioning drills and professional “Let it Fly” shooting clinics.
Though Hargrave currently works as a substitute teacher in the city Department of Education, serves as director of marketing with PEAK USA Sports, and is a trainer at an NYPD community center in Brooklyn, he has aspirations of becoming a referee in the NBA one day.
For now, he’s a certified referee at high school and college games, while also working on Ballin’ 4 Peace events, which he says is much needed in the community.
“This is the work you can’t wait on someone else to do, and it tends to be the work that most people overlook and has the most impact,” Hargrave said. “Not everyone is down to do it and not everyone wants to do it.”
According to Hargrave, there’s a need for more people to push others doing the right thing and sending a good message.
“There’s a lot of good people doing things, but they’re overlooked,” Hargrave said. “I didn’t get too many people reaching out to me and my organization, and there are people who popped up. All these years we’ve been trying to push a narrative for peace and we just need a better rapport with people in positions to make it happen.”