Lowertown basketball tournament aims to bring 'peace in the streets'
Eight teams shoot hoops in honour of Loris Tyson Ndongozi, Creflo Tansia
Eight youth basketball teams took to the courts of a Lowertown park Saturday for a tournament held in the memory of two young Black men shot and killed last summer, just minutes away.
Dozens came out to watch the "Peace in the Streets" tournament in Jules Morin Park, which honoured 20-year-old Loris Tyson Ndongozi and 18-year old Creflo Tansia.
Ndongozi was playing pick-up basketball one night last July with a friend when they were both shot. Ndongozi was not the target — the friend was, according to police — but he was the one who died in the attack.
Tansia was fatally shot on Murray Street roughly one month later.
A 17-year-old was arrested in connection with that homicide.
Organizer Manock Lual said the tournament was intended not just to commemorate the two young Black men, but also to promote peace and show that sports can play a role in fighting youth crime.
"We hear about Joker, and we think Batman is a good guy. But what created the Joker? A lack of resources, a whole lot of trauma, a lack of support. This is what creates our Jokers, right?" said Lual.
"So we want to come together and say, 'Hey, if you need support, there is a community, hundreds of people that will help you.'"
Lual said basketball can act as a "social engineering tool" that provides youth with the community and support they need.
"Once you're on someone's team, you're not thinking about the colour of their skin, their gender ... you just think about collectively getting together and winning the game," said Lual.
Lual added he hopes the tournament becomes an annual event.
The teams came from neighbourhoods across Ottawa, including Caldwell, Overbrook and Sandy Hill.
Samuel Douf coached the team from Caldwell, which ended up winning the tournament. In 2020, he survived a shooting at an Airbnb on Gilmour Street that took the life of his 18-year-old cousin Manyok "Manny" Akol.
Now unable to walk, Douf cheered his team on from his wheelchair. He said he volunteered to coach them to show support for Ndongozi's father who — like him — had lost a loved one to gun violence.
"Every last one of these guys out of here is basically a son. [His father] lost one, but he's gaining thousands right now," Douf said.
The tournament is a reminder that Black and other marginalized, racialized youth can find a "safe space" even amid crime and violence, said Shyeem Brown, a member of the Caldwell team.
"A lot of us [Black youth] just want to play sports and go to school. We don't want to be involved in violence," he said. "So this is good for us too."
Saturday's tournament also saw the unveiling of a mural painted by youth from the Lowertown community that Ndongozi and Tansia belonged to.
"The mural is a Black Lives Matter mural," said Lual of the new mural, which went up on a wall next to the Ottawa Public Library branch on Rideau Street.
"[It] is to humanize people of colour. It's to show the unity within the community, and to show just how simple Lowertown can be on its best days or even its normal days."
Ndongozi's father, Jooris Ndongozi Nkunzimana, helped reveal the mural along with Tansia's brother and other community members.
He called it a reminder of both the tremendous support the community has shown toward him and the need to keep up the fight against crime among youth.
It was also a bittersweet reminder of his son, he added, whom he lovingly called "Pancake."
"He was my champion," Nkunzimana said. "I always say he's not dead. [From] somewhere, he sees what we do, and I think he's happy."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.