Pro baller brings anti-racism tournament home to North Preston
'So I wanted to do something to bring everyone together,' says Chris Johnson
Hundreds of people hit the courts in Halifax this weekend for a three-on-three basketball tournament to take a stand against racism.
The event, called Anti-Racism Tournament or A.R.T., was organized in a matter of weeks by North Preston's Chris Johnson and a team of volunteers.
Johnson, 32, said he wanted to add his voice in his own way in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,
"My contribution to the world has been basketball, helping out the youth," he said. "So I wanted to do something to bring everyone together. Not just for basketball, but for the main reason we're here."
Johnson played in an NCAA tournament for St. Bonaventure before turning professional. He played in Scotland, Germany and Portugal before coming back to play in Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Halifax.
"Part of the biggest reason I came back to play in Canada in general was to do things like this," he said.
Johnson didn't have a head count, but with 60 registered teams of three or four players each he figured there were close to 200 players taking part.
"The last two days have been competitive," said 18-year old Jasha'jaun Downey, who is Johnson's nephew. "No easy games."
Downey was supposed to be heading to Florida to play college basketball, but with the COVID-19 pandemic he's staying home in North Preston for now.
"It's been a good vibe, we had good weather … competition has been real good too," said Romearce Smith, a 16-year old from North Preston.
Smith's team played in the semifinals on Sunday.
"It's good to get out hooping again after all the quarantine COVID stuff," he said.
The tournament happened at four basketball courts throughout the municipality to allow for physical distancing and gathering limits. Games were played Friday and Saturday in Dartmouth, Halifax and Lower Sackville.
But the semifinals and championship game happened in Johnson's home community.
He said a lot of people who showed up had never been to North Preston before.
"We have a beautiful court," he said. "I just want to bring people up. The vibe here is different … they'll get a chance to see the atmosphere that comes from it." he said.
Most of the proceeds will go back to the community, Johnson said.
They'll be shared between his non-profit organization, Tunnel Vision Association, and his local church. Tunnel Vision works with youth in Atlantic Canada both on and off the basketball courts.
Johnson said he and his team want to make the tournament an annual event.
"Aside from [being] stressful, it's a joy to be able to see an idea and bring so many people out," he said.