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Of Hoops and Healing

New book, Black Gods of the Asphalt, examines the game’s role as a communal touchstone

When Onaje X. O. Woodbine gazes at the main basketball court at Malcolm X Park in Roxbury, Mass., he sees more than a 94-by-50-foot cement game surface. To Woodbine, who spent countless hours shooting hoops on this and other nearby courts, it is a sacred space.

It was here that his friend Shorty, a local star of the Boston street basketball scene, defied defenders—and gravity—on his way to the hoop, playing, says Woodbine, like his late grandmother’s memory depended on it. On courts like this, his teammate Jason turned his suffering—a drug-addicted mother, an absent father, and a cousin who was stabbed in the street—into elegant, dizzying drives to the basket, winning a few moments of relief.

“This is an amazing space, a mecca of street basketball,” says Woodbine (STH’04, GRS’14), who teaches philosophy and religion at Phillips Academy Andover. “There are a lot of memories on this court that are here right now. I remember seeing Shorty play for his grandmother’s spirit here. And I remember seeing the faces of people who passed away. You know, so much has happened here over the years. And it still holds that awe, that sacred sense for me.”

The 36-year-old Woodbine is uniquely qualified to find meaning in this mecca. It was the basketball courts at the Roxbury Boys & Girls Club that provided his childhood refuge from frightening confrontations with gang members on the street. And as a teenager, it was his basketball prowess that conferred the status that kept gangs at a safe distance.

Read the full story about Onaje Woodbine


One Comment on Of Hoops and Healing

  • Omiyomi Ibukemi on 11.06.2017 at 8:51 pm

    How can I get the Ifa Divination App it is not available in the ITunes Store anymore

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